As shoes go, Nelson Mandela’s are impossible to fill. But that hasn’t stopped one athletic shoe company from empowering others to try and do so.
Hi-Tec has reimagined and reissued the tennis shoes worn by the late South African president and former political prisoner when he walked out of Robben Island in 1990, a free man after a total of 27 years of incarceration.
The original, soil-streaked and frayed U.K. size 10 pair that Mandela wore, a classic style then known as “Hi-Tec Wimbledon,” has been on display since 2019 at the Hi-Tec concept store in Stellenbosch near Cape Town. The shoes were purchased at auction by company chairman Frank van Wezel.
The updated limited-edition sneaker is called “Freedom 67” in honor of the 67 years of Mandela’s life that he devoted toward the struggle against apartheid. It is the key product around which the Freedom Shared campaign Hi-Tec recently launched in South Africa is centered. Inspired by the great man’s own words, to wit: “The purpose of freedom is to share it with others,” van Wezel stated that “people need this story of love and unity, now more than ever. They need to remember what Nelson Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba, stood for.”
The tweaks to the original shoe include updates to the upper, which now includes full leather details; a blue translucent gum sole with Mandela’s quote, and details such as the scuff marks from the original pair.
Only 3,200 pairs of Freedom 67s will be produced and sold to the public, with their release to be staggered in two tiers starting in August. Tier 1 consists of 1,200 pairs and will be available online, while Tier 2 consists of 2,000 pairs to be sold in-store at South African sports retailers Archive and Sportscene. The retail price has yet to be revealed.
Meanwhile, on July 12, 67 limited-release advance pairs of the Freedom 67s were sent to 67 key influencers in South Africa and overseas as part of the fundraising component of the Freedom Shared campaign to benefit the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. In addition, one of the 67 pairs will be auctioned online on Mandela Day in an effort to raise more funds for the Fund. Nelson Mandela Day falls on his birthday, July 18.