The Reebok InstaPump Fury is an ugly shoe. To anyone with two working eyes, this should be indisputable. And yet, nearly 25 years after it was first released, the shoe has become not only the most popular ugly sneaker in the world but—even more bafflingly—a favorite amongst the world's coolest designers for collaborations.
The InstaPump Fury was born during Reebok’s trippy, experimental phase—the late '80s into the early '90s. Reebok was aggressively pushing its new, if somewhat goofy, Pump innovations in sometimes ill-advised ways. (Including endorsements: As nasty as Dee Brown's no-look jam in the 1991 dunk contest was, it was never gonna get Reebok Pumps moving like Air Jordans.) The InstaPump Fury was the most WTF of them all: a Frankenstein of various technologies lifted from some of Reebok's most innovative products, sewn and glued together, then jolted into life as a mutated, anti-modernist concept. Even the name, "InstaPump Fury," sounds less like a shoe and more like a SuperSoaker model. It challenged all running shoe—hell, footwear—conventions.
Not that the sneaker was meant to be ugly just for the sake of it. It was originally intended as a performance shoe that would appeal to both serious and recreational runners, but its space-age (for then) laceless look and x-treem red-and-highlighter-yellow color scheme meant it would inevitably appeal to only a very particular customer—one that appreciated its wacky design over whatever benefits the Fury deliver performance-wise.
In the late ‘90s, Reebok realized this shift in who was purchasing the Fury, but luckily they already understood why. Todd Krinsky, Global VP of Reebok Classic and Entertainment—the man who helped sign the likes of Allen Iverson, 50 Cent, and Jay Z to Reebok back in the day, while most recently working with Kendrick Lamar and Future—knew the arresting and iconic look of the shoe wouldn’t go mainstream out the gate. But he knew it would stand apart in a way that aficionados and trend-spotters would to take notice and latch on. “I think because it was so iconic and represented such an interesting time of innovation, it became timeless.” Krinsky explains. “Interesting enough, it really was adopted by Japanese fashion. Not just Tokyo, but all over Japan, it was like this cult shoe. It also became big all over Asia.” The Reebok InstaPump Fury had found a host body to stay alive. And begin a movement.
Over the past three years, the InstaPump Fury has exploded as a canvas for anyone in the shoe game: Concepts, Bape, Sandro, Boris Bidjan Saberi, End Clothing, and, most recently, Vetements are just *some of the brands that have cooked up their own version of Reebok's oddball sneaker. (And you know you've made it into collaboration Hall of Fame when Hender Scheme drops an unlicensed, all-leather, $1,000 version.) Credit the InstaPump Fury's built-from-parts looks, with all those nooks and crannies that make it a great playground for designers. Look at what Vetements did with its scribble version—a creative, brand-advancing approach that Krinsky and his team acknowledge, appreciate and welcome with future collaborations on the model.