Meet the company that has been making counterfeits since the 1970s


Counterfeiting and counterfeits have long been a potential problem a consumer will face, especially when it comes to inflated prices and the possibility of defrauding someone for hundreds of dollars due to increased demand exceeding the offer.

While the aforementioned terms seem to be interchangeable – based on our own research in Moscow, Thailand, Jamaica, and Nigeria – there is a difference.

While the counterfeit items find the seller trying to deceive the buyer, the counterfeits find the buyer trying to deceive everyone.

In a contemporary context, these counterfeit items have all the attributes of an actual product, albeit in a lesser form where materials and small details are lacking in future craftsmen.

Of course, this is extremely illegal.

Attorney Jeff Gluck, who has become somewhat of a legal expert in the streetwear business, advises, “Basically what you’re looking for in these cases is whether or not there is a branding issue. For example, Louboutin got brand protection on their red signature. sole, adidas has protection on their iconic three stripes, and Nike has the swoosh. “

All of these counterfeit products are named after the companies they are trying to emulate. Not only does this promote trickery, but it limits liability if a brand seeks to sue the entity that did so.

But a company has absolutely no fear – wearing its imitation as a badge of honor for over 40 years.

Thom McAn started as a brick and mortar institution in 1922. Imagined by Ward Melville and J. Franklin McElwain, the store’s growth was sparked by a low-cost, high-quality initiative and ultimately resulted in its expansion over Third Avenue New York. Town a few years later.

Regularly producing shoes for a ridiculous price of US $ 3.99, the company continued to thrive during the Great Depression, grew through the 1940s and 1950s, and eventually became America’s largest chain. nationwide shoe retailer with over 1,800 stores in the late 1960s.

In 1972, Thom McAn had sales of US $ 512 million and had more than 15,000 employees.

One of the biggest changes for the company was the competition it faced. While during its greatest period of growth during the Mad Men Back in the days when it was producing low-cost wing-tip and oxford-style shoes, the emergence of brands like Nike and adidas saw both consumer tastes and aesthetics change quite drastically.

In turn, Thom McAn faced a riddle. How could they compete when they would never have the ability to market and manufacture iconic shoes for athletes like Michael Jordan and Stan Smith?

Simple, they would be copie them – and still being able to provide a discount price after becoming the internal brand of big box stores like Sears and Kohl’s.

“The silhouettes are more difficult to protect because they have not historically qualified for copyright protection, and without any ‘brand’ element being copied (swoosh, three stripes, red soles, etc.), it would be difficult to have protection, ”Gluck explains. “Think about it in relation to the design of a woman’s dress. The same silhouette of a dress is often achieved by 100 different brands. It’s not protectable. But logos, brand names, any graphic element. that might appear on the robe – that’s all protectable. “

Aided by the slogan “Who Needs To Spend More When You Have Thom McAn?” The company regularly produced several silhouettes that were definitive ripoffs of shoes that would later be cemented as true classics.

Here are the most cheeky knockoffs of Thom McAn.

Air Jordan 1

Thom McAn wasn’t the only sneaker brand looking to adopt the styles of Michael Jordan’s first signature shoe. In the mid-1980s, brands like Pro-Joggs, Honors Sport, Sang, AAU, XJ9000, Stacy Adams, VTG and Pro Wings all presented their own iteration with the red, white and black aesthetic of the Nike model – of course without the Nike / Jordan branding.

Things like reworked arrows, stripes, and Swooshes were all hallmarks of every knockoff iteration.

Thom McAn’s athletic sub-brand Jox even went so far as to produce a version of the Jordan wings logo that featured a basketball passing through a net that had been designed to resemble the OG logo.

adidas stan smith

There is no doubt that Thom McAn’s Jox tennis shoe was inspired by adidas’ Stan Smith model. And since this latest model was minimalist and light on the brand from the start, it would certainly cause a double take for those who grew up in the late 1970s.

Boasting a leather model for $ 19.99 USD and a canvas iteration for $ 10.99, the Jox version even went so far as to mimic the breathable vents on the side.

The big difference in approach between Thom McAn and adidas is that the German brand hoped to entice tennis players to don the Stan Smith – in order to channel the exploits of the American pro. But with McAn, they said “you don’t have to be a (a tennis player) to wear them”.

Onitsuka Tiger California

The California was introduced in 1978 after Onitsuka realized that the growing “jogging boom” in the United States was not just a fad and was here to stay.

So Thom McAn followed suit with a “Cross Country” model that matched key attributes of the original like the flared sole, reflective panel and disc on the heel and their own version of the “Tiger stripe” branding.

Nike Air Force 1

In the same way that they added their own brand to the Air Jordan 1, Thom McAn produced their own version of the Air Force 1 which they dubbed “High Five”.

Featuring a “proprioceptic belt,” which later became known simply as the “ankle strap” for sneakers, other matching attributes included the design of the cupsole, the perforated leather toe box and the mark on the heel.

Vans Sk8-Hi

First introduced to the public as “Style 38” in 1978, Vans would later change the name to Sk8-Hi to reflect its pedigree in the four-wheel community.

Unlike other shoes aimed at the thriving Southern California skate community, Vans went for a much taller silhouette than previous versions – with a “Jazz Stripe” on the upper.

In 1982, Thom McAn matched Vans sensitivity with the Jox Turbo which also appeared to be an almost identical clone.

PUMA Clyde

In a modern context, we think of basketball shoes as high-top silhouettes to provide maximum ankle support. But of course that hasn’t always been the case – exemplified by PUMA’s “Clyde” released in 1973 and the game worn by New York Knick, Walt Frazier.

The Thom McAn Jox Basketball version adopted similar low attributes and quite blatantly used PUMA’s Formstrip which they tweaked slightly with two crossed out flourishes.

But with a slogan like “the ticket to your best game is only $ 9.99”, it was no wonder that people often chose the Thom McAn version.

About Marie A. Gingrich

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