Brett Golliff

Penny, Penny, Penny: Why Are You Still Great After All These Years?


Penny! Right now, more than ever, Penny Hardaway (the endorsee not the athlete) and his signature line are at its utmost popularity. For a man that hasn’t played professional basketball in seven years and hasn’t had a signature shoe worthy season in over 14 years, it is hard for me to come up with the exact reason as to why.

While I don’t have the exact reason, I do think there are a multiple variables. One major variable is that with every rerelease of Penny’s classic line comes a high amount of sales. Outside of the Penny IV, because it hasn’t been retroed to my knowledge, the line has great success when it hits the market. In particular are his Foamposite models.

It’s hard to consider every Foamposite colorway that comes out a part of Penny’s line because, in a way, Foams have become a brand all on their own. But when a Penny colorway drops, its over. Especially if it is one he has endorsed on social media.  Dude has over 94k Instagram followers, and he has only posted 128 images. Yours truly has 842 posts with 3,861 followers. Apparently I am not on his influence level. And I suppose rightfully so, as I have never played in an NBA All-Star Game only to sit out the rest of the season the following week.

Penny can post up a shot of the “Pure” Foamposites and rack up 7,467 likes without a blink of the eye. That is undeniable presence. Most states that will sell that shoe don’t even have 7,467 pairs combined. With a release like the Galaxy Foamposite, it is possible there aren’t even 7,467 pairs in existence. The most obvious variable in all of this is the culture we live in.

In the broadest scope, we live in era that values an established brand with heritage and deep history. We have brands that are being created today but are making all of their marketing materials appear is if they are 100 years old. As opposed to building a brand heritage and history that resonates with a consumer, society would rather create something that has been around. Consumers want something that has a deep history and therefore a perceived value. Why is that?

Why do we put so much value in something that is old? But then at the same time only want what’s new? Take sneaker culture. We want to take something old and give it a new experience. Not that new colorways are bad because there are great ones out there (the Jordan Brand is killing it with new colorways on classic models). But the thought that something old has to be updated to be current makes me ask, Why don’t we just make a new model? And at the same time, why do we take new models and give them the “classic” colorway treatments?

Some products need to take the brand forward, not backward. Let the past be celebrated for what it was and why it was, and then create the new for the future. The largest variable is the youth of today. Whether they realize it or not, they look up to the past generation to show them what was dope. Think about it, the two men that drive the culture of sneakers right now are 51 and 37. Not exactly the demographic of young. But the kids look to them to constantly cultivate and dictate where trend and style is going.

It’s my belief the youth are at a point where they are so over-saturated with options and answers, they don’t want to find their own. They have grown up in an era where there is a brand, a store, and a multimedia experience to tell them everything they should want and who they should be. So they wait to be told by a person they respect and admire–a veteran so to speak–about what they should be into. The stage is set perfectly for someone like Penny.

His line, even though lasted a short time, had a huge impact. Now he the opportunity to expand it into the new generation.  While I am sure he didn’t realize it at the time, his career never panning out actually gave him a second future life through product. Because his first four shoes were so iconic and impactful, people always liked to talk about what could have been. Because that conversation never went away, it created an opportunity for the world to ask, What if? That what if expanded very quickly. The ½ Cent, the Penny V and most recently the Lil Penny Posite, which was created for his fictional spokesman in his vintage commercials, have all come with little to no endorsement from Penny (outside of making the occasional All-Star Saturday Night appearance during the Shooting Stars challenge).

While some people acknowledge hype as the reason for the success of the Penny Line so far after his playing career, I don’t think it can be called that. I think the answer lies in who we are. We are more comfortable with resonating with an established piece, celebrating what it was, and developing it into new areas. It gives us an emotional connection to a product when we can celebrate what could have been.

The question now is, Who is next? Ken Griffey Jr. has had good success with it. Clearly the Jordan Brand doesn’t need any help. I think it would be great to see the training group get some love. Maybe the Deion Sanders products?

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