Let’s talk about chewing gum sneakers

chewing gum sneakers
Source: The Verge

I like sneakers a lot. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a liking for these shoes. I’ve allowed them to define my wardrobe and over the years my brand loyalty has developed into a set selection. Although I would have to admit that nowadays I would factor in more things before making a call. Price, comfort and aesthetics play a role, whereby in the past, when I was younger, I would have chosen a pair of sneakers based purely on look and brand.

I still remember my first pair of Nike’s. It was a pair of Air Span II’s and I had to be relentless in my nagging for those shoes. My mother relented and I got them and since then, from age 11, I strived to always have a pair of Nikes. Over the years I’ve owned some really nice ones too. I’ve owned a pair of  Air 180, Air Max 1990 (numerous pairs) and I once almost purchased Air Command Force, the ones worn by Woody Harrelson in 1992’s White Men Can’t Jump. Converse and Adidas have also featured with a special mention going to Puma Discs, a pair I owned in my youth, touted by former Olympian Linford Christy, and something which didn’t come cheap for my dear old mom.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to settle for simpler sneakers. A good pair of Converse is hard to beat. You’ll never catch me wearing a pair of Jordan’s and in all honestly Reebok impresses me the most these days. I’ve also wised up to the extent of the environmental impact made by the sneaker industry, and let me tell you boys and girls, it’s pretty bad. I don’t put much merit in alternative views, but I think there is a lot to be said for walking around barefoot and connecting your soles to mother earth. In fact, barefoot walking is referred to as “earthing” and there is scientific evidence to support it too. Benefits include improved sleep, reduced inflammation and an increase in antioxidants. Apparently it comes down to the relationship between our bodies and the electrons of the earth.

A sneaky Carbon footprint

The carbon footprint of the shoe and sneaker industry is horrendous. 20 billion pairs of shoes are manufactured every year and with that production comes the leakage of chemicals, fossil fuels and toxins. Adidas recently partnered with a company called Parley to do its part for the environment by making shoes from ocean plastic waste. Nike has a re-use a shoe program where they grind up the old sneakers to be used in tracks and tennis courts etc. However, there aren’t enough of these stories doing the rounds. At least that’s what I thought until I stumbled upon this nifty little Dutch company that’s using old chewing gum to make their sneakers! Those Dutch, they sure are a strange bunch; they’re iffy on online casino gaming even though it lowers one’s carbon footprint yet they want to brag about recycled chewing gum shoes. Horses for courses I guess.

Sneakers made with chewing gum!

Traditionally the sole of a sneaker has always been made from rubber and in that way nothing has changed. It’s simply the source of the rubber that has. In the Netherlands alone, 1.5 million kilograms of chewing gum makes its way onto their pavements and their streets each year. That’s one country out of a total of 195, do the math. Chewing gum’s relationship with mankind goes back to the Neolithic period, Aztecs, Mayans, Ancient Greeks and American Indians when things like chicle, blubber, betel nuts, coca leaves and sugar pine and spruce sap were chewed. Put another way, man has had a relationship with chewing for a very long time. The point I’m trying to make is that as a species we like chewing things, but like everything that we’ve industrialised and commercialised, it’s come with a price. And so, in today’s climate of pollution, it only makes sense that we should fight fire with fire.

The amalgamated efforts of three organisations, namely Explicit Wear, Gumdrop and Iamsterdam have resulted in Gumshoe. This is the brand and it’ sole is made through a process of recycled chewing gum. The process itself is called Gum-Tec and it involves the extraction of the synthetic rubber component of the chewing gum. But it’s not just an extraction process, it’s a breaking down of properties to create a new type of rubber. The Gum-Tec granules, which are the end products are then moulded into the sole of the shoe. Apparently these soles still have a bit of a gum-like odour but none of the stickiness. Shoes generally aren’t associated with pleasant odours, so I find it quite ironic that there are now shoes that actually smell good. It’s a good thing, it’s all a good thing.

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