Air Zombies (Beater Kukinis)
Busted. Broken. Beat.These words don’t even come close to describing these shoes. The soles are almost completely separated from the uppers. I’m literally walking on the air bubble, and I suspect that is only intact lest oxygen should get in and possibly revive them in any way. My toes are poking through the ends. The rubber webbing is starting to give. Anything that remains vaguely intact on these shoes has the bad luck of being covered in chicken shit. In short; they’re fucked. And yet, I cannot bring myself to chuck these shoes away. Every two weeks the recycling truck collects our discarded paper, bottles and if you required, shoes. Every two weeks I think, man time to get rid of the shoes. Every two weeks they get a reprieve. Why? The story begins some six years ago.
The Nike Air Kukini dropped around the end of 1999, as part of the (now discontinued) Zoom Alpha range. Several colour ways were made at the time of release, but not all hit the UK, my place of residence. The shoe was distinctive in that it was laceless and was more of a sock type fit. The distinctive rubbery webbing over them gave them a touch of the Spider Man vibe to them. Kukini, aptly, means both runner and cushion in Hawaiian. They are indeed a cushioned runner and ridiculously comfortable. Whilst a few exclusives dropped, including collabs with Coca Cola Japan, Comme Des Garçons and a Honolulu Marathon version, it was the colourway that took my fancy.
Unfortunately this colour way didn’t get a UK release, so I hit the telephone (keep in mind younger sneaker freaks there weren’t that many online shops that shipped outside of the US circa 99/00). To my excitement, Niketown in my hometown of Melbourne had them.
Yes they did mail order. They were so bemused that I was calling from the UK, they said it would be no problem mailing them to me. How much would postage be? Zero. That is customer service that I will never forget.
Like many sneaker heads I have considered what makes a sneaker freaker. I feel anyone who has more sneakers than they actually need qualifies. So if you are like me, you probably have enough pairs in rotation that they all stay in pretty good condition. You may even have your fine weather pairs. Your best weather pairs. Then your every days. Rainy days. Beaters. But how do a pair of your special kicks end up in the gutter? That just shouldn’t happen. I never think of my shoes as having a limited shelf life. They’re, well, for life.
The problem with the Kukinis is also their greatest attribute; they are SO comfortable. In fact I wore these for many years around the house as my slippers. Perhaps this comfort allowed me to drop my guard? I became complacent and their fall from grace began. It started with going out to the letter box; just getting something from the car. Nipping out to the supermarket for milk and the paper. Spot of mud here. Bit of dirt there. But still they soldiered on. They were still good to walk around the house and lounge about in.
Then we moved house and I began to renovate and decorate. The writing was on the wall. It was the floor sanding that really screwed them up. Once that dust gets onto something it’s not coming off. Paint followed. Soon they became good for doing stuff outside the house. Then the G word – gardening. Six years later I slip them on twice a day to tend to my chickens (hence the chicken shit). Even the chickens are starting to give me funny looks when they see them.
And so we come to the sad specimens at the beginning of this tale. Broken beyond repair, fallen from grace yet still fondly remembered and hung onto. These sneakers, despite being dead continue to cling to some form of afterlife. They are un-dead. A pair of sneakers are more than a functional piece of footwear. They have a story to tell. This was the tale of my Kukinis, or as I like to call them; my Air Zombies.
This article appeared in Issue 8 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here!