Why Nike deserves criticism for 'cynically tapping into gang culture'

Nike: the shot on the left especially has been highligted by critics
Nike: the shot on the left especially has been highligted by critics

This week's backlash against Nike for releasing a balaclava judged to be targeted at young people in gangs was justified because of the context of its marketing, according to Atomic London creative partner Dave Henderson.

Henderson sided with the chorus of online voices who have protested that the £70 limited-edition item looks "menacing" and is "targeting the current gang culture for profit".

He believes Nike has withdrawn the item, as well as images of a model wearing it, from its online store because the brand "got called on cynically tapping into the gang culture currently causing misery in communities right across London and other cities".

Nike has already rejected such accusations from other quarters, putting out a statement claiming: "We are in no way condoning or encouraging the serious issue of criminal and gang culture."

Henderson questioned the context in which Nike presented the item, which the model is wearing with an accessory that looks like it could be a training backpack but has also been compared by critics to military-style webbing.

"Imagine the scene," Henderson said. "A young guy runs along an empty, frost dusted highway in the crisp mountain air of Oregon. It’s cold. Like -18 degrees cold. No wonder he’s wearing a NikeLab NRG Beryllium balaclava, which covers his face, down his neck and across the chest. Yep, no doubt about it. He’s just doing it.

"Now imagine the same guy, this time running along the glass dusted high street of Camberwell. If you saw him legging it towards you in the same gear you’d have no doubt about it. He’s just done it. Or about to do it. The ‘it’ being something altogether more menacing."

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