Kicking It Old School – Beats, Hoops and Kicks Through the Ages
For anyone who straddled the better parts of the 1980s, there is a borderline romantic concept of the joyous aspects and contexts of basketball. Cue urban environs, “back to school” jams, boomboxes, rap, rhymes, poetry, emceeing, graffiti and turntabling – hip hop culture was inextricably linked with basketball.
Basketball, not unlike hip hop , was perceived to be more than sports - an expression, refined to become an art form with fashion high on the agenda.
No, I am not necessarily referring to “Shaq Diesel”, i.e. Shaquille O’Neal’s own hip hop album as the highlight of this symbiosis, but for a mainstream audience especially the early 2000s presented a new level of the fusion of both scenes, with streetball tours being televised live on ESPN and Lil Wayne teaming up with Kobe Bryant for a song on a mixtape probably being some of the more prominent endeavours before jamming hip hop songs as warm-up music before basketball events became ubiquitous.
While there are sports brands that over the last three decades have become almost synonymous with basketball culture at large and them riding the bonanza with exclusive endorsement deals, I found Puma’s recently released Black Fives Collection as taking a fresh take on an old school approach.
Teaming up with the Black Fives Foundation - a non-profit whose mission is to research, preserve, showcase, teach and honour the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball - is in essence an homage to a period harking back to the first five decades of the twentieth century, which is when the NBA signed its first black players.
Puma’s Black Fives collection is a credible tribute to that era, with the focus firmly put on not merely signifying a fad in a retro-chic manner but honouring the original materials, colours, logos, dyes based on the Black Fives credo, i.e. to “make history now”. In times of BLM, how much more timely could it be?
What makes the Black Fives collection special with the special edition high tops is that Puma subtly pays tribute to its own past by a reimagining of its trademark silhouette with a cool chenille fabric Form strip, washed rubber sole (however, the washed effect takes it a notch too far as it would have naturally happened within a few rounds of hoops on concrete) and vintage style leather upper with suede overlays. The initiative also see Puma supporting the Black History education reform and the Foundation’s preservation efforts through specifically designed activations, some of which can be checked out online, which makes the Black Fives drop a well-rounded, engaging and stylish initiative.
Now, let’s fast forward to the 1990s, shall we, an era where shoes where infused with technological advancements, some of which established themselves firmly on the fashion front while others thankfully never managed to find a more than temporary audience.
In early 1990, Puma embarked into the realm of lace-less sneakers with its innovative Hoops disc system, only to double down with a Double Disc system not longer after the original launch.
What Puma pioneered was a system of wires and a retractable wheel on either the tongue or heel to tighten the shoes, replacing a standard lacing system entirely.
Yup, it even looks that way, resulting in a tad less eye candy than the Black Fives collection, however, it offers a new level of support and comfort with its full length ProFoam mid-sole.
2021 sees Puma revisit basketball not merely with the Black Fives collection but with a revival of their adjustable, lace-less sneakers on the fly, with a disc on the front and one in the back to customize the most flexible and stable fit for your feet.
While the Double Discs look very “space jam-ey” and with some colour combos not having looked out of place on the feet of the respective cartoon characters, having taken the more conservatively coloured black and white version for a few test runs on the court, they proved to be one of the better experiences in term of support and agility.
images courtesy of Puma