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Southland: The Story Behind Rickie Fowler’s Hi-Tops

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While the golf world continues to debate whether it’s being ruled by a Big Three or Four, when it comes to fashion and flair, it’s a Big One.

Cobra Puma’s Rickie Fowler has long had the most emulated look on tour amongst fans and in January, he gave them another reason to walk in his shoes – literally.

A hi-top shoe Fowler unveiled at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua proved an instant hit and will now get a chance to back it up in sales when it hits store shelves in June.

But Cobra Puma CEO and President Bob Philion is already counting on the impact of the new IGNITE shoe to be nothing less than major.

“The feedback and response has been tremendous,” Philion said.

With a “perfect-fit” Velcro strap, the shoe recalls the look of an 1980s-90s-ish hi-top basketball shoe, but it’s for the course, not the court. Tour players Keegan Bradly and Michelle Wie have been reported to have worn something similar.

The idea for Rickie’s shoe stemmed from a conversation Philion and Fowler had last year in Japan. Fowler, long an influential voice for Cobra Puma style, expressed an interest in his course style reflecting more of his personal style. He then mentioned he wears high tops off the course.

“He expressed an interest in wearing a hi-top cleated shoe on the course,” Philion said. “The result is the IGNITE hi-top, which we paired with a jogger style pant. We work closely with our Tour players throughout the development and design process to ensure we’re pushing the limits of when it comes to performance and style. That’s very important to us as a brand.”

Cobra Puma Head of Footwear and Accessories Grant Knudson said the media buzz the shoes created at Kapalua coincided with a hugely positive fan response on social media.

“I’ve never really seen anything like it for a shoe,” Knudson said. “The shoes went viral. It was truly lightning in a bottle. It has blown everyone’s expectations away.”

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In its current design, the shoes is in black and white, which is a bit understated given Cobra Puma’s splashy use of pastels. Knudson said color may be incorporated into future designs, but the initial offering will only be black and white.

When the staff projected the target demographics for the shoe, Knudson said ages 12 to 30, Fowler’s usual target, was projected, but the interest has actually trended much older.

Knudson said the shoe was originally thought of fashion over function. The staff discounted older golfers who had lower body instability or injury and see the shoe as having an orthopedic advantage on the course.

“That was something we didn’t foresee,” Knudson said. “People are looking at it as a way to perform better, and it has started a conversation internally of what really is the best shoe for people to wear. This shoe has some excellent potential benefits.”

We’ll all start to learn more when the shoes, which will retail for $200, hit store shelves.
Further stoking the shoe’s popularity and visibility, Knudson said, is Fowler’s continued strong start to the season, which has included a win in Abu Dhabi at the HSBC Golf Championship.

Adding a retail victory will only underscore for Knudson that Fowler’s career is soaring on all levels.

Knudson said, “Rickie’s truly at the top of his game right now.”