Brett Golliff

What the Game’s Been Missing


The video was in May of 1995, and I was 10 years old then. The internet didn’t really exist, especially in Angola, IN where I lived. So there was no NikeTalk, no Sneaker News, no Complex and definitely no Finish Line Blog to get sneaker information from. Pretty much the only way to obtain sneaker information came in a four to six page spread called Kicks in the back of a little publication called SLAM!. And that only came eight times a year. So having any idea of knowing what the new Air Jordan was going to be before it was relatively close to hitting the market simply didn’t exist.

So when Michael Jordan came onto the court against the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 1995 NBA Playoffs against the Orlando Magic in a pair of shoes that no one knew existed, it was monumental. Please keep in mind that HD TV didn’t exist, and therefore quality was anything but good. So most people noticed this shoe by paying very close attention to their set. Then when good friend of Michael Jordan, Ahmad Rashad, decided to do a small feature on the patent leather shoes during the nationally broadcasted game, it sent the newly-forming sneaker community into a frenzy.

There haven’t been too many moments like that since. Outside June 14th, 1998 (if you don’t know what happened that date, then do some searching), I can’t think of any athlete truly shocking the world with an unknown sneaker. My point is that when MJ rocked the XI’s months before anyone knew it existed created a level of excitement that simply doesn’t exist any more. The closest we have to not knowing about the release or existence of a shoe is basically when a restock happens. And that seems to create more anxiety then excitement.

The main reason why we don’t see product early is intellectual property rights and market availability. Basically brands don’t want other brands having enough time to react to their creation and follow their direction. And while it may not always seem like it, they don’t want the consumer to not be able to have access to purchasing their product. So having the consumer see a product they can’t get is perceived as a negative to the sales department.

But I would argue there is a huge opportunity for a marketing story to help build anticipation for a product launch by having a signature athlete occasionally wear a future product that isn’t known about.  And I’m not talking colorways here. I am talking a new model that will truly revolutionize footwear.

What I think would be amazing is if a brand was willing to take us through the full testing process but do it in a really highly visual way. After a shoe is designed and gone through initial sampling it then goes to wear testing, which is exactly what it sounds. The shoe is being tested in live performance scenarios while wearing it. Generally when that happens the shoe is all black and without logos so if the shoe is seen by someone they can’t associate it with any brand or athlete. It’s almost like what a supercar goes through when it is wrapped in camouflage to hide its performance details. This is an opportunity for the brands to make those shoes look cool. Leave them all black but reveal one element at a time. Say the upper features of an all FlyKnit piece. Then have that partially covered for a game, and then the next game a little more is revealed, and then the next game a little more and so on.

Imagine if Lebron or KD broke out their next year’s model in this year’s playoffs by using this method. With no mention to it. No media announcement. No blogs having the story first. No IG photos in the locker room. No tweets. NO ONE KNOWING IT BUT THE PLAYER AND THE BRAND. It would be insane. The conversation would be ridiculous. All of us sneaker “media” would be dropping story after story after story. And all the brands would have to do is say nothing.

Let everyone scram for a while. Make it a scavenger hunt for everyone to get information on the unknown shoe. Basically tease the hell out of sneaker community until they are ready to explode, and then drop the shoe.  And just like that you have created a new experience to invigorate your customers and a new way to unveil product to the world. Which in return brings your brand further to life.

Brett Golliff, footwear extraordinaire, is founder of, contributor for Complex, and has previously designed for New Balance. Check him out on Twitter and Instagram.