Having first appeared in 1996 as a joint effort from Nike and Anfernee Deon Hardaway – four-time NBA Allstar, one-time point guard for the Orlando Magic, and present-day coach of the Memphis Tigers – the Air Penny has always been a collaborative offering. Now, with the second iteration of that shoe – the Nike Air Penny 2 – finding a new lease on life, the sporting silhouette’s synergistic nature is receiving a plant-based boost from a new teammate.
Coming courtesy of Stüssy, the California streetwear stalwart with connections to surf, skate and hip-hop culture, the new Nike Air Penny 2 comes with the added benefit of two new colorways and a new material construction – all of which nod to the brand’s West Coast origins.
Releasing on December 16, the Stüssy x Nike Air Penny 2 arrives in a vivid green coloration – handily dubbed “Vivid Green” – and a tonal, black option with white accents to highlight the sneaker’s dual branding.
Given that one of these shoes is crafted from suede and the other from hemp – the plant-based material which has often reoccured across Stüssy x Swoosh collaborations over the last few years – you would be forgiven for guessing that the bright green offering was the plant-based, cannabis-derived variation.
You would, however, be wrong.
Subverting expectations and redressing biases, its the aptly-titled “Black” colorway of the Stüssy x Nike Air Penny 2 – not the astroturf-hued iteration – which boasts an upper made from Cannabis sativa: a plant which, alongside the likes of bamboo and nettle, has the distinction of being one of the fastest-growing and therefore most sustainable on Earth.
Hemp, which has a lot going for it in terms of sustainability and versatility, not only grows at an impressive rate – and does so with a higher yield across smaller patches of land – but also does good work in the process of growing, before even having been harvested. As a carbon-negative material, hemp absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere than it can release.
Here, though, it does a different kind of good work: proving that plant-based materials – even ones which have been long-maligned by an association with college gap year harem pants – can be the classy, well-constructed option. And, while we’re keen to spotlight the sustainable credentials of this co-branded sneaker, it’s always a bonus when the aesthetics are up to scratch.