Friday, February 26, 2010

A Future You Can Wear

Throughout my childhood, I kept hearing that the year 2000 would usher in a flood of Jetsons-style technological wonders: space colonies, flying cars, personal jetpacks, and robots that cleaned your room. A lot’s been written about how disappointed we were when the 21st century rolled around and we didn’t get any of that stuff. However, there’s one element of that imaginary future that no one seems too upset about losing: space clothes.

horizonspianoman Where, oh, where is my one-piece periwinkle leisure suit with matching galoshes?

Naturally, there’s a reason for that. Whether they were tinfoil-inspired:


. . .or disco-inspired. . .

discomccoy. . . space clothes are almost always impractical and stupid-looking. In the nineties, it got so bad that the cast pictures for the various Star Trek shows started to look like they were taken at a pajama party:

ds9castThis is the grimmest sleepover I’ve ever seen

Interestingly, clothing is one more area in which the reality has outstripped our imagination. Consider these two samples of futuristic footwear:

ferengi  nike-air-flightposite

One of them is part of a costume worn by a member of an alien race in a 1990s Star Trek production, and one of them is an actual product that was manufactured in large quantities and enjoyed wide availability during the years from 1999 and 2000. Which is which?

Incredibly, the shiny moon boot on the right is the actual product: the Nike Air Flightposite basketball shoe. Although its futuristic look landed it onscreen in a couple of Hollywood science fiction productions (an episode of Star Trek Voyager, and on the feet of Wilhem Dafoe’s Green Goblin in 2002’s Spider-Man) the Flightposite was more commonly seen on college and professional basketball courts around the turn of the century. But it wasn’t just futuristic-looking, the Flightposite was a legitimately amazing piece of technology. The greenish-gold element is actually a single injection-molded piece of a material called Foamposite. Although it’s heavier than leather/fabric based shoes, the “unibody” construction offers the wearer greater stability. Even better, the Foamposite material actually molds itself to the wearer’s foot over time. And I haven’t even mentioned the incredible Zoom Air cushioning technology in the shoe’s sole.

Sure, you could argue that the boots that have been the staple of just about every sci-fi costume ever might very well conceal futuristic technology, but the fact is that, although we still wear the same basic items of clothing we wore twenty years ago, “space shoes” are something we have right now. Sure, they may not be as cool as these:


But they’re close. It’s not a stretch to say that you’ll find as much advanced technology on the display rack of your local mall’s Foot Locker as you will in the Verizon Wireless store next door.

Now if only someone would invent the Hoverboard.

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