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Why the Next Big Thing in Sneaker Fashion is Cotton - and Corn

Sneaker fashion is a deeply saturated market with tons of entrenched competitors. To stand out and build demand for a new shoe, you usually need a killer design, some new performance feature, a big name athlete, or all of the above.

Or you just need cotton. And corn.  

Reebok has released new sneakers, the NPC UK Cotton + Corn, built from the ground up with products that grow from the ground up. Soles made of corn. Tops made from cotton. Not a petroleum product in sight. And they don’t sacrifice performance or comfort in the slightest.

It’s a great example of thinking outside the box on a new product. And it’s also a great example of the vital role that natural materials like cotton can play in making the planet a little greener in unexpected ways.

Greener by Design

You’ve seen headlines about restaurants and cafés replacing plastic drinking straws with more environmentally-friendly alternatives. But there are plenty of other petroleum-based products that, if replaced with a natural material, could have an even bigger real-world impact.

Cotton is one of those materials. It’s durable, soft, breathable, and actually gets stronger when it gets wet. And if cotton is grown the right way (which we’re proud to say HomeGrown Cotton definitely is), it has a much lower environmental footprint than petroleum-based products.

On the other end of the product’s useful life, the advantages are even more stark. Rubber and plastic can last for centuries in landfills, while cotton biodegrades just like compost. So those shoes, no matter where they end up, will simply fade away, without leaking toxins into the soil or water.

The Other Kind of Green

Reebok’s new sneakers aren’t just an environmentally-friendly move. They’re also an opportunity to build a new market and target a different demographic than their traditional, sports-loving fans. And new markets mean more sales.

The demand is real, especially among millennials. 75% of them say they are willing to pay more for greener products. If you can bring a product to market that’s made from farm-grown materials, they are just going to gobble it up.

All of which means going green can be a savvy business call. And the first company to make this kind of move in an unexpected market could cultivate even more loyal customers.

Sneakers Are Just the First Step

Take a second to look around you. You could probably name a couple dozen petroleum-based products. Let’s just pick a few:

  • The protective wrapping on your phone charging cord
  • The padding in your headphones
  • The plastic rings holding your 6-pack together

Could any of those be replaced with a natural, environmentally-friendly fiber like cotton? There’s certainly a business opportunity for the first company to do so.

So what unexpected place might cotton show up next? That’s up to you. If you have a great idea for a cotton-based product, bring it to us. We know some pretty great cotton farmers.


Whether you’re a manufacturer looking to enhance your cotton products or a customer just wanting to know a bit more, we’d love to hear from you.

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