Dezeen Magazine

Nike withdraws balaclava following claims it incites gang violence

Nike has removed a balaclava from sale, after critics argued that the design enforces racial profiling and glamorises violence.

The balaclava is shown in promotional shots for the Nike x MMW collection, worn by a young black man.

The controversial item pulls over the wearer's head and covers most of the face and upper chest. A panel with straps and zipped storage pockets hangs down the torso from each shoulder.

It went on sale on 12 July but was removed from Nike's website earlier this week.

Nike said it does not condone gang culture

Nike told Dezeen that it could not provide a spokesperson to comment on the issue, but gave the following statement: "These products were part of a wider Nike Training collection, styled on different models and available in multiple markets around the world."

"We are in no way condoning or encouraging the serious issue of criminal and gang culture," it added.

Among the critics was Paul Mckenzie, a youth worker and anti-violence campaigner based in London, who called out the design in a video posted on Facebook.

"You know these young people on the street adore these manufacturers, they buy everything that they sell," he says in the video.

"We look at images of young people on the street and they look menacing already, and so Nike decides to bring out a balaclava range which looks absolutely menacing. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m a dinosaur, but this balaclava range looks like it's quite inciteful."

Balaclava featured in collection by Matthew M Williams

The collection was produced in collaboration with Matthew M Williams, an American designer famous for working at the intersection of art, music and fashion through his Alyx Studio label. The collection claims to be "inspired by a generation born to thrive in never-ending flux."

Nike's website stresses the collection's athletic purpose: "Using Nike's vast repository of athlete-informed data, Williams uses computational and generative design to forge fluid training apparel for the transitional lifestyle."

"Modular layers, magnetic buckles and smart storage flow with Williams' approach to versatile movement for those beyond labels," it reads.

The collection was installed on faceless white mannequins at NikeLab 21M in New York at the end of July.

Military-inspired headgear linked to gang violence

Military-inspired headgear of this sort often appears in drill music videos, which the London Met Police chief Cressida Dick has said is connected to the recent surge in gang violence in the UK capital. She has urged sites to remove these videos.

"If it is inciting or in someway glamorising violence then we think [social media channels] have a social responsibility to work with us to take those videos down," she said to LBC radio recently.

Another recent Nike collaboration saw the brand team up with Virgil Abloh to create Serena Williams' kit for the US Open.