The story behind Apple's incredibly rare sneakers from the 90s
Versace’s head sneaker designer Salehe Bembury posted a photo on Instagram of a chunky white sneaker with a rainbow logo. Next to the “Versace” inscription, the graphic looks reminiscent of the original, iconic Apple emblem. The shot was simply captioned: “A wise man once said nothing at all.”
That post has since been taken down.
Sneaker blogs immediately noted the shoe’s similarity to the extremely rare Apple sneakers, believed to have been made for the computer company's employees in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
It’s unclear whether Versace will be creating the shoes for purchase, or if the photo was of a single prototype. Bembury declined to elaborate on his post, while Versace didn’t respond to Esquire’s requests for comment. Apple had no comment. But the mere idea of an Apple sneaker comeback had fashion followers and sneakerheads buzzing, with the photo racking up thousands of likes and comments.
The original Apple sneakers are shrouded in mystery. Two years ago, a size 9.5 pair were found at a garage sale in Palo Alto, California, just outside Apple’s Silicon Valley home. The shoes were brought to Heritage Auction, which listed them at a starting bid of $30,000.
“We believe they were a pair of prototype sneakers made for Apple in the late 1980s or early ’90s,” says Hertiage Auction’s Director of Modern and Contemporary Art Leon Benrimon. “We believe there were only two pairs made, and the other pair was from the Apple archives. The pair we have are what we believe is the only known private pair.”
Though the company’s co-founder Steve Jobs was a loyal New Balance wearer for most of his life, the Apple sneakers resemble Reeboks, with an embroidered Apple logo on the tongue and the side. The bottom is made with non-skid rubber. They look like the mother of all dad sneakers.
When Heritage Auctions first announced they had the originals, the news was covered around the world. Benrimon said the auction house had a number of respectable offers but that the client is holding out for their asking price or higher. TTheshoes are still listed as available on the auction house’s site.
Shoes weren’t Apple’s only foray into fashion in the '90s. An archived PDF of the 1986 Apple Collection catalogue shows belts, T-shirts, vests, hats, sweaters, and even paperclips and sailboard. "Last year, 22,000 people bought Apple shirts from The Apple Collection—people who like the way we make Apple computers," it reads. "We put our logo on these products because we appreciate their quality, and think you will, too. They come from such outstanding companies as Tiffany, Braun, Bree, ixi:z, Lamy, Mistral, Honda, and others you might not be familiar with." There are no shoes in that catalogue, perhaps indicating they were never widely available, as Benrimon believes. Today, eBay is full of vintage Apple merch, like a sweatshirt listed for US$255.
If Versace does produce Apple-inspired shoes, it won’t be Bembury’s first time creating a pop culture moment. The New York City-born designer worked with Kanye West at Yeezy before joining the Italian fashion house last year. His first Versace creation was the avant-garde Chain Reaction, a collaboration with rapper 2 Chainz.
Earlier this year Bembury told Hypebeast: “Donatella has given me the green light to create, so that is what I plan to do.”