Soled Out - The Golden Age of Sneaker Advertising

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Painstakingly assembled across more than a decade, SOLED OUT is an epic 720-page compendium of nearly 900 vintage adverts sourced from the golden age of sneakers. This is a definitive marketing manual, one that powered sportswear during its supercharged era.

Curating the content has been a labour of love for Sneaker Freaker bossman Simon ‘Woody’ Wood. Flea market finds, eBay steals and handshake deals in faraway destinations resulted in an ever-growing stash of analogue material, all of which was produced long before the Internet ruled the world. The process of nostalgia and memory is infused in the iconic magazines that carried the ads. As Woody says, ‘A strict millennial curfew seemed appropriate, as advertising from the 2000s onwards is simply too modern and too knowingly sophisticated for sentimental reflection’.

SOLED OUT is organised into 13 brand-focused chapters that capture the joie de vivre of the industry’s formative years. Battle lines are frequently drawn, then crossed, in a flurry of visual machismo, quixotic scientific claims and endless sledging. The smack-talk reached a crescendo in the 1990s when ASICS and Reebok traded barbs with Nike in a battle royale that included classics like ‘Just Doing It Doesn’t Do It’ and ‘Pump Up and Air Out’. SOLED OUT details the most dramatic exchanges with voyeuristic glee.

Athlete endorsements from the biggest stars including Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Bo Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Paula Abdul, Michael Jackson and Hulk Hogan are immortalised in double-page spreads and expansive use of the Futura typeface, to which an entire section of the book is devoted.

The random discoveries will delight nerds and aficionados. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger pop up in the Nike chapter, while Bugs Bunny emerged a few years later as Michael Jordan’s right-hand man, before the duo reunited in Space Jam. Sigourney Weaver dons Reebok ‘Aliens Fighter Shoes’ to promote the cinematic franchise. The Bok’s product placement explorations also produced an 8-bit ‘Count Dracula’ decked out in Twilight Zone Pumps as the titular hero of unreleased NES video game Drac’s Night Out.

SOLED OUT isn’t just a tribute to the evolution of athletic footwear, it’s also long overdue props for the army of creatives that laid the groundwork for a multi-billion dollar business. As a true believer in the power of print – and a magazine editor for close to 20 years – Woody dedicates the book to ‘the copywriters, photographers, art directors and advertising mavericks who helped make the sneaker industry what it is today’. Bravo!