Most people who harbor an enthusiasm for shopping can relate to Al Cabino when he says, "The objective is to get the shoes." Fewer people will repeat the statement with his mantra-like frequency, and even fewer would be coveting the same pair of shoes: Cabino has launched a petition campaign urging Nike to issue the famous high tops Michael J. Fox wore as Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II.
Cabino doesn't like to talk too much about himself, but he's a sneaker enthusiast from Montreal with a "respectable amount" of sneakers in his personal archives (he won't divulge a number, or even a ballpark, but it's enough that MTV wanted to do a segment on him—an offer he declined). His determination to get the McFly sneakers (the "Holy Grail") is clearly not his first major sneaker quest. Previously, he also collaborated on a project to create a pair of high tops made out of Swiss chocolate.
Calling himself a "sneaker activist," Cabino is nothing if not web and media savvy. Using the internet, he has successfully spread his campaign internationally, and at last count has gotten over 19,000 people to sign the petition, a document that he plans to hand deliver to Nike's offices in Beaverton when that number reaches a size he feels the company will not ignore. He solicits media coverage, but is careful about choosing the venue and supplying the content, asking himself if each move will put him closer to his objective—and remember, the objective is to get the shoes.
The reasons he has for particularly coveting this pair of shoes are numerous, not the least of which is his admiration for Michael J. Fox, who Cabino considers to be "Canadian royalty," not only by virtue of his qualities as an entertainer, but also because of a persona Cabino considers to exemplify "classy." Cabino is actively trying to contact Fox, as well as Steven Spielberg, Christopher Lloyd, Flea, and anyone else who was involved in the making of the 1989 hit—even Elijah Wood, who you'll recall played the role of Videogame Boy. ("You mean you have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy!") If you have any way of contacting them, drop Cabino a line at email@example.com, and make one sneaker fan very happy. Thus far the biggest celebrity to sign the petition is DJ-AM, but Cabino is certain that the involvement of the film's stars will make his dossier even more watertight.
While Cabino's dream often elicits a chuckle, make no mistake that he is serious in his intent. He realizes that the shoes wouldn't have automatic laces, but is nonetheless confident that they would be popular on the street because of their mix of pop culture cred and quasi-futuristic style. As the petition reads, "It is the strong belief of the undersigned that these future Nike sneakers would be immensely popular and not only boost Nike's sales but gain new fans of the Nike brand." Personally, he plans to buy at least two pairs, one for the archives, and one to wear.
Petitioning a company to produce a particular product has certainly happened, but such a campaign succeeding is virtually unheard of. If Cabino succeeds, he would be setting an interesting precedent in the world of consumerism, realizing the idea of customers directly controlling product design. While some might take offense to Cabino describing himself as an activist (the Adbusters camp has taken swings, which Cabino finds amusing in light of the Blackspot shoe business associated with the publication) during an era where other types of activism are in high demand, others have made the creaky comparison of Cabino to Michael Moore. Incidentally, Moore is the only activist of any kind who has been granted an audience with Nike head Phil Knight.
And what will Nike make of all this? While Cabino claims an insider tipped him off that he had shown up on Nike's internal radar, calls made to the company failed to yield anyone familiar with Cabino or his campaign. It did, however, make them laugh.
Check out Cabino's Operation McFly at operationmcfly.blogspot.com