Forrest Gump’s mother said you can tell a lot about a person by what shoes they’re wearing. Where they’re going and where they have been.
After folks in the Westside Cultural Arts Center got past the large black hat, denim jacket and green pants that Cam Newton was wearing on Thursday night, their eyes wandered down to his kicks.
And the 6-foot-5 Atlanta native and former NFL MVP’s shoes were a clear tribute to where Newton had been before in his life: in Atlanta, playing football on fields around College Park, trying to make it out and trying to make it big.
The 28-year-old Westlake High School graduate and three-time pro bowler returned to his home city this week to unveil his new lifestyle shoe for Under Armour, “the C1Ns.”
Don’t be mistaken: these aren’t football cleats. These are shoes to be worn anytime and anywhere.
The C1Ns will be launched in seven colorways, and the first to make its debut is called “Hometown.” It’s a bold red shoe littered with specs of a yellow-gold. It’s a shoe that would match perfectly with a Dominique Wilkins Atlanta Hawks jersey from 1986.
The Hometown C1Ns will be available to the public on July 20 for $120 per pair, but Newton and several others were rocking them Thursday.
“I can’t thank Under Armour enough for this moment, because not a lot of NFL players have had the opportunity to create their own shoe,” Newton said. “… Under Armour gave me free range to start from scratch with a white sheet of paper.”
With this new venture, Newton wanted to do something for culture and for kids, for those who weren’t spending a lot of time on the football field, but also for those who were.
“Football is now a culture,” Newton said. “In most communities, that’s our out. That was my out. I didn’t have a plan B. If I didn’t make it in football, I was a failure and that’s the pressure I put on myself. There’s drugs in my community. There’s gangbanging in my community. For me to see and realize this is my passion and something I want to do, I have to make the most of each and every opportunity.”
Under Armour wanted a shoe that would tell a story and the company wanted to make sure Newton’s creativity shined through.
Adrienne Lofton, Under Armour’s Vice President of Global Brand Management, said it isn’t typical for the company’s athletes to be as involved in making a product as Newton was with the C1N, but the company made an exception for him.
“From day one,” Lofton said. “When we were talking about how this story comes to life, (Newton) had a very distinctive point of view.”
Tight shirts to versatile kicks
She went on to explain how Under Armour came to be. In 1996, Under Armor CEO Kevin Plank, then a University of Maryland football player, had an idea that a tight shirt could be comfortable for athletes and increase their performance. Now it’s a brand worth billions.
Twenty-one years after Plank had his idea, Newton had one. He went to Under Armour and the company threw him the keys and creative license to make something special.
What was revealed in the process of making this shoe is that Newton is much more than a football player with a million-dollar smile. He’s an entrepreneur, a creator and someone who cares deeply about his roots and where he came from.
“Atlanta is true and dear to my heart,” Newton said. “(The shoes) have a story and there’s no better person to tell the story than myself and (Under Armour) gave me the opportunity to do that.”
For Newton, he wanted his shoes and his brand to be a symbol of veracity meeting artistry.
“Everybody has that ratchet side and turn-up side, and the job interview, ‘let me act right’ side,” Newton said. “This is when you can channel both.”
Newton wants the C1Ns to be shoes folks can wear while they’re running sprints, while they’re reading, while they’re painting, while they’re lifting weights and while they’re in an office.
He showed off the shoe’s versatility on its launch day. Newton wore them to the “C1Nival” where he played games with kids from Atlanta at Skyline Park. He wore them to the press conference later that evening. He kept the C1Ns on while he ate at the after-party. And he stomped around a stage in them as he rapped the song “Riverdale Road” with fellow College Park native, 2Chainz.
“This shoe works,” Lofton said. “You can train in it. You can bust your ass in this shoe, but when you’re done, you can live.”
Like a family
The other two colorways Newton showed off, that will be available later this fall, were the “Chairman” and the “442.”
Chairman has a color scheme similar to his Carolina Panthers’ uniform — blue, black, gray and silver — and was designed to honor Newton’s love for 50’s swank and his desire to make an impact on his NFL home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 442, Newton says, is where “drive meets destiny.” It’s black with specs of gold, a tribute to his love for muscle cars.
“I didn’t want colorways that didn’t mean nothing,” Newton said.
When Newton was coming out of Auburn in 2011, having just won a National Championship and pegged to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, he was courted by several show companies.
But Under Armour, he says, stood out because it felt like a family. With any other brand, he isn’t sure this shoe would’ve been made.
“I got presented by every brand and I just felt a connection with (Kevin Plank) and his team and felt I could grow. They cared about my personal brand as a whole, instead of just trying to sell things,” Newton said. “… I don’t want to throw any other brands under the bus but, I couldn’t imagine not being with Under Armour.”