Food

Finger-lickin’ kicks: Comparing sneakers and sandwiches for National Fried Chicken Sandwich Day

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You know how it is in the social media era: every single day is “National Something Day” or “International Something Else Week.”

Most of them I can either take or leave, but now and then one “day” crops up that piques my interest. And today the quasi-holiday we’re celebrating is National Fried Chicken Sandwich Day.

But this is a sneaker blog. We’re focused on fresh kicks more than fresh produce. So instead we’re gonna break down the fried chicken sammies from five fast food locations and what sneakers they correspond with.

Sandwich: McChicken Sandwich

Sneaker: Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star

Let’s start with the basics. Everyone’s familiar with the McChicken sandwich. Originally released in 1980, the staple fast-food chicken sandwich has been with us for four decades. Much like the Chuck Taylor All-Star, it’s simple, familiar and comfortable, not to mention affordable.

When you bite into a McChicken sandwich, you know what you’re getting no matter whether you’re in Australia or United Arab Emirates. Similarly, putting on a new pair of Chucks will fit like, well, a favorite old shoe. You can cop a pair for $50 anywhere from sneaker stores to TJ Maxx and you can rock ’em with anything. That’s how you know they’re classics.

Sandwich: Wendy’s Classic Chicken Sandwich

Sneaker: adidas Superstar

I always thought this was called the Homestyle Chicken Sandwich, although maybe I’m washed up. But I digress.

The Wendy’s chicken sandwich is just as much of a staple as the aforementioned McChicken, there’s no doubt about it. The same can be said for the adidas Superstar, a legendary sneaker in its own right. From its origins on the basketball court to worldwide appeal thanks to New York hip-hop and beyond, you’ll see as many Superstars on the street as you will Wendy’s restaurants.

The Classic Chicken Sandwich ain’t so different from the McChicken, except for the pickles and tomato slices, and breast meat replaces the patty. Same goes for the Superstar — it’s got a decades-old history and hoops heritage much like Chucks do, but with a little extra flavor and authenticism.

Sandwich: Chick-Fil-A Chicken Sandwich

Sneaker: Nike Air Max

Founded in Georgia in the late 1960s, Chick-Fil-A has been serving up arguably one of the best chicken sandwiches in the game for half a century. It’s also the only one that is scientifically proven to be more desirable on Sundays, when restaurants aren’t open and you can’t get one. The Chick-Fil-A sandwich, available in mild and spicy varieties and with the option of multiple extra toppings, is basic in its make-up: A breaded chicken breast, pickles, buttered bun. That’s it. That’s all there is to it, and it hits every time. CFA has more than 2,500 restaurants nationwide, so its footprint isn’t as big as, say, McDonald’s or Wendy’s, but it’s available in 48 states.

When it comes to sneakers, the Nike Air Max mirrors that experience. High-grade construction, affordable, very accessible and satisfying as hell. The quality is consistent and there’s an endless range of options to suit your personal taste. One advantage for the Air Max? You can rock ’em seven days a week.

Sandwich: Popeyes Chicken Sandwich

Sneaker: adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2

Remember when Popeyes released its chicken sandwich in select locations during the summer of 2019? It was pandemonium. The hype was unmatched. We’re talking about a fried chicken breast (mild or spicy) on a brioche bun with mayo and pickles, and it rocked the country. Folks were waiting for hours in line at Popeyes locations, where staff were worked to the bone trying to keep up with demand. And as quickly as it had arrived, it disappeared again, with the restaurant chain unable to satisfy its hungry customers.

Sound familiar? Seems a little bit like the adidas Yeezy Boost 350 line to me. Sure, these days there are a million colorways and a release seemingly ever other weekend. Kanye West promised in 2015 that “everybody who wants to get Yeezys will get Yeezys,” and we’re certainly well on the way to that being the case. But five years ago, the opposite was true. Yeezy hype was at its peak, inventory was low and demand was through the stratosphere (as was resale value). The Popeyes chicken sandwich has now been democratized and is available virtually whenever you want it. It may be a little more accessible than a pair of Yeezys, but not by much.

Sandwich: Zaxby’s Signature Sandwich

Sneaker: Off-White x Jordan

According to Zaxby’s marketing, “the chicken sandwich war ain’t over yet.” Shots have been fired, loyalties have been tested, taste buds divided. The Zaxby’s sandwich is the newest kid on the block, having emerged onto the scene in the past few weeks. If you’re trying to cop, good luck: Georgia-based Zaxby’s is predominantly located in the South with about 900 stores to its name. While it might not be the biggest name in the game, it makes up for in scarcity. And as we all know as sneakerheads, rarity can be delicious.

Speaking of limited supply, we’re drawing the comparison here with the Off-White x Jordan collaborations. Stay with me here. Both Off-White and Zaxby’s are the new kids on the block, speaking relatively to their decades-old competitors on this list. You also can’t just walk out of the house and cop yourself a pair of Off-White Js or a Zaxby’s sammie. To our knowledge, the sandwich doesn’t have “CHICKEN” emblazoned on it though.

Sandwich: Burger King Long Chicken Sandwich

Sneaker: Allbirds

While it may be true that the self-appointed royalty of American fast food, Burger King, entered the chicken sandwich wars itself this fall with an overhauled offering, that’s not the menu item that comes to mind when thinking poultry at BK. Nope, that’s reserved for the Long Chicken Sandwich, which I was amused to find was the actual name and not what I call it in my imagination. It’s pretty tame: think a not-as-good McChicken which has, for some reason, been stretched to new dimensions but is not as long as a hoagie.

If we’re going for a footwear comparison here, I guess it’s the ubiquitous Allbirds, the “casual Friday” shoe of folks who work in cubicles at jobs with strict dress codes. You see them everywhere, the knit upper almost reminds you of a Yeezy (I said almost), they’re bland, inoffensive and entirely forgettable. You’d wear them if you had to, but you wouldn’t go out of your way for them. It’s like the highway rest stop meal of kicks.