This is a blog entry for the sake of it. Google Patents is pretty useful, even if you’ve only got traces of geek tendencies, and the selection of shoe-related stuff on offer is pretty impressive. The downside is that everything’s got a lofty, literal title rather than the consumer-friendly name it went to market with, making it tricky to isolate a specific product. Then there’s the hefty gap between the filing and issue date to make searching trickier — but once you’re there, nerd Valhalla awaits. Via the Overview section you can trace the original reference points too and it’s here that a lazy blogger like me can dig up enough material to pretend I’m creating content. As an example of how the creativity trail can unearth the background of some of my favourite designs, I was hunting the original Nike Air Footscape design by Toren “Tory” Orzeck for another project and it eventually sprang up as just “Shoe upper” (submitted Dec 6th 1994).
From there, I noticed that it references the side-lacing Converse Odessa (submitted April 24 1985) and Padmore & Barnes’ Lugger silhouette (submitted January 28 1983), which also led me to the patent art for the legendary Padmore & Barnes Weaver (submitted October 25 1977).
But what really impressed me was Mr. Orzeck’s involvement in the development of the Foamposite project (alongside several others, including John Tawney who also worked on elements of the Footscape project and Eric Avar who actually designed the shoe) as part of Nike’s Advanced Product Engineering team. With Orzeck’s background at GE Plastics and an ex-Ford man on the team too, there was a strange mix of Nike’s early hints at hippy idealism fused with absolute function in pieces like the Air Moc and Footscape, but even if you’re a Foamposite hater, you’ve got to concede that the production process was one that broke new ground. Looking at the “Method of making footwear with a pourable foam” patent (filed on August 21 1996) you get a strange step-by-step into the creation of a shoe that became a performance phenomenon years before it went global and became the line in the dirt that split fanboys and girls.
It’s as bizarre, difficult and intelligent a design as the Footscape and Rift from those APE days, but contemporary basketball never quite slipped into the Japanese selvedge and Subware uniform of a tribe pretending to like vocal-free hip-hop like the division’s running output did. DC, Baltimore and New York kids were on it from the off, but were more liable to be enjoying NORE, DMX, Pun and the LOX than DJ Krush. What would get you laughed at outside the Tunnel might be accepted outside Bar Rumba, and on the flipside, strutting into ‘That’s How It Is’ in big basketball shoes might not be considered cool.
So if you’ve got some tensile air bladders, a foam material in a viscous state at around 80-55 degrees centigrade, a mould with specific measurements for each size, inner bootie, outer and sole unit pieces, plus a series of “super gases,” and thermoplastic urethanes, you’re good to go. I recommend following these simple instructions to make a pair at home. It’s good to see that a bizarre shoe has an equally odd production process.
On a loft clearance mission, I found a stack of magazines I believed to be long-gone. Was ‘The Downlow’ magazine the most stylish rap fanzine ever? At a point when Brit-rap’s aesthetic was particularly unappetising (and it took Trevor Jackson getting Donald Christie and Dave McKean involved to make it look slick again), Mat-C and the team made things so stylish, they took the Neville Brody spirit and got busy on Quark. In fact, the magazine won a Design Week Award in 1995, beating ‘The Face’ after its 1993 relaunch in a gloriously difficult mass of alternate fonts and horizontal and vertical paragraphs converging. I remember ‘The Downlow’ being involved in releasing ‘Tried by 12’ in the UK before those dull remixes dropped a couple of years later and a compilation CD that was pretty good that may or may not have been Streetsounds or Profile affiliated. After doing the ‘Blues & Soul’ rap column, he launched ‘Fat Boss’ was on a BBC reality show for a minute then went on to perform as Jaguar Skills and get BBC radio and Jade Jagger co-signs. Who said UK-based rap journalism always ended in a return to the call centre?