I’m not sure where I’m going with this post yet, its still just a forming hypothesis, but there seem to be some interesting elements coinciding which I would like to share.
Firstly the words “Deviance” and “Sport” which till now have seemed to me like contradictions, but the more I learn about sport the more they appear to belong together.
Just like “sex, drugs and rock and roll” in music, it seems that the most brilliant artists and athletes must live on the edge to perform beyond the conventional.
While “Deviance” may seem like a pejorative word, you could say that nonconformists are deviant, simply for choosing alternative unconventional ways to express their talent.
The book “Deviance and Social Control in Sport” by Michael Atkinson and Kevin Young also explains how some people are resistant to mainstream/institutional sport which they see as too limiting, exclusionary and authoritarian.
Then consider that innovation and new design are also often deviant, new paradigms are deviant , if nobody was deviant and strayed from convention by thinking divergently, maybe there could be no intentional change.
As a matter of fact the most disruptive brands have never taken the status quo too seriously.
“Skateboarding is Not a Crime”
Skateboarding is probably the best example of deviance in sport and from which an industry and small economy were created. Which isn’t a bad consequence for a “deviant” counter cultural movement that many less progressive people frowned once upon; sometimes putting up street signs forbidding skateboarding and even attaching obstacles to prevent skateboards from passing.
Although “Deviance” can seem a negative word because it means breaking the rules and typically hinders the functioning of a collective group, at the same time it also helps us to question social norms, or moral boundaries and introduce progress.
Ultimately its Liberating!
Consider that most new sports and sport innovation is created by rebels and deviants, for example mountain biking, bmx, snowboarding, kite-surfing and last but not least parkour. Creators unsatisfied with aligning with the status quo.
And has anyone seen the photos of Kathrine Switzer the first woman to run the Boston Marathon?
Luckily things don’t seem so terrible today in many parts of the world where sport can be celebrated by most people, men and women.
More so now that more women are also practicing extreme sports, I think its clear that deviance has aided rather than abetted progress in sport.
Photos by Anya Chibis via http://parkourproject.com
The Increasing Relevance of Urban Sports
With the exception of Running and more recently Skateboarding, mainstream sport has typically been confined to specialized arenas. But with so many increasing signs of institutional crisis, could other urban, non institutionalized and “deviant” sports become a growing trend? Can this become a major driver of future athletic footwear?…and as an extension can non institutionalized footwear, come to mean something significant, or is it just too divergent and uncompatible?
What about Parkour, is it a coincidence that I’ve come across Parkour twice this week? Its a sport that I’ve not heard about since watching Yamakazi about 16 years ago (on VHS), but now it seems really quite contemporary and relevant, especially on my recent trip to Moscow where there are still over 2000 Parkour athletes also known as Traceurs. And what about the extreme roof-top parkour clips on internet.
Can parkour footwear become more relevant, providing performance technology footwear for the street, as opposed to the court, or track?
Parkour grew out of the 19th century Hébertism the training philosophy of French naval officer George Hébert, who probably never intended it to be practiced so dangerously. He believed that physical fitness should be “a common cultural goal, not only for aesthetic, or competitive purposes, but also for the collective good” and also that individuals should train as an animal species, traversing the landscapes and physical obstacles as effectively/effortlessly as possible. Imagine being able to go from A to B in the straightest quickest way.
Not surprisingly George Hébert also went onto become the inventor of obstacle course training used by military called “parcours du combattant, from where the name Parkour derives.
Then in the 1980’s Parkour was introduced by David Belle and Sébastien Foucan as the most natural and unregulated sport in the inner city.
A sort of DIY gymnastics with an ascetic code, adding a philosophical twist to sport, traceurs typically reject traditional ways of training, the competitive tradition of sport and its capitalist pressures.
“History warns us that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions.” Thomas Henry Huxley