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Sole searching

The shoebomber, aka Richard Colvin Reid, apparently tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami Dec. 22 by attempting to ignite five ounces of C4 plastic explosive packed into the soles of a pair of high top black suede basketball shoes, according to press reports.

"The sneakers were hollowed out slightly on the inside to accommodate the explosives," the Boston Globe reported, "with each one marked by drill holes from which a detonator cord emerged."

So was it a pair of Nikes, Reeboks or Adidas? In other words, what revered brand can you stuff that much dynamite into? In search of answers, Adages phoned the Globe and spoke to a reporter covering the story who said he had "no idea" what shoes Reid was wearing. Next, Adages called the Plymouth House of Corrections in Boston where Reid is being held. A spokeswoman there said that no one at the facility knew the brand either and referred Adages to the FBI. "We are not making any comments on that investigation as that is a pending investigation," said a spokeswoman at the Boston office of the FBI.

Undeterred, Adages' own investigation continues. Is there such a thing anymore as a black suede sneaker? Puma made a model in the '70s that was commonly referred to as the "Clyde" after NY Knicks' Walt Clyde Frazier. According to the sneaker archive site "Charlie's Sneaker Pages" (, the Puma also was known as "the felony shoe" because a security guard in Texas was shot and killed by a thief making off with a pair. The Puma suede is still available as knockoffs, but the sole looks to be much too narrow to accommodate five ounces of C4 and they are not high tops.

An unidentified individual in a New York Times story suggested that the sneakers were Air Jordans. A Nike spokesman did not return phone calls at press time, but a salesperson at Homeboy Sneakers on E. 116th St. in Manhattan said Nike made suede sneakers three years ago, but not anymore.

It turns out that Adages is not alone on the trail of the explosive sneaker. "We are looking into it," says Michael Atmore, footwear group editorial director at Footwear News. "It will be quite a story when it comes out. The FBI will not be forthcoming about it because they don't want to suggest to others what brand is good for packing explosives." Mr. Atmore also said it's possible the flashy high tops are "not really a brand. They could be a private label or a knockoff. When you get into Europe or Eastern Europe, anything's possible."

A word to the wise

In our Dec. 17 issue, Ad Age interviewed three executives about how to sell the "American way" to the Muslim world. Last week, Adages heard from a marketing executive in Egypt who suggested that our ad executives (Ellis Verdi, Cliff Freeman and Jim Ferguson) were missing the point. "Arab people don't hate Americans," writes Aly Thabet, marketing manager, DHL, in Egypt. "They may have a lot of concerns about American political strategy, but they don't have anything against people. ... If you really want to sell America to the Muslim world, start with Egypt and Lebanon as the center of art, movies, trends, fashion .... Anything can be sold in those countries [and then] can be rolled out easily to other countries." In conclusion, Mr. Thabet says, "We [also] want to reposition ourselves as a peaceful nation, so I believe we have the same objective and any plans [to be] carried out should have a committee representing both sides." According to the New York Times, it was Mr. Thabet's company, DHL, that delivered Osama bin Laden's latest videotape to Al Jazeera.

Contributing: Rich Thomaselli

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