What’s in a name? For sneakers, it’s sometimes cultural controversy, lengthy lawsuits, and expired endorsements. Here are just a few examples of sneakers that did a Diddy (well, it’s now Sean Love Combs) and changed their name, but unlike TAFKA Puff Daddy, there were no alternatives.
Nike Zenji – Nike Juvenate
The Nike Juvenate was a lifestyle model from the mid 2010s that was characterised by breathable mesh uppers and soft foam soles, a design ethos in the same vein as the Roshe. While this story seems innocuous enough, the Juvenate’s original name – the Zenji – was pulled after someone realised it could be misinterpreted as an offensive term in Arabic. Nike admitted to the nomenclature slip, and had retailers swap packaging labels, but a fair few pairs still shipped with Zenji-branded dustbags.
adidas Iniki – adidas I-5923
After kicking off 2017 with the retro-styled and BOOST-soled Iniki, adidas were ready to enjoy another period of success riding off the momentum of models like the NMD and UltraBOOST. Iniki colourways and colabs came and went throughout the year, then suddenly it was known as the I-5923. According to adidas, it was a more cryptic reference to an article number found in their archives. However, external rumours suggest that it was due to a trademark issue with the term ‘Iniki’.
Reebok Big Hurt – Reebok Tech 90s Trainer
Chicago White Sox legend Frank Thomas had his own Reebok signature sneaker in the mid 1990s called the Big Hurt, which was derived from his intimidating nickname. It turns out Thomas brought the pain in the courtroom too, initiating a lawsuit against Reebok in 2013. The Vector brand was reportedly planning to retro the model using the Big Hurt name, but their rights to use it had allegedly expired long ago. The defendants relented, and quietly dropped the ‘Tech 90s Trainer’ at their outlets in early 2015.
Yeezy BOOST 350 V2 ‘Asriel’ – Yeezy BOOST 350 V2 ‘Carbon’
If it feels like Yeezy colourway names appear rather prescriptive with synonyms of beige and grey, this is the reason why. The Yeezy BOOST 350 V2 pictured above was due to be released as the ‘Asriel’, before adidas intervened. Asriel so happened to be the name of the angel of death in Islam, whereby its association with a sneaker could have offended members of one of the world’s most populous religions. Thus, enter the Yeezy BOOST 350 V2 ‘Carbon’. You’d think the blunder would’ve been avoided after the ‘Israfil’ dropped weeks earlier.
TG-24 – Mexico – Aztec – Cortez – Corsair
The Nike Cortez has a somewhat complicated history. Before they were known as Nike, Blue Ribbon Sports were importing runners made by Onitsuka Tiger. Circa 1966, BRS co-founder Bill Bowerman designed a new model called the TG-24, which was then renamed in 1967 to Mexico in light of the upcoming Summer Games. Come early 1968, it became the Aztec – then adidas’ legal department found issue with the name’s resemblance to their Azteca Gold spikes. Enter Cortez, named after the Aztec’s conqueror. The Cortez continued as a strong seller for BRS and Tiger until the former rebranded as Nike and introduced the Swoosh in 1971, and another legal stoush over the model name ensued. It was eventually ruled that Nike were to sell the Swoosh-branded Cortez, and Tiger trade the Corsair with its OG Tiger Stripes. Told you it was complicated!
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