Some describe them as sleek, elegant, and minimal. Others describe them as overpriced, mainstream, and boring. These shoes have amassed a cult following and shaped the premium sneaker category. Designers like YSL, Tom Ford, Valentino etc. all now offer a minimal sneaker that is heavily inspired by Common Projects Achilles.
Previously, rubber-soled shoes were mainly the domain of companies like Nike, Vans, or Converse. But the designs were either overdone or treated as an afterthought. Flavio Girolami and Peter Poopat sought to deconstruct the sneaker, rid it of its unnecessary aspects, and create an elegant, slim shoe that they could wear both in the office and out at night. The result is Common Projects. The trademark Achilles leather shoe is notable for its perfectly clean design, high quality, and minimal branding. The signature of the shoe are ten gold numbers on the outer heels of each shoe, which describe the color, size, and model.
Besides the loud squeaky noise they make, Common Projects are the perfect minimal sneaker. They are comfortable, elevated, and sleek. Their design (or lack thereof) make them versatile--one can dress them up for the office or dress them down for a stroll in a park. But there is also something else about the shoe beyond its aesthetics. That something gives everyone who wears them an immediate confidence boost and make them feel they belong to a special group. That something is the brand Girolami and Poopat managed to cultivate.
Both founders early on decided that they want to operate with a low marketing budget and let the shoe speak for itself. The same applies for the shoe’s design, which eschews unnecessary details and loud branding. Despite this, the brand is now one of the strongest in the sneaker world. Common Projects is recognized as the original white sneaker and the ten gold numbers are more recognizable than ever. CPs became the favorite shoe of Hollywood stars, high-flying execs, as well as young, trendy millennials.
This is funny. While the design of the shoe stayed identical, the branding is no longer minimal. The gold numbers took on an entirely new meaning. Before, they merely described the color, size, and model. Now, they represent a membership in the CP cult. People buy Common Projects for different reasons. Some appreciate the perfectly clean, elevated design. Others like the signalling and (semi)-exclusivity of the shoe. Regardless of the original intentions, the gold numbers are no longer understated but loud. They scream: “I appreciate elevated simplicity.” Or “I am unoriginal and boring.” Or “I am willing to pay $400 for a white sneaker.” Or something completely different.
I am still trying to figure out what my Common Projects Achilles screams, but I love them no matter what it is.