Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
The lines around the block to buy them aren’t because of their design or inevitable collector’s item status. It’s because they’re basically free for straphangers.
Will every subway system eventually have its own line of sneakers? It might not seem necessary, but as London joins Berlin by launching its own limited edition footwear range, the rank of subway systems peddling their own shoes is swelling.
A collaboration between Transport for London (TfL) and Adidas Originals, London’s three customized sneaker designs were brought out at the end of last month to celebrate the 15th birthday of the Oyster card, London’s touch-in, touch-out public transit payment card. The sneakers have already caused lines around the block in London, but it’s not for their design or inevitable collector’s item status. It’s because they’re basically free for straphangers.
One pair of sneakers from the 1,500-pair line will actually set you back £80 ($105). Along with the shoes, however, you also get a limited edition Oyster card and wallet, already charged with the sum total of… £80. Sure, the package isn’t quite as impressive the deal offered by Berlin’s public transit sneaker line last year, in which the shoes themselves functioned as an annual travel pass at a quarter of the price. But it’s still a sensible purchase.
As for their design, well, there’s nothing wrong with them. Not much different from the standard Adidas models from which they were customized, they do have some distinctive features, such as the classic TfL roundel on shoe tongues. One pair goes a little further with the theme by including a red and blue stripe that echoes the color scheme of TfL’s staff uniform. Beyond that, however, the shoes are functional and not especially distinctive—an apt enough embodiment of the spirit of London’s sprawling, visually diverse public transit network.
Given the small number of pairs created, the sneakers are already going for high prices (minus their Oyster cards) online, currently going for as much as £200 ($262) on resale. A final batch of shoes is out November 10, so anyone in London this Saturday who doesn’t mind waiting outside participating Adidas stores has a chance of grabbing one.