Jeff Staple, sneaker designer and outspoken personality in the streetwear world, has a new sneaker drop coming in collaboration with Dominic “The Shoe Surgeon” Ciambrone, creator of custom sneakers. Potential buyers can line up for the virtual drop in a secret online shop and win the sneakers when they become available on election day. But this drop comes with a unique catch, which Staple said his team has been working on since January. Customers have to prove they voted before they can get their sneakers.
Calling Just Vote, the initiative launched on Oct. 7 and runs through election day. The website features a homepage with large, bold text extolling the importance of voting, plus information on mail-in ballots, deadlines for registration and data around voter participation. For example: In the 2016 election, just under 50% of eligible voters didn’t vote at all. At the bottom of the page is a cryptic link that says “SECRET SHOP.”
Clicking the link brings up a quiz full of questions like, “To ensure your vote is counted, when should you aim to have your mail-in ballot postmarked by?” Passing the quiz will grant access to a shop full of voting-themed apparel. Every dollar spent in this shop grants a customer a single raffle entry for winning the limited-edition Nike Dunks designed by Staple and Dominic. The proceeds of the secret shop will go to the ACLU.
On election day, the winners of the 20 pairs of shoes, drawn via a raffle, will be notified through email. Those customers will then have to provide photographic proof — also through email — that they voted, in order to claim their shoes. Staple said a picture from a polling place or a photo of the exterior of a mail-in ballot will suffice.
For Staple, it’s a good way to leverage sneakerheads’ lust for getting the most coveted, hyped sneakers the moment they drop into a force for good. While some of the big brands like Nike and Adidas do plenty around sustainability and other charitable causes, more hardcore streetwear brands rarely make such causes a big part of their marketing. Brands like Supreme and Palace rarely mention such concepts and have not done any initiatives like Just Vote.
“We wanted to harness the energy we create every time we put stuff out,” Staple said. “We want the same energy and fervent rabidness kids have for our releases to apply to voting. I don’t say that lightly. I’m blessed that we create stuff and people want it really badly. But how do we harness the desire to cop shoes, turn it towards something good, and layer in an educational aspect? Those are lofty goals. It’s a big hurdle to get someone who doesn’t care about voting to care.”
Staple said he sees a lot of potential in the model of making customers clear a small barrier before they can access a new product. His shoes regularly sell on the secondary market for five figures (a recent pair sold for $26,000 at Sotheby’s in September), so he’s expecting high demand for the collab. Staple and Ciambrone will both be promoting the initiative to their sizable Instagram followings (250,000 and 940,000, respectively), and will be recruiting undisclosed, high-profile friends to promote it, as well.
The initiative is similar to a strategy by Foot Locker earlier in the year centered on its sustainability-focused marketplace, O-1. To shop exclusive products designed by Public School’s Dao-Yi Chow, customers had to participate in Adidas-sponsored environmental actions like doing a beach cleanup or donating to an environmental cause. Both Staple and Chow said that streetwear brands command such zealous hype from young people that they have an obligation to try and use that hype for good.
“Now that the entire world is obsessed with streetwear and it’s became this massive global phenomenon, the bigger streetwear brands need to take some responsibility and some action,” Chow said in January.