There is nothing so tacky, ugly, useless or downright stupid that someone, somewhere won't part with good money for it.
How else to explain the commercial success of pet rocks; a hair-cutting system that attaches to your vacuum cleaner; and that infomercial gym equipment that promises to turn you from couch potato into an iron-muscled Adonis (or Venus) in just 10 minutes a day?*
Who would have imagined that a fish with an electrically contorted spine and a microchip-driven sound system playing Talking Heads' Take Me To The River would become a must-have item everywhere from Inverness to Invercargill? But so it has turned out, and the person (probably a woman) who said "It'll never work" is probably not going to own up to the fact any time soon.
But even humans' apparently limitless capacity for buying something they don't need, and will stare at in puzzlement a week after buying it, cannot really explain the JS Roundhouse Mid trainer.
This item was to have been released in August by sports-shoe manufacturer adidas, though it's unlikely that it was designed with any specific sport in mind. The ankle-boots, in a fetching (or perhaps retching) purple and orange, feature plastic orange shackles, attached to the ankles by chains in the same colour.
For anyone unaware of the place of the shackle in the history of slavery, the colour functions as a useful aide memoire: it is the same orange used in prison uniforms worn by the usually shackled chain gangs in the American South.
Even for an organisation that had already demonstrated its tin ear for public sentiment with the $220 All Black jersey for last year's Rugby World Cup, this is a spectacular misfire. It seems amazing that the shackle shoe could have gone through product development and prototype manufacture without somebody asking, "What the hell were you thinking?"
But perhaps someone did. And the brains trust behind this hideous idea had a ready answer: "Hey, it might work. Remember the pet rock?"
* Actual results may vary.