In Back to the Future 2, Marty McFly crouches in his DeLorean and dons a pair of futuristic Nike high-tops. “Alright! Power laces!” he exclaims as the shoes automatically tighten around his feet. More than 20 years after the film was released, those sneakers remain legendary among a small, vocal group of enthusiasts. So, when reports recently emerged that Nike has patented self-lacing technology, blogs lit up with speculation these shoes might finally become a reality.
Filed in 2009 and now posted on the World Intellectual Property Organization website, Nike’s patent for an “automatic lacing system” features a diagram that looks a lot like McFly’s shoes in the movie. It’s not clear if, or when, a self-lacing sneaker would be released, a blogger at Dime basketball magazine noted, “but if you know the movie, then the year 2015 might ring a bell.” (A Nike spokesperson declined to comment, noting that hundreds of patent applications are filed as part of any design process.)
This isn’t the first time Nike has benefited from the goodwill of fans who grew up watching the movies, and now have money to spend. In 2008, following an online campaign by two Montrealers to make a real-life McFly sneaker, the company released a limited edition tribute shoe, in a similar colour palette to those sported in the movie and with “2015” emblazoned across the tongue. They weren’t self-lacing, though. (Kobe Bryant showed up at the launch in a DeLorean.)
News that Nike might finally make the futuristic sneaker was a hit among tech bloggers, many of whom are “in their thirties and get excited about things from their roots,” says Darren Barefoot of Capulet Communications, a tech marketing company. Nike got plenty of positive press after the patent surfaced, as nostalgic bloggers posted clips of Marty and his self-lacing Nike high-tops over and over again. With more brands than ever trying to tap into social media and online communities to get attention, that kind of genuine affection still can’t be bought.