This weekend, Lionel Messi posted a pair of golden-furred teddy bear sneakers to his Instagram account. The photo probably cost someone at adidas’ design studio their job for putting such terrible things into the world, but life is about taking risks.
It seems many are reporting this major story from the angle that Messi disapproved of the shoes. This shows a universal and fundamentally flawed understanding of the superstar. It’s a known fact that — because he never had time for a traditional childhood, with his career beginning so early — Lionel Messi has an affinity for youthful things. He’s a lover of coloring books, action figures, and, of course, teddy bears. He asked “Who are these shoes from???” not as a way to admonish a questionably-styled teammate but as an expression of deep yearning to fulfill one of his wildest dreams: to wear his best friends on his feet.
Turns out, the shoes belong to Dani Alves. Really, this should have been everyone’s first guess, as Alves is a bit of a nutcase (that’s a compliment) – an adventurous dresser willing to put awful things on his feet. I don’t speak Portuguese, but I imagine this video mentions something about Messi being a “shine blocker” with no respect for his personal style or privacy. As ugly as they may be, Alves’ kicks are still exclusives. Messi is violating the solemn sneakerhead code of ethics by posting them without express written consent.
Beyond that, these teddy bear shoes do not come without a certain level of concern. Another famously weird athlete, basketball player Ron Artest (a.k.a. Metta World Peace, a.k.a. The Pandas Friend) went to market with his own bear-centric shoes after his career path took him to China. Fans have to wonder if Alves is showing a blatant disregard for Afro-Chinese culture here. This kind of appropriation is surprising from a player who was once a symbol for the fight against racism in European soccer.
The only way to make amends for this possible grievance would be for Alves to acknowledge that his shoes are an homage to legendary cartoon bear pioneer Sugar Bear, the first brown bear to have his own line of globally distributed breakfast cereal. Fans around the world have taken a liking to Dani Alves and his outgoing personality, it would be a shame to see it tarnished this way.