The speculation around the Nike MAG shoe as the date depicted in Back to the Future II rolls around is increasingly tedious. As a design, I think the shoe is amazing, and prescient (or at least, so influential on post-1989 design that it seemed prophetical), but it’s also food for the dullest kind of footwear-addled folks and their childish nostalgia and click bait headlines. Still, self-lacing shoes are an appealing prospect that I want to see.

Tinker and company’s 1989 moment on screen (though design apparently started around 1987) wasn’t the first or last design from a sportswear brand created specifically for a sci-fi film though, and it seemed that every designer predicted that we’d be wearing giant, towering shoes in the decades that followed (which, with the assistance of Kanye’s 2007 MAG preoccupation, came true after years of throwback footwear). We should give Ridley Scott’s wardrobe designers some credit for the restraint in giving Harrison Ford’s Deckard those black boot leather adidas Officials to capture a starker 2019 dress code (very Raf Simons) for 1982’s Blade Runner that contrasts with Zemeckis and Gale’s vision.



Image via Prop Store

James Cameron’s eye for militaristic detail and branding in his films gives some of his better efforts an extra depth in the production design. Even the anti-alien Bug Stomper “We endanger species…” eagle that’s barely spotted in the film (it’s on the front of a Marines’ Drop Ship) is nicely executed. While there was a brief (and rare) release for a variation of the Staple-style colourway of the Reebok Alien Fighter shoe seen in 1986’s Aliens (as the Alien Stomper — presumably after the logo) before its more widespread 2003 drop in other makeups, the retail version wasn’t high as Ripley’s pair, but mid-cut in line with Bishop’s pair. While the original decal features a pair of army boots, this movie crew jacket, made by Reebok and recently sold by Prop Store, gives it a pair of the Fighters on its feet. Reebok’s vision of shoes circa 2179 was, like Nike’s vision for 2015, laceless.


Image via Live Auctioneers

Like Blade Runner, 1987’s Schwarzenegger vehicle, The Running Man, was set in 2019 and used adidas footwear. Arguably one of the most enjoyable Arnie vehicles, its vision of consumerism and a dystopian future featured some nifty attire for the deadly game show’s unfortunate participants. While there’s a lot of emphasis on the skintight, partially quilted custom adidas jumpsuits worn by Schwarzenegger, Yaphet Kotto and María Conchita Alonso, the shoes were interesting too. Alonso seemed to be given some LA Gears while the male leads got special adidas boots that, like the MAG and Alien Fighter, did away with lacing and went for height to capture the aesthetic of the intended era. I’ve been looking at old catalogues to see if these Alien Stomper looking things were created especially for the film by adidas and they seemed to be — they were even silver to start (matching silver in the outfits) before being painted brown.


Image via Live Auctioneers

The Instagram account of veteran shoe designer (all you adidas, Nike, New Balance and Reebok fans owe him a debt of gratitude), Cheap Trick fan and automobile enthusiast Steven Smith, indicates that Reebok once had Smith sketching some ideas for a boot (bearing in mind that Tinker’s work is in two Batboots) for Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd in the 1995 adaptation. There are a lot of things to hate about the final film — Rob Schneider’s character being a key culprit — but Stallone’s onscreen boots are terrible, looking like some Camden market sixth-form goth choices rather than anything authoritarian or innovative. Smith’s design for a lawmaker’s boot circa 2080 was a lot more interesting and, as with the 2015, 2019 and 2179 concepts, laces were a thing of the past. Sadly, it never seemed to reach the screen.

While elements of these shoes might have dated, the concept car limitlessness of the actor over athlete briefs made them a cut above basic product placement. It’s interesting to see how each designer seemed to come to the same conclusion — conventional lacing was an endangered species and, contrary to a spirit of reductionism in line with minimalism, integration into our everyday lives and environmental concerns, bigger would be better.


Image via @bluespain79


Image via @bluespain79

One thought on “THE OTHER SCI-FI SHOES

  1. everyone wants the mag to come out, but i feel like the kobe 9 was already further into the future than that shoe. the mag is still just self-lacing LA lights.

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