Pump up, air out" was the catchy slogan for Reebok's new basketball shoe when it first hit stores in 1989. They sported a bright-orange basketball-shaped button on the tongue that the wearer would pump to fill bladders inside the shoe with air. The customized fit supposedly gave players an edge over their non-pneumatic opposition.
But it was the $175 price tag that attracted the widest attention. Who would pay that much for a pair of sneakers? Answer: A lot of people, many of them youths, who saw the patented shoe as a status symbol. The shoe's cost was the subject of opinion columns, especially when the shoes became the object of thieves.
Reebok also made versions of the shoe for football, tennis, and track.
Shoe giant Nike soon entered the market with two versions that didn't fly with consumers: "The Air Pressure" and the "Air Command Force."
"We haven't abandoned the pump," says Reebok spokesman Dave Fogelson today. "There's just not a big consumer demand for it now." Today's pump shoes are for specialized athletes who run track and play football. But you can't buy these "pump" shoes in stores. They must be special-ordered.
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