VICE Investigate the Bootleg Nikes That Big Tobacco Banned
In the sneaker world, the term 'bootleg' typically means an illegally produced knock-off that blatantly rips off an existing design purely in the name of easy profit. That's not all it means, however. In 2006, NYC-based designer Ari Saal Forman took bootlegs into new territory with the Menthol 10s: a controversial sneaker based on Nike's immortal Air Force 1 silhouette.
The Menthol 10s project wasn't fuelled by the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Rather, it was designed as a carefully crafted potshot at both mass-market sportswear and big tobacco, namely Lorillard Tobacco Company and their popular Newport brand of menthol cigarettes. Noticing a similarity between Nike's Swoosh and the Newport Spinnaker logo, Forman combined the two in a micro run of sneakers 'dedicated to the two brands that have taken the most and given the least'.
Just 252 pairs were made, but it didn't take long for legal action to roll in. Nike issued a cease and desist, but Newport were a little more outraged. Forman was struck with a bounty of trademark infringement claims that forced him to not just destroy all stock, but even prevented him from owning a pair!
Keen to get to the bottom of this controversial slice of sneaker history, the team at VICE caught up with Forman to get his side of the story. Check out the full video below!