The world has a trash problem. Over the past century, there has been a shift in the way consumers think – instead of making due with what they have for as long as possible, people are constantly looking to buy new things. Whether it be the latest technology or brand-new clothes, consumers are always shopping. Coincidentally, companies are focused on producing as many goods as possible to meet these demands. The result has been a build-up in waste all around the globe, and the fashion industry is partly to blame. In recent years, clothing companies have been moving towards more sustainable practices. Adidas began working with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit that aims to raise awareness about the fragility of oceans and collaborate on projects to help protect them. Together, the two organizations began making shoes with materials made of recycled ocean plastics. Allbirds is another brand taking a sustainable approach on sneakers. Their carbon footprint for each pair is around 5kg less than that of the average sneaker, which is accomplished by using renewable and recycled materials.
Following in the steps of Adidas and Allbirds, Nike has established the Space Hippie collection, which is a series of shoes consisting mostly of recycled materials. Thinking of how space travelers without access to new materials would have to make things with whatever they could find, Nike wanted to create new sneakers with what was lying around. Their sustainability team curated resources including leftover pieces of fabric, old shoes, plastic bottles, and unsold shirts for four new sneaker silhouettes. The upper of each shoe is made with what Nike calls ‘Space Waste Yarn’, which is 100% recycled material, while the midsole is made from a blend of Nike foams and Nike Grind Rubber. Although many sneakerheads will wear their Space Hippies as a lifestyle shoe, Nike designed each model to be a functional sneaker for athletes.
The most traditionally-styled sneaker is the 01, a low-top with multicolored laces and a swoosh positioned on both sides. The 02 is a slip-on featuring different layers of fabric, a bunched tongue-tab, and a swoosh spanning from the back of the side to the toe. By far the most futuristic of the collection, the 03 is a sock-like shoe with a Flyease lacing system and an embroidered swoosh on the toe. Nike likely used the same mold for these silhouettes because all three pairs have the same sole. The 04, a women’s exclusive, has a more chunky sole, laces, multiple swooshes on each, as well as a pull-tab on the back embroidered with ‘NIKE’.
It would be short-sighted to only focus on the shoes, though, which is why Nike produced special shoe boxes for the Space Hippies. Instead of shipping each pair to customers using the double-box method, where the actual shoe box is shipped in another cardboard box, the Space Hippies are only shipped in one sealed box to reduce cardboard waste. All the writing on the shoe box is printed with plant-based ink, further contributing to its sustainability. A Space Hippie tote bag is also included in the box, which is made of recycled plastic. The bag only lists 01-03, revealing that Nike probably only planned to produce the first three models, but decided later to make a women’s edition after making the bags.
The first set of Space Hippies was available in the US on July 3rd in grey, crimson, and light blue with retail prices ranging from $130 to $180. The 01-03 were exclusively available on the Nike SNKRS app, yet the 04 was sold by a variety of retailers. In search of new shoes for the upcoming school year and attracted to the concept of sustainable Nike sneakers, I wanted to purchase the 01 for myself and the 03 to resell. My attempts to purchase the sneakers were unsuccessful, and after scrolling through various social media platforms, it appeared as though countless others were frustrated by their rejection as well. I find it surprising that the brand made such limited quantities of these shoes and was hoping they would have produced more stock. The 01 is currently being sold on StockX for around $300, the 02 for around $190, and the 03 for nearly $370.
In a way, it seems hypocritical to produce an environmentally-friendly shoe, but only make limited amounts, making it seem like Nike only cares about the hype and publicity instead of the environment they claim to be protecting. Luckily, this is just the start for the Space Hippie line. Around two weeks after the first collection dropped, Nike released the shoes in a grey and volt green colorway, giving customers like me a second chance at updating their sneaker rotation while limiting their carbon footprint. The shoes were sold at more locations this time, nevertheless, I still couldn’t grab a pair anywhere. It appears as though the volt colorway is not nearly as popular because resale prices are close to $100 less than their crimson counterparts.
Nike is allegedly doing Space Hippie dunks and Air Jordan 1s too, revitalizing classic silhouettes with recycled materials. Much is unknown about the dunks, however, a Jordan collection is scheduled to release sometime in August. I think it is fantastic that Nike has finally joined the trend of using recycled materials, and hopefully sustainability will become a permanent factor in their decision making. Not only does it benefit the planet as a whole, but it is also an economically smart business strategy for the brand. Since they are barely using any new materials for Space Hippie sneakers, the main costs associated with the shoes are for production and labor. If Nike can continue reusing old materials, they will be able to simultaneously reduce clothing waste and create larger margins for their products.
Images from: Nike – Adidas – Allbirds