Death to Patent Leather
It’s lost its shine.
by Rudy Raya
They say all good things must come to an end, and, in the shoe game, the same must also be said for certain trends — from the reemergence of the Air Force 1s and Dunks, to anything that still has a pair of fat laces. What may look good one day isn’t guaranteed next year and in many cases, like this one, some trends just wore-out their welcome. Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to bid a fond farewell to patent leather shoes.
You may feel like this is coming out of right field, for lack of a better basketball reference, but lately I have noticed a resurgence of patent leather on a large variety of new shoes. If you need a reminder, patent leather is the shiny, squeaky material that makes your shoes look like they are covered in a saran wrap. I have no idea how it got the name “Patent Leather” since the shoe looks more like it was made out of condoms than any kind of cow hide, but that is indeed the name. Most likely made from some kind of synthetic, plastic compound, the appearance of patent leather in basketball shoes was merely for physical appearance and served no advantageous purpose.
I’m not exactly sure when the whole patent leather craze began, possibly with the release of the Jordan XIs, but I remember the first time that they really made me stop and take notice. The Sacramento Kings were never really a team to catch your eye, and it wasn’t until the addition of Jason Williams that the Kings had a truly dynamic player. His slick ball handling and no-look passes were like fire to the caveman Kings’ fans, prompting “oohs” and “awes” from the eternally deprived spectators.
Always with a flare for the flashy, in the prime of his career with the Kings, Williams donned a pair of all purple Nike Hyperflights. I had never seen a pair of patent leather shoes before, except in my mom’s closet next to high heels and dresses, so it was undoubtedly a revelation. The way they shined under the arena lights with a sleek design that resembled a lightning bolt, it left only one thought in my head — I have to have these shoes. The only problem was that I had fat, wide feet that would have stretched those shoes out like a co-star in a Mr. Marcus movie.
But what I came to notice from the people who owned them was that they would look good for the first couple weeks, but the material just wasn’t durable enough. Within a month, they would become completely creased at the top of the toe box area of the shoe, and that happens while just wearing the shoes casually. Even if you managed to stuff them full of socks or walk around like a duck to prevent creasing, if the shoes ever got scuffed or scratched, the patent leather would rip and shred. The shoes are awesome if you are sponsored by the company like Nike, but not everybody can afford to wear a pair of $150 shoes every couple weeks.
The patent leather material has been put on everything from Bapes to Reeboks, and though the trend of entirely patent leather basketball shoes has gone away for the most part, many companies are putting it on shoes as a bit of decoration. But if it has any effect at all, it actually takes away from the shoe. Despite looking like a Fruit Roll-up, patent leather is one of the least flexible materials to be used on shoes, and the stiffness of it prevents complete mobility. Though visually stunning, the addition of patent leather makes shoes look cheap. Men, both young and old, don’t want to be strutting around in shiny plastic shoes, well… most of them, at least.
Though I am not in any position to stop the manufacturing of patent leather shoes, it would seem that the purchasing trends would signify it’s inevitable end. Patent leather had its time under the bright lights, and it shined, literally. But in this post-Dada CDubbz world, there is no room for the boisterous and unbeneficial material. So for the betterment of shoes, players and consumers alike, please leave the patent leather to high heels and hooker boots. Thank you.