“For two months these boots got stuck in customs because they thought it was shady,” said Sprayground founder David Ben David of his new collaboration with the Colombian military.
All 500 pairs of his limited-edition shoes, which debuted Tuesday, were inspected one by one by U.S. customs agents, delaying a release that had originally been scheduled for August.
David said the fact that the boots were made in Colombia and their unusual military-style shoebox, stamped with Spanish words that translate roughly to “for infantry soldiers” likely raised red flags with U.S. authorities. “[The shipment] was stuck in customs for two months, and usually it’s a week or two,” David explained. “I was going to launch at the beginning of August, but why not tell a bigger, broader story?”
Indeed. It’s fitting that a shoe inspired by paratroopers was released on Veterans Day.
The origin of the collaboration is equally unusual. The Colombian military, through an intermediary, reached out to the streetwear designer, known for his graphic backpacks, to produce the first shoe under his label. The boots, titled Fuerza Cobra II, commemorate the Colombian army’s 50th anniversary against a rebel force. The silhouette is designed in the same style as boots the country’s army wears but with Sprayground’s futuristic touches.
“The boot has unique things done to it, like the secret stash pocket,” David said of the zippered pocket discreetly incorporated behind the tongue. The combat boot is designed in a tonal sand colorway with Italian leather, rubber toe guards and a large shark mouth print around the heel, a signature of David’s designs and a nod to WWII fighter planes.
Though it’s a departure from traditional military aesthetics, it’s built tough enough to battle nearly all terrains. The boots incorporate a waterproof membrane, performance cushioning, antibacterial fabric, cooling lining to eliminate moisture and industrial nylon fabric to mitigate abrasion. David himself went to the Bogota production facility where the country’s military footwear has been manufactured for the past 35 years.
“The best person testing a shoe besides an athlete is a solider — they are in it longer,” David said of the quality testing. “They won’t change their boots no matter where they are for days, depending on whether you’re in war.”
The boots are available in a limited run of $500 pairs on Sprayground.com. David, who launched his backpack and outerwear brand in 2010 and counts rapper Rich the Kid and DJ Afrojack as collaborators and fans, said that limited production is key for standing out in the market. “My philosophy of limited editions is that the fans and consumers want things to feel like an individual and something that has meaning,” David explained. “With the boots, same strategy. I wanted something with an interesting story.”