Back in the early aughts, I was browsing in an athletic shoe store on Broadway (might have been David Z), and my eye was caught by a pair of natural kicks in among all the flashy basketball shoes and Air Whoevers. Turned out they were a pair of Adidas Hemp Gazelles, an eco-version of the world famous soccer shoes. I liked the fact that the shoe had an unfinished, organic look, and I've long been a supporter of hemp because of it's eco-attributes (it can be grown on marginal land, with no pesticides and little water, and it grows fast, among other things).
I also thought the shoes felt great. I bought a pair, and loved the light, rugged feel. Hemp has been used in articles of clothing for centuries, from Napoleon's uniforms to Soviet garb. Of course that's just one type of use for the versatile plant, which has been prominent in paints, oils, paper, foods and much more. Interestingly, Adidas apparently fell under fire from critics who thought the shoes indirectly promoted hemp's smokable cousin marijuana, and the German company apparently changed the product's name to Gazelle Natural. In any case, the company has seemed to back away from hemp, and is taking a beating in this recession, with profits down 95%.
The only trouble with my Hemp Gazelles was that they tore up quickly when I tried to skateboard in them. I had assumed that the hemp uppers would be tough enough for it, but no dice. That's why I was excited to recently learn about IPATH. As my colleague the Eco-Chick reported, IPATH shoes are made for skaters, by skaters. They are meant to be solid technical skate shoes, not merely "skate-inspired" designs you might find from imitators. That means they are meant to stand up to some heavy thrashing.
As a spokesperson recently told me, "IPATH has been using hemp and other sustainable materials since 1999, so green really isn't a trend for them...Because skaters and other athletes won't wear the kicks if they don't perform, IPATH makes sure to triple stitch the uppers in key wear areas on the outside of the foot, as well as the toe, to make sure they last."
IPATH shoes come in some great urban styles, like the Dayak kicks that look like beefy Gazelles, and the Reed and Grasshopper, which give higher ankle support. I dig the Cats, which sort of resemble solid hemp booties, and the "Roots" Rasta-style options, which bring home the respect for natural materials. Lots of the shoes are vegan friendly, so it's great that those who eschew animal products can still shred it up.
The company makes a bunch of other cool products, from hemp beanies to hemp caps and more.
Tearing it up in IPATHs:
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