“Generally, low-level dealers such as the ones at the Gardens don’t save their profits. As Eric Butler, 21, a self-described former dealer, explained, they spend it quickly, as if tomorrow might never come.

Butler, who said he sold small packets of powdered cocaine on a 60-40 split with a supplier, told of buying $250 Gucci sneakers, “old and dirty now,” and $650 lizard-skin Bally loafers, and of dropping $5,000 during a single shopping spree in New York City.”

‘At the Roots of the Violence: The Agony of Potomac Gardens’ The Washington Post 02/04/1989

I’m late to the party again. Nobody told me that Gucci had reissued their 1984 Tennis shoe design. That’s a pretty serious piece of retro footwear, but I never saw it coming. Somehow, when I’m holidaying from the day job to some degree, I find the sports footwear recurring on here instead. A perfect example of crack-era fashion—as fondly remembered by Shawn Carter himself and effectively remade by Reebok for him earlier last decade—it’s an interesting shoe. Now, in an era where the high-end sneaker is the norm, with any number of quasi-futuristic hi-tops bouncing inspiration to and from the major and indie brands, it’s not especially remarkable. Back in the early 1980s, Gucci’s effort was something otherworldly. Seemingly a response to models like the late ’70s Rod Laver Super silhouette (check that outsole and forefoot), Lendl signature pieces and Diadora, who the hell was going to lay down big money on a pair of tennis shoes? Was this thing actually created with hustlers in mind?

Between these and logo sweats, it was legit Gucci output with a very different target audience. Bar the occasional pair of Chuck-style efforts, Gucci sneakers are generally atrocious—the Tennis seemed to get it right with that Italian-made nylon and premium leather mix. That Gucci font on the tongue and midsole was a classic look. And we Euro fanboys for all things 1980s and hip-hop found out about the shoe far too late. But they’re on sale in the UK Gucci store at a 50% reduced rate of £135 in women’s sizes (that stretch to a men’s UK9) alongside a weaker black-on-black variation. Seeing as they hovered at the $170 mark on their debut, that mark down price is the equivalent of $209…pretty good, while in the States they’re retailing at $375, which feels a little more like 26 years of inflation should do.

But here’s the thing—this is a shoe of its time—bragging rights, a day-to-day mission to avoid robbery…these were Maybachs for the feet in their heyday, but things done changed. The Gucci Tennis was all about the context. It doesn’t belong on my feet…revisionist retro history buffs the sheen off some products with near-mythical status—seeing price slashed Steep Techs in NYC recently, Jordan IIIs shifting for virtually nothing at Lakeside JD Sports circa. 1994 and now these at half price can murder a legend on the spot. Are there aged hustlers looking to pick these up? Would they even have the expendable income to grab a pair nowadays? Anyway, if you’re interested and you can squeeze your feet in (though they do fit pretty big), the Gucci Tennis ’84 is online now.

(Images from trazgrillo’s eBay auction: they went for $250)

I sometimes forget just how much of a facsimile the Jay-Z homage actually was.

Still, I haven’t seen Bally reissue the Competition shoe, as worn by Doug E. Fresh circa. 1986—the Fila and Bally look was some big money Harlemite cool. Thus, the magic remains. The stop motion Bally and Superstar old west style face off in the ‘All the Way to Heaven’ video was memorable yet utterly, utterly shit. Still, that piece of Run-D.M.C. baiting beats another misspelt 2-hour Twitter back-and-forth when it comes to rap beefs.

Incidentally, what’s the current status of Shaun Lloyd’s ‘Labels’ book of, umm…labels? I heard early 2011 then…nothing.


11 thoughts on “CRACK FOOTWEAR”

  1. The Bally Competition is my GOAT tennis shoe. Even tho’ the Guccis were a hustlers kicks the Bally Competition was for the stick up kids to rock.

    Great point on the S dot Carters. Any OG worth his salt wouldn’t touch those kicks with a ten foot pole, especially since Reebok hadn’t fully made its amends with the community. What community?!? LOL

    The Gucci re-issue comes a little too late to the party in my opinion. My homey Meyhem Lauren and the legendary Dice Raw (of Roots crew fame) have been spotted in these steps and they look a little too crisp for my liking. If there are no chainsnatchers around or hustlers wearing Dapper Dan customized Gucci sweatsuits it just don’t feel right.

    Nice drop. Respect.

    1. Thank you for the kind words Mr. Penn…I hear you on the Gucci…to me, it’s just one of those mystery items that fascinate us Brit hip-hop/sneaker fanatics, but should really be on the feet of those who were there back when it was an object-of-desire.

      I can imagine Meyhem having them back in the day and Dice wanting them too (though I always wondered how they went down in Philly, though Schooly D was big on his Gucci, so I guess it was popular there too).

      On me, they’d just look goofy as fuck – a pair of Jordan IVs…any retro year…looks good on anyone, but the Tennis ’84 seems strictly for those who overstand the shoe and how it should be worn. It’s a shoe that needs context!

      The Bally Competition is a classy looking shoe…the thing with that and the Gucci Tennis is that they’re genuinely well-designed…I always assumed both brands slipped some designers from Fila, Diadora or adidas some currency to “freelance” on those models…

      Looking forward to seeing another Timberland video…

  2. Whats up! I just want to give an enormous thumbs up for the great information you’ve got here on this post. I will be coming back to your blog for more soon.

  3. Gucci,Prada,LV,Armani the clock is ticking for the once big boys of fashion . If you want a pair of trainers buy the from the trainer company nb ,Nike. These things just look wrong now…even like your wearing fake logo crap. The problem with these big corporate companies is that they are now run by money people who don’t “get it”.

  4. Wow!!! I just ran into this site on a humble. You guys are talking about the Bally competitions, the Gucci sneakers from back in 84-85. Those were the good old days, MEAN!!! From the British Walkers and Playboy shoes of the late 70’s, early 80’s to the Clark Wallabees and Desert Boots. Then came the Crack Era, Bally’s, Gucci, Fila, Lotto, Ellesse, Diadora, Sergio Tacchini, YSL, Polo, LV, MCM, Fendi and the list goes on. Good days but dangerous. BROOKLYN (Fort Greene, Brownsville, East New York, Bedstuy, Crown Heights, Bushwick, Red Hook, Farragut, Gowanus, Flatbush, Park Slope, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, Coney Island). Shout to Harlem World and South Jamaica Queens. I can’t forget Butler Houses/Webster Houses in the Boogie Down Bronx. NYC made a lot of this shit happen!

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