Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Silhouette | Function & Future

Blank Model/Template

The advent of Adidas’s Adipure line-up is a timely reminder that the sneaker silhouette as we know it is subject to drastic and sometimes unrecognisable change. This evolution is and always will be driven by a basic instinct to innovate and incorporate the latest performance based technology in new designs. The 1991 Nike Air (Flight) Huarache is a case in point. By combining an exoskeleton support system with stretchy neoprene, the design gave birth to a whole school of barely-there shoes such as the Nike Air Rift, Nike Air Presto and arguably the Adidas Adipure. What distinguishes the Nike runners from the Adipure is their success at maintaining an appealing silhouette despite the radical changes. Regardless of the technology and fabrics incorporated by Adidas, its exact mimicking of the human foot is aesthetically floored.  Shoe design over the centuries has obsessed over hiding and disguising the shape of the human foot. It is an insufficient attempt by Adidas to veil this new silhouette with a camouflage of new technology and fabrics. The silhouette is so blatantly resembling the foot’s exact anatomy that it will inevitably jar with peoples instinctive aversion towards the  naked foot. What I would like to illustrate is that the silhouette has been increasingly overlooked and sidelined in its importance to the aesthetic qualities of the shoe. Thus, it is time we look past the excess of fancy materials and colourways as the indicators of success.

Taking the above image as a starting point, it's function is as a template, mimicking the shape of a human foot as closely as possible but still retaining qualities of a standardised shoe silhouette. This provides a neutral blank canvass where the material makeup of the shoe is immaterial. Painting the original colourways of selected models with distinguish one shoe from the other. It is also integral that the comparison be made with the original sneaker as below.

Model of Air Jordan IV

Air Jordan IV White/Cement

The above comparison is intended to demonstrate that our immediate ability to recognize a shoe is primarily through its silhouette rather than colour or material makeup. In this particular case there is one areas in which the AJ4 silhouette is characterized and made different from that of the imitation model. 

The detail in question is the gradient of the slope running from the top of the tongue to the mudguard. It may seem a small detail but it constrains, disguises and accommodates for the irregular shape of the top of the human foot (dorsal). By extending this line all the way to the floor, the toe box is forced not to curve upwards, as in the painted model, so increasing the allocated space above the toes. This avoids accentuating the behavioral characteristics of the toes when in motion. In the instance of motion the foot inside inevitably changes its shape.  The silhouette though is still maintained due to the toes bending to fill the space above them to the point of stretching the material of the toe box slightly. As a result this new angle is near exact in its measurements to the original but is not sufficiently unlike the original to be recognized as being different to our subconscious. 

Below are some additional image comparisons there to encourage this method of thinking about the meaning of the silhouette. Enjoy!

Model of Reebok Kamikaze iii 
Reebok Kamikaze iii Citron

Model of Air Jordan VII Raptor

Air Jordan VII Raptor

Model of Nike Air 1 Foamposite

Nike Air Foamposite 1 Royal

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