Why Everyone Is Talking About These ‘Slave-Made’ Sneakers

One pair of sneakers is going viral on YouTube — and it’s not for the reason you think.

In a video uploaded on Tuesday called “Unboxing: The Real Price of Sneakers,” influencer Jacques Slade unveiled his latest shipment of kicks — a mid-top pair that, at first glance, could pass for an on-trend new sneaker cop with its leather, suede and mesh details and zig-zag stitching. However, upon closer inspection, they aren’t just shoes; rather, they’re a custom-made pair featuring hidden facts about forced labor that’s drawing attention to the plight of modern-day slavery.

For instance, the price tag on the shoe reads $90, or “the estimated price of a slave today,” according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, an organization dedicated to global issues such as socio-economic progress, human trafficking and modern slavery. The advocacy group was among the collaborators in the social media campaign. 

The shoe’s tongue is imprinted with the number 40 followed by six zeroes — that is, 40 million, the number of people trapped in conditions of slavery, Reuters Foundation said in a statement. And a look inside the shoe shows insoles that depict harrowing images of sweatshop conditions. The Shoe Surgeon crafted the custom sneaker.

Jacques Slade, sneakers
The insoles depict imagery of sweatshop conditions.
CREDIT: Courtesy

With the goal of educating millennial and younger shoppers, it’s no surprise the organization chose Slade, whose videos regularly reach more than 1.5 million people, to highlight the issue of ethical fashion that’s increasingly impacting today’s consumers’ shopping behaviors.

“Jacques Slade has spread a critical message at a pace and scale that is breathtaking,” said Monique Villa, CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “How many people today are questioning the human price of the shoes they wear? We hope this film will encourage hundreds of thousands more to do so.” Since it debuted, it scored more than 50,000 views.

According to the foundation, 40.3 million people around the world are trapped in conditions of slavery — a figure that’s equivalent to the populations of Australia, Finland and Greece combined — and they fuel a global enterprise that yields an estimated $150 billion in illegal profits every year.

Here, a closer look at the shoes:

Jacques Slade, sneakers
Printed inside the tongue: “There are 40 million slaves in bondage today.”
CREDIT: Courtesy
Jacques Slade, sneakers
At the bottom of the left shoe: “$150 billion in illegal profits made each year from slavery.”
CREDIT: Courtesy
Jacques Slade, sneakers
At the bottom of the right shoe: “$5 is the cost of a child slave today.”
CREDIT: Courtesy
Jacques Slade, sneakers
On the outsole: “Less than 2 percent of slaves will be rescued.”
CREDIT: Courtesy
Jacques Slade, sneakers
The laces of the shoes read 57,000 — the estimated number of modern slaves in the U.S.
CREDIT: Courtesy

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