The SB Dunk Low “Black and Tan” trainers, which launch in the US this week, were ostensibly named after a drink combining a dark beer — usually Guinness — with a lighter lager.
While “Black and Tan” was the shoe’s unofficial name, Nike came under fire for stirring up memories of the British paramilitary unit notorious for terrorising Ireland in the 1920s War of Independence.
The $90 (€69) limited edition trainers were put on sale in the US in time to be worn for this weekend’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Nike said it had nicknamed the “beer-themed” SB Dunk Low shoe the “Black and Tan” because its colours were reminiscent of a pint of Guinness mixed with Harp pale ale. Irish-Americans protested that the name evoked memories of the Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force, known as the Black and Tans for their makeshift uniforms, which carried out brutal oppression between 1920 and 1921.
Ads for the trainer read: “Tis the season for Irish beer and why not celebrate with Nike. The Black and Tan sneaker takes inspiration for the fine balancing act of a stout [Guinness] on top a pale ale [Harp] in a pint glass.”
Nike said: “The Nike SB Dunk Low has been unofficially named by some using a phrase that can be viewed as… insensitive. We apologise. No offence was intended.”
Ciaran Staunton, president of the US-based Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, asked: “Is there no one at Nike able to Google ‘Black and Tan’?”