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The New

Mainly Traction

July 14, 1988

Spandex, waffled rubber and fluorescent colors--all the ingredients of pop fashion were present.

But when executives at the Nike shoe company first came out with Aqua Sock, they didn't realize what they had. This weird sock-shoe, they decided, would be purely utilitarian. Its light weight and traction sole would be perfect for yacht racing.

So much for executives.

A year and a half after it hit the market, the Aqua Sock is starting to show up as a fashion item at beaches and lakes.

"I don't know what it is that's making them sell, but they've really been selling good," said Jeff Jannings at Val Surf and Sport in North Hollywood. "Mainly, people are buying them for walking around at the beach. They have those fluorescent colors."

The Aqua Sock is also extremely odd-looking. On top, its ribbed, girdle-like upper fits snugly to the foot. On the sides and bottom, the flexible, wraparound sole has dozens of tiny rubber studs.

"We used vivid colors on these things and that's made it kind of a hit," said Kevin Brown, a spokesman for the Beaverton, Ore., athletic shoe company. "We sort of stumbled into it."

"It isn't something you'd want to go shopping in," said Karen Sparks, also of Nike. "You're looking at a shoe you would wear in the water at the beach or take a shower in at the gym. You can go swimming in it or windsurfing."

The shoe can also be used for exercising in the pool--fashionably called "aqua aerobics"--where the rough bottom will scratch tender feet. And the U.S. rowing team will compete in them at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.

A number of Los Angeles sporting goods and department stores carry the Aqua Sock for about $25 a pair. Nike has launched a new, if somewhat hesitant, campaign to market the shoes for adventurous beach types.

"And you thought you'd worn everything. . . ., " the magazine ads read. ". . .This is going to feel a little strange the first time you try it on."

Jerry Jensen wasn't the least bit worried about wearing the odd-looking things on his feet. The 30-year-old Burbank surfer owns two pairs.

"You get a couple people who look at you weird," Jensen said. "But I'm kind of a trend setter myself, so it doesn't bother me."

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