Business Insider this week profiled the success of a certain model of Nike sneakers that should be very familiar to Seattle Seahawks fans by now: Pete Carroll’s Air Monarch IVs.
According to Dennis Green (no not that Dennis Green, the former Stanford, Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals coach who died last year but was himself also a connoisseur of classic coach’s footwear; or even that other Dennis Green, the Romanian sneakerhead behind Eastern Europe’s most fresh dipped collector blog Sole & Shape), the Grey-Haired Assassin’s preferred cradles are “arguably one of the most important in [Nike]'s lineup and a perennial best-seller.” Top shoes typically come and go, but no matter the year or what industry metric you favor the Air Monarchs always find their way into the top five or top 10 for sneaker sales. Green goes on to talk about the style’s durability in a market dominated by trends specifically because it’s aimed at buyers not likely to be influenced by the latest colorways or flashy forms. That is to say, your father.
Green doesn’t mention Carroll by name, but as usual ESPN’s Mina Kimes does the hard investigative work to explain the trend:
the pete "cool dad" carroll effect https://t.co/57Ufe3oTOH— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) June 21, 2017
While there are a lot of reasons for the shoe’s success—one is the 55-dollar price point, another is the more recent rise of normcore/dadcore as an ironic fashion cult—Carroll is undeniably one of its biggest brand ambassadors. Last summer, when the internet sparked a blaze over Stephen Curry’s latest edition of his Under Armour signatures that looked like a combination of dopey joggers and slip-resistant kitchen clogs, Carroll got in on the act by elbowing Curry in the ribs over the new design.
Hey what's the fuss, I think these are some really awesome shoes... Great work @StephenCurry30! pic.twitter.com/7ae127mfKD— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) June 13, 2016
Implicit in the joke is that Carroll is at once universally known as someone who can’t trash the parental sneakers, but also that Carroll is 37 years older than Curry, and not playing in the NBA. I mean a few years more and Carroll would be old enough to be Dell Curry’s dad. But Carroll and Nike also know that, as Racked.com’s Cam Wolf says, “You know what’s cooler than a hyped drop that sells out in one day? A pair of shoes that just sells a fuckton all the time.” The real formula for the Air Monarch’s profitability is its excellent design, with a wide but ankle-supportive structure ideal for just being crushed by walking for years and years, as many ordinary consumers use shoes.
It may also be a fine fit for jogging, a perfectly real exercise, or for instructing gym class, which is more or less the same as coaching—but the awkwardness understood in the shoe’s image doesn’t come from its active purpose, but from the way that purpose clashes with being worn with long pants, particularly pleated khakis or loose-fitting jeans. Really it is the same problem with nearly any sneakers worn as everyday apparel. The same springloaded bonkers orange kicks that look killer on the rack or on a track or basketball court look ridiculous in an office, or with 90 percent of the clothes in your wardrobe. I’m just being honest. So why buy one pair to wear everywhere all the time? Because that’s the optimal efficiency, to put it in football terms, that makes them a practical purchase for father-types. Nike, which typically advertises its shoes for performance, is so conscious of the dorky commercial paradox that the name of the staff intramural basketball team on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon, is “White/Navy”—after the Air Monarch colorway that sells the most, according to a Complex interview in 2015.
Pete Carroll probably came by his stubborn Monarch-wearing just as honestly. (In 2016 Carroll called them his “Air Paternos”, which isn’t probably the dad you’d reference if you were trying to be strategic.) But if Carroll didn’t know all about the business of this, if he was truly about that unassuming dadcore of uncut practicality, he wouldn’t go out of his way to be part of Nike’s latest rollout for the Air Monarch—essentially separating his wear from the street-legal product in the same way as any endorsing athlete.
For the Seahawks’ Color Rush game against the Los Angeles Rams in December, Carroll didn’t appear in specialized “Action Green” colorways (as promised by Darren Rovell, Carroll was supposed to “ditch his Monarchs” to go with a mostly-navy look with green accents) and instead coached that 24-3 win from inside traditionally-white uppers, to the disappointment of keen eyes scoping to see Carroll’s updated model. However, in time for the playoffs, in January wide publicity “leaked” from Nike about the exclusive details Carroll did rock for the game, including an “Always Compete”-embroidered tongue and Seattle-specific grey feather form patterns, like on the Seahawks jerseys, inset in the Nike Swoosh. With headlines at the time pairing the Super Bowl-winning coach with words like “Dad Exclusive”, “Custom Dad Shoes” and “Most Dad-Ass Sneaker of All Time”, these lovable factors helped Nike’s release encircle at once the realms of ironic and unironic fashion alike—and gain even more traction, um, along its broadest base.