Beat Writer William S. Burroughs Spreads Counterculture Cool on Nike Sneakers, 1994

Nike footwear and celebri­ty ath­letes usu­al­ly go hand-in-hand. When you think Nike, you think of Michael Jor­dan, Bo Jack­son and Mia Hamm. And let’s not for­get the now trou­bled duo of Tiger Woods and Lance Arm­strong too. Fit, lithe bod­ies gen­er­al­ly sell sneak­ers, we know that.

But then there’s the bizarre, odd excep­tion. Let’s rewind the video­tape to 1994, when Nike enlist­ed William S. Bur­roughs to sell its Air Max shoes. That’s right a decrepit 79-year-old Beat writer, known for his hero­in addic­tionmanslaugh­ter con­vic­tion and cut up writ­ing. William S. Bur­roughs is pret­ty much the anti-Mia Hamm. And yet the ad works in its own way. Just like the Gap could use Jack Ker­ouac to lend hip­ster cred to its stodgy khakis, so Bur­roughs could bring a main­streamed coun­ter­cul­ture cool to Nike shoes as his head, appear­ing in a TV set pro­claims, “The pur­pose of tech­nol­o­gy is not to con­fuse the brain, but to serve the body, to make life eas­i­er, to make any­thing pos­si­ble. It’s the com­ing of the new tech­nol­o­gy.” That new tech­nol­o­gy being, I guess, the cut­ting edge cush­ions in Nike’s shoes?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William S. Bur­roughs on Sat­ur­day Night Live, 1981

How Spike Lee Got His First Big Break: From She’s Got­ta Have It to That Icon­ic Air Jor­dan Ad

William S. Bur­roughs Reads His First Nov­el, Junky (find it also in our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books)

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