While I conjured up venom for one aspect of the Business That is Soccer last Tuesday, today I’ll compliment that ying with some yang by showing some love for a different facet of the Business.
My love for soccer merchandise (such as Liverpool kits) is no secret. And although I don’t have the means with which to spoil myself with all the ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ (including satellite dishes), that doesn’t keep me from constantly perusing the pages of Eurosport.
This week I’d like to talk about a truly important piece of equipment, one whose horizons have been explored and expanded, for better and worse, over the past decade. I’m talking about boots/cleats/soccer shoes.
Whatever you call them, if you play — you’ve got a pair. Outside of actual talent, boots are the tools of the trade. In many cases, and pointing no fingers, they are often the most refined aspect of somebody’s game.
As it turns out, I’m in the market for a new pair. My last pair, an older pair of adidas F30’s (before they went to the plastic look), have finally crapped out on me. The upper of left boot had been seperating from the sole for quite some time, a common demise I staved off all summer with the wonder of duct tape.
In their dying days, I had to tape the right boot, as it also became seperated in the corrosponding area (about where the ball of my foot rests). Unfortunately, my incredible movements in the heat of play would break even the most industrious of tape jobs and the boots have now officially been retired.
To say I got my money’s worth would be fair. This is what they look like new. I ran these things into the ground like NFL coach does a running back until his legs gives out from all the abuse. (and my boots’ pension plan is about as good)
A six-year old pair of Diadora Brasils are now my only fully-intact pair of boots, so I’ve been scouting for a new pair all summer. While I’ve traditionally worn adidas, as they fit me well and I can usually find a good deal, switching brands is an idea whose time may have come.
It’s a good thing I’ve got a fresh issue of Eurosport to flip through.
Personally, I’m looking for a non-ugly firm ground cleat, with quality leather, priced under $100. I’ve narrowed the choices down to two:
#1: The adidas Predator Absolion in black & red. The black/white/silver Predators aren’t bad, better than the common ones. Much like my women’s hearts, I like my boot to be as close all black as possible.
But, the adidas are currently running second to this next pair, which share the same price. While I’ve never worn Puma before, and I initially flirted with a pair similar to my last adidas, the Puma v-Kat II GCi looks like the pair.
Actually, I like their more expensive brother (I guess I’m just a sucker for deliberately misspelled words), but my wallet can neither afford nor can my talent Justify spending close to two bills on boots.
But, what shoes I might be wearing this fall isn’t all that exciting, is it?
No, not with the hundreds of different choices out there. the options these days are amazing. Not only are there more manufactors and choices within various price ranges, but the sheer advancements in design and coloring over the past few years is mind-boggling.
It used to be, all boots were black. Occasionally, you’d see somebody in white shoes, looking like they were wearing a pair of baseball cleats. Nowadays, you can choose from the whole spectrum of colors. Can’t decide between colors? No problem, there are plenty of rainbow-like boots available.
For quite some time, Nike has been leading the charge on the chromatic front. While there are a bevy of challengers vying for the throne, the Swoosh are by far the most popular when it comes to eye-catching colors.
Surely, everybody recognizes Nike’s banana boot and its orange cousin. Well, in a ground-breaking move, the shoe manufactor has branced out to colors only once found in sherbert flavors.
Not to be outdone by Nike’s desert-colored masterpiece, adidas has made their own plastic-looking shoe available in a tasty shade.
But, maybe green isn’t your favored hue. Maybe you prefer something bright, but with a more traditional feel to it? Nike has you covered.
Of course, that’s the boot of Mr. Wayne Rooney. Don’t let his constant foot troubles bother you, though. I’m sure the shoe won’t invite the same effect upon your feet.
When it comes to solid colors, Puma is bringing up the rear but does give me an option should I choose to go a different direction with my new boots. The Wicked Witch of the East would be proud.
Diadora has also gotten in on the act, offering up a classic version of their boot in green, blue, white and red.
But, solid colors are quickly becoming a thing of the past, you squares. Why settle for one colorant when you can have two? Or three? Or four?
Umbro, whose biggest soccer apparel contribution over the years has been those checkered shorts from the early 90’s (and maybe the England kit), have quietly been making mind-boggling advancements in mutli-color boot technology.
For beginners, the X Boot III offers customers a pair of snow white boots with their choice of colors (cleverly shaped like the letter ‘X’) such as green.
But for more serious color enthusiasts who demand more from their absorbed and reflected light, Umbro has the Revolution X II. It’s marketed as “unlike any boot you’ve ever seen“, which thankfully, is quite true.
That’s right, each boot is a different color. For those of you who have trouble remembering which shoe goes on which foot, the left is red and the blue is right. Both are highlighted with gold along the front, so you know it’s classy.
But, maybe you’re not ready for that level of complete awesomeness. That’s alright, as it’s important to know your limitations. Umbro offers a less complicated version, which is to say both shoes are the same color – bright gold.
You can also own a similiar pattern in blue, which are the same pair of boots worn by John Terry. No doubt, the referee will be very impressed with your footwear as you and your teammates are swarming him in protest after a perfectly legitimate call.
Joma, a lesser known manufactor, is trying to make headway into the business by copying its better known competitors. Point in case, their white/red ‘Numero 10’ (available in white/blue and white/black also) which include the spirit of the X Boot III with a asymmetic twist.
I find it odd, in a market dominated by adidas, Puma, Diadora, Nike, Reebok and Umbro, that the second-tier brands blindly continue to follow their leads. Manufactors such as Joma, Kelme, A-Line, Brine, Nomis and Lotto shouldn’t be battling for slivers of market share by offering comparable boots in the exact same price ranges. Instead, they should be undercutting the established brands by offering their boots at a lower price point.
Why am I going to buy a pair of kangaroo leather boots for $130 from A-Line when I can get the same material in a boot with a more reliable reputation, such as adidas?
There is a whole legion of discerning adult consumers out there who play recreational soccer and crave quality boots at an affordable cost. Quite frankly, most of us think the lower priced boots (such as the crappy no-touch $50 adidas Predators) are a joke and not even worth the money. It would seem to me that the likes of Joma and Nomis could create a lovely niche market for themselves if they were to offer top-quality kangaroo leather boots at $75, which would rank themselves as far superior to the full-grain alternatives offered by the big boys in the same price range.
Kelme and Lotto and their cousins are never going to make much headway into the market by following adidas’ and Nike’s business plans. It’s time for these companies to think smart and scale back their prices. They’ll certainly sell a lot more boots to offset the lost profit once word gets out that these high-quality boots can be had for significantly less moolah.
But I digress…
Oh, ladies, don’t think I forgot about you. Puma is now offering something for the slightly more delicate palate…
Actually, I think I just found my newest pair of boots.