Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Just do Consider it

Nike’s Swoosh is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in the history of mankind. It’s right there with the Golden Arches, the peace sign, and the Heroes’ helix if Tim Kring’s blockbuster television series continues to sweep the world off its feet with its psychological thriller take on the superhero genre.

The Swoosh initially begat the day-glo perfection of the Jumpman, Li’l Penny, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood, and the LeBrons all the way to the latter day shocking images of sneaker murders (where punks murder people to get steal their Jordan kicks), sweat shops in Asia, environment unfriendly shoes where the carcinogenic and toxic content in its manufacture will hasten the death of the planet ala Dean Devlin’s The Day After Tomorrow.

Before you think we’re inciting the burning of shoes or a boycott – I’m clinging on to my Huarache’s and they’ll have to pry them from my cold dead fingers – salvation is at hand for the company that changed advertising, sports marketing, and they way we look at athletes forever.

Nike Considered, the line of these eco-friendly shoes, may be one blatant sales pitch but it’s certainly interesting to check out. This shoe line sprung from the experiments in the Innovative Kitchen where Tinker Hatfield (the genius behind the Air Jordans), Steve McDonald and company used recycled materials, snap-together tools, and water-based adhesives to create some nifty designs.

If you’re the type who needs to be satisfied with a product’s adherence to environmental precautions then know that these shoes use vegetable-tanned leather that eliminates toxic chromium when it turns into waste. They are designed for easy component disassembly when it comes to recycling and have no use for adhesives that are harmful to human workers.

Now lest you think I’ve cribbed notes from the product manual, let’s slip our feet into one of the products out of the Considered assembly line… The Soaker. The bad name aside, it’s a modern-day cross-trainer. The Soaker (check out the pic below) strikes a balance between street and outdoor wear making it perfect for water-sports such as rafting, yachting, kayaking, or even walking. It has portholes to drain water and waffles on the sole to provide traction. And it’s comfortable and stylish.

A word on the traction… the sole is composed of 0.44 rubber compound or “sticky rubber” that works well on a variety of surfaces.

On another front, Nike has plunged into the digital music arena with a partnership with Apple Computer, Inc. to come up with the Nike+iPod sports kit. This isn’t Nike’s first foray into digital music. A few years ago, they were working in concert with Philips to produce the MP3Run (or the “hockey puck” as people affectionately called it), a flash-based player that played music and told you how far you’ve run. It was recalled after a number of glitches.

The second time’s the charm for Nike with its current tie-up with Apple’s revolutionary iPod -- arguably the second-most influential proponent of digital music after Napster – for what is projected to be a better digital workout.

The Nike+ is compatible only with a select line of running shoes (Air Zoom Plus, Nike Shox Turbo V+, Nike Air Zoom Vomero+, Air Span+, Air Max Moto+, and Air Max 180+) outfitted with a sensor in the midsole that communicates information to an iPod nano. The runner gets instant audio feedback including time, distance, speed, calories burned; info that is instantly calculated on the run and can later be stored on your computer! If this is where sneakers are heading then I won’t be surprised if one day they’ll be outfitted with GPS that will point you towards the nearest pizza joint (so much for burning all those calories).

I don’t know if you remember that mid-1990’s Nike ad where the copy reads something to this effect: Until the car. Until that lamppost. Until the next corner. And so on. It was a creative way of interpreting the shoe’s timeless tagline of Just Do It. The Nike+ pushes you harder as you listen to your favorite music while your performance is monitored and measured.

And musically, the iPod tie-up sounds (pun intended) better since the MP3Run contained only 125 songs a serious concern for the audiophile.

No doubt Nike’s latest push will have an impact on consumer thinking with its younger and irreverent mindset. And who knows how this will affect product design? Digital music is making inroads everywhere from personal computers to mobile phones and portable players. Nike Considered in the meantime is consolidating its beachhead with its straightforward mission: Design products that deliver more with less while paying equal attention to performance and sustainability. For Nike Considered, the footwear is lighter as it retains its shelf life durability.

Now if it only costs less.

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