Sneaker brand Hi-Tec is releasing the “Freedom 67s” – in honour of the late former president Nelson Mandela this Mandela Day Sunday 18 July.
The sneakers are a re-adaptation of the Hi-Tec Wimbledon, known then as the Wimbledon’s, in which The white shoes with the low-cut tennis silhouette were worn by Mandela in the 1990s.
According to an online sneaker’s publication, Sneaker Freaker, Hi-Tec founder Frank van Wezel bought Mandela’s original pair at an auction in 1996. The famous pair is now displayed in the storefront window at the brand’s Stellenbosch store.
The article also noted that Hi-Tec product designer Gordon Stokes understood that the development of the Freedom 67 wasn’t quite as straightforward as designing any other shoe as the Hi-Tec team knew that a project of this magnitude needed to be treated with the utmost thought and dignity.
“The challenge was not only about re-creating his sneaker, but creating an object that paid homage to an incredible human being, a man that has dedicated his life to freedom for all,” Stokes tells Sneaker Freaker.
“Not only was Mandela fighting against apartheid, but he was also fighting for a better world, in which the freedom, justice and dignity of all were respected. The shoe had to be more than just a sneaker but needed to tell a story, from authentic messaging to significant symbolism,” he added.
Not having Mandela’s original pair to physically reference from, the Hi-Tec design team faced an uphill battle to design the Freedom 67s as closely as possible to Mandela’s Wimbledon’s.
“From the graphic elements, materials, sole and midsole, colour-blocking, as well as sizing, everything had to be perfect. [Even] the packaging, we had to treat with the same attention to detail as that of the sneaker, conveying consistent messaging thoughout this project. Mandela’s legacy had to be respected in the body of this development, as much as it was to honour what he stood for,” says Stokes.
The sneakers have been well modernised. The sole is now a clear blue colour, that represents freedom and transparency. The logo is now predominant white, with touches of blue throughout the logo. It also has a leisurewear feel to it, whereas the original version looked like a proper squash or tennis 1990s performance shoe.
Hi-Tec has called on creatives Karabo Poppy, Trevor Stuurman, rapper Kwesta, actor Atandwa Kani and others to help them with the Freedom Shared campaign.
There will be 67 units of the sneakers and the 67th pair will be auctioned on Mandela Day and will be live for 67 hours as a symbol of Mandela’s 67-year fight for social justice in South Africa. Proceeds from that auction will be donated to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.