Menthol 10s Sneakers and Box , Ari Saal Forman, 2006. Courtesy of Private Collection. Photographed by Aanchal Bakshi for NYU Costume Studies, 2018. Image © Aanchal Bakshi.

Menthol 10s Sneakers and Box, Ari Saal Forman, 2006. Courtesy of Private Collection. Photographed by Aanchal Bakshi for NYU Costume Studies, 2018. Image © Aanchal Bakshi.

Off The Brandwagon

 Although sneaker culture has existed for decades, it has become a pervasive force within contemporary fashion. Lines to score coveted new sneakers form overnight, and the desire for exclusivity creates an innately competitive market. Designer Ari Saal Forman rightly notes that today’s logo-clad sneakers are a significant form of advertising for many brands. In 2006, Forman’s astute observation led him to create the Menthol 10 sneakers. The shoes, which capitalize on the intrinsic similarities between Nike and Newport’s respective “swoosh” and “spinnaker” logos, are modeled after Nike Air Force 1s, and possess a color scheme and packaging that echoes Newport’s white and green menthol cigarette packages. After the sneakers launched, Nike and Newport sent cease and desist letters to Forman. Now, only 252 pairs of the Menthol 10s are in existence, yet they continue to draw attention and highlight fascinating paradoxes. “The package costs way more than the sneaker did, and intentionally so,” Forman stated. In making this choice, Forman highlighted the current state of brand marketing and pervasive lack of conscious consumerism, while implicitly asking whether customers value brand recognition above all else. Today, a pair of Menthol 10 sneakers can cost up to $9,999 on the resale market—far more than an authentic, and even rare, pair of Nike Air Force 1s, which in one recent case cost $4,900. The Menthol 10s are not just a Nike bootleg. Instead, they are a social statement capable of sparking an important conversation about how value is ascribed within fashion.

Exhibition objects

Ari Saal Forman (American, born 1969), Menthol 10 Sneakers with Box, 2006, Leather, foam, and rubber; cardboard Courtesy of Private Collector

Ari Saal Forman (American, born 1969), Indulge Yourself Advertisement, 2006, Paper Courtesy of Private Collector

Newport (Lorillard) Tobacco Company (American, 1760 – 2014), People Weekly (American, founded 1974), Alive with Pleasure Advertisement,1986, Paper and adhesive Courtesy of Kate Sekules

Nike, Inc. (American, founded 1971), Air Force 1 Sneakers, 2013, Leather, foam, and rubber Courtesy of Liz Marquis