Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG), Berlin’s main public transport company, is as analog as it gets. There are no turnstiles in the subways, which means it essentially runs on an honor system; tickets are occasionally checked by a squad of undercover controllers. And as of January their jobs have just gotten a little bit more complicated: now they don’t just have to check tickets, but feet too.
That’s because, to celebrate 90 years of operation, the BVG collaborated with Adidas Originals to create 500 pairs of a special-edition sneaker, the EQT 93/17, with a yearlong pass to the city’s subway and bus lines sewn into the tongue. Coincidentally, Adidas designers had already been thinking about referencing the red, blue, and camouflage pattern on the metro seats in their gear for a few seasons, so when the opportunity arose to design a sneaker for the BVG, it was fate. The sneaker features the same iconic motif on a panel at the back of the shoe.
When the EQT 93/17 went on sale on January 16th it sold out within minutes; there were about 700 people waiting in front of each of the two local cult sneaker-head shops chosen as the exclusive distributors. For the BVG, the partnership was a chance to engage with Berlin’s infamous street culture and tout the importance of public transportation. A spokeswoman, Petra Reetz, explained, “We didn’t want to turn into the old aunt in the family that falls asleep in front of the TV. We want to be cool and modern. For our transportation infrastructure to continue to help the city we need to appeal to the younger generation.”
Because the price of the sneakers were relatively cheap ($220) compared to the annual BVG ticket (almost $900) I assumed I’d see some EQT 93/17 on the subways, but for days I didn’t. (Months later, I still haven’t.) Two undercover controllers told me they hadn’t seen any yet either. “They are collector’s items, they won’t make it out of their boxes,” one said to me. Her colleague joked, “Now we just have to watch out for fakes.” On cue, as soon as the EQT 93/17 ran out of stock, images of metro cards strapped cheekily in the laces of everyday shoes hit the Twittersphere. Because Berlin.