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Shoes are not about protecting feet. When they're about the feet inside them, they communicate social status, pop affiliations and even fetishes. When they're viewed as commercial commodities they hold a secret political, social and economic history.
Intrigued by a cleaning lady wearing an unknown brand of sneakers, Chinese graphic design student Shumeng Ye went in search of the secret history of Warrior basketball sneakers. "In the 1970s, Warrior basketball sneakers were a much sought after status symbol in China. Many Chinese teenagers dreamed of a pair of white Warrior sneakers. Three decades later, these sneakers are still well known among the Chinese people but they are no longer objects of desire. They are used by elderly and poor villagers doing physical labour at construction sites and pulling rickshaws. They are used by Chinese working class heroes. Today's Chinese youngsters dream of Nike or Converse," she explains.
Documenting these working-class heroes photographically, Ye went on to publish a limited-edition book, Book of Warriors, which has generated much acclaim from across the world. Interestingly, the book has inspired a comeback of the shoes among Chinese hipsters, reasserting the value of locally conceived and manufactured produce.