March 16th, 2012
06:51 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – When asked by CNN for comment about the new Nike shoe nick-named the ‘Black and Tan’ one man in Newry, Northern Ireland asked, “How about if an Irish company came out with a shoe and called it 'The Taliban' how would the Americans feel?”

That might be a bit harsh. The Taliban are known the world over.

Yet, Nike has fallen into the trap many American companies face. What sounds normal to your American customers can offend elsewhere.

After days of controversy, Nike has said sorry, noting the nickname for the shoe is “unofficial” and only used by some people.

But look online and on YouTube and it's clear the shoe is being described as ‘black and tan’ as a wink to a drink of mixed Irish stout and pale ale, a drink known as ‘black and tan’ apparently. That’s new to me.

To be clear, the shoe is, well, black and tan, and has an Irish stout pint glass on the insole. It was being publicized ahead of St. Patrick’s Day.

With all that, you might think someone would have Googled the term, even if it’s not the official name of the shoe. Back in 2006 Ben & Jerry’s had a ‘black and tan’ flavored ice cream and got into hot water for the same reason, even though Ben & Jerry’s said it was also named for a mixed drink of stout and pale ale.

What seems to be lost on those using the term casually is that the ‘Black and Tans’ were a British paramilitary force that terrorized Ireland during the early 1920s. You simply would not order a ‘black and tan’ drink anywhere on the island.

I go back to the fact that Nike did not officially call these skate boarding shoes ‘black and tans’, it was just an obvious term given the colors of the shoe. Fair enough. But these days of social media and instant conversation, companies have to keep on top of these things 24/7 or pay the price in the media and online.

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Don Da Middle

    Reminds me of the Chevy "Nova".
    Never embraced by Hispanic consumers...
    They should have called it the "Si-va" ;-)

    March 17, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  2. Pat O'Reilly

    "You simply would not order a ‘black and tan’ drink anywhere on the island." This seems an odd statement seeing as I first and have only ever heard of people ordering a "black and tan," in Ireland.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  3. ronpaulflix

    "That’s new to me."

    Then you shouldn't be writing for CNN.

    March 19, 2012 at 2:27 am |
  4. wovoka

    "...a drink known as ‘black and tan’ apparently. That’s new to me."

    Live under a rock much?

    March 19, 2012 at 5:00 am |
  5. porkrinds

    There is also a common dog breed (a hound) known as a black and tan.

    March 19, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  6. Andrew Mizor

    A British paramilitary force that terrorized Ireland during the early 1920s... and of course the English just went over to Ireland for no reason whatsoever... wasn't it the Irish who invited the Spanish to launch –if they wished– an invasion from their shores? Wasn't it marauding Irish pirates of the tenth century who sided with Scots and Vikings that helped to push English nationalism and self-determination to defend themselves? You see. every history has a history that is why we, with grace, wish to move forward while recognizing the past is the approach of mature adults. Saint Patrick himself was captured and enslaved by Irish pirates. So, move on is the way forward otherwise you end up having grown men killing and fighting and marching over wars in the 17th Century, circa 1690 and people ge knotted about a sneaker... Pretty sad.

    March 19, 2012 at 7:24 am |
  7. RossC

    So how come no one is complaining about the name of the drink?

    Nice looking shoe.

    The Black and Tans were bad, they were so irregular that even loyal Unionists were attacked by them.

    March 19, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  8. johnny nolan

    Andrew Mizor talks nonsense. Northern Ireland , Middle East , Falkands etc all the fault of the British. Andrew the days of the empire are over.

    March 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  9. James A. Ritchie

    Black and tan are common colors, and a very common type of hound. The Irish need to get over it.

    The shoes ARE black and tan. It's a sad world when you can't use two common colors without some nitwit complaining.

    March 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  10. Planman

    So I guess if Nike made an "Irish Car Bomb" sneaker to be sold in England, that might be rather uncouth as well...

    March 23, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  11. Ciaran -

    most of our team at are Irish and we are not in the least bit upset, im sure their sales in Ireland wont be down either

    March 27, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  12. Juan

    Honestly, it depends what fits your foot and you need. No one here can raelly answer for you.I personally like Nike because they typically have a larger toe box, breathe better, and offer a good range of options (width, correction, padding). The biggest problem I have with Nike is that they discontinue shoes frequently. But, my husband can't stand Nike. They don't fit his foot, they don't support him in the right places, and they just aren't comfortable for him. Mizuno also makes some very nice shoes. If I don't have a Nike show at the time, I have a Mizuno shoe. If you are a serious runner, then your best bet is to go to a store where the staff is very well trained and specializes in running shoes. These aren't usually Foot Locker, Copeland's, or other large chain store, but are typically smaller privately owned stores. They know the shoes that they carry like the back of their hand and actually care about if you get what you need. Good luck to you. : )

    March 31, 2012 at 5:33 am |
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