SELECT Vintage: Karl Malone’s LA Gear Catapult

January 16, 2014 BY / 14

It doesn’t get any better than the early-90s when it comes to iconic sneaker designs. More universally beloved models have come out of that era than any other, but for all the timeless classics that have stood the test of time and remained relevant, there are still tons of great blasts from the past that have slipped through the cracks and will most likely never be seen or heard from again.

At the core of the fruitful early 1990s sneaker boom were two underlying dynamics that drove the sneaker industry into some bold and glorious new territory and provided some of the wackiest concepts and innovations ever seen on a shoe. The first was a sense of parity among the brands. At the time, Nike had not yet run away with their giant chunk of the market and the sense of what brands were deemed cool had a far broader interpretation.

Individuality in the way you dressed was a paramount concern at the time and if you asked five kids in sneakers what their favorite brand was, you might have received five different answers. As a result, a wide variety of brands were considered viable and worthy

of your sneaker dollars and the dog-eat-dog competition between them had every footwear company working overtime trying to outdo the next guys.

Sometimes that resulted in blatant ripoffs, but the rivalry also sparked designers’ imaginations and led directly to the second driving force of the era – the rise of the gimmicky technologies. That’s not to say that they were all gimmicks though – Nike’s AIR cushioning units and the Reebok Pump line were not only legit in terms of their performance capabilities, but were also revolutionary approaches to improving and evolving a sneaker.

What came in their aftermath was an industry-wide decision by just about every brand that they needed to have their own crazy technology with a catchy name and all sorts of lofty performance promises. A few of the offerings that came forward were actually pretty cool and occasionally even effective, but more times than not, these “innovation” hooks were borderline useless, and sometimes flat-out ludicrous.

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