The Taliban is obsessed with these white high-top sneakers

Is it the shoes?!

Forget second-hand camo and Soviet-made firearms: the hottest new style trend among Taliban fighters is apparently a white high-top sneaker, according to a fascinating new report from The New York Times.

Dubbed ‘Cheetahs,’ the shoes are among the best-selling models of sneakers produced by Pakistan-based footwear company Servis Shoes and endorsed by athletes and sports icons alike, according to Servis.

Servis “continues to evolve the brand positioning which is currently ‘Shoes For Everyone’ – a genuine and inspiring promise with our customers,” according to the company’s website.

“Shoes for everyone” has apparently given way to “shoes for terrorists,” according to to the Times, quietly available at market kiosks for inquiring minds:

In Afghanistan, they’ve been worn by rifle-wielding insurgents for decades — from the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s to the U.S.-led war that began in 2001. They are burned into the memories of many, along with the wanton death and destruction the country has endured since the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979.

The sneakers have become synonymous with violence, and especially so on the feet of the Taliban.

Apparently the Cheetahs have been recognizable among Taliban fighters beyond the widespread adoption of the white high-top model. In No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonette recounted finding a black version on the feet of slain fighters.

“The dead fighters were dressed in baggy shirts and pants and black Cheetahs, high-top Puma-like sneakers worn by Taliban fighters,” Bissonette wrote. “It was a running joke in the squadron that if you wore black Cheetahs in Afghanistan, you were automatically a suspect.”

Today, Taliban commanders across the country “send taxi drivers or associates into city centers to buy [Cheetahs] in bulk from local vendors,” according to the New York Times.

“Roughly two years ago, a high-ranking Taliban commander recalled preparing for an operation against the Islamic State’s affiliate in the country that was entrenched in Kunar Province,” as the Times reported. “The commander said the battle would be difficult and he wanted his men to ‘fight comfortably,’ so he dispatched taxi drivers to buy 200 pairs of Cheetahs in Jalalabad, a bustling city in the east.”

As it turns out, having a pair of white high-tops beats the hell out of a standard-issue U.S. combat boot liberated from abandoned American stockpiles. Like a fiery game of NBA Jam, the answer to the question “is it the shoes?!?!” is undoubtedly “yes,” at least among Taliban fighters.

Then again, the longevity of the Cheetahs as the Taliban’s kicks of choice reportedly may not outlast militant attempts to navigate peace talks with the Afghan government in Qatar in recent months.

“As those negotiations inch forward, the Taliban have made a concerted propaganda push to publicly divorce themselves from the Cheetahs to try to appear more like a professional army,” according to the New York Times.

Read more about the proliferation of the Cheetah high-top at the New York Times. And no, you can’t get them on Amazon — if you want to dress like a terrorist, we recommend you go with a Casio watch instead.

Jared Keller

Jared Kelleris the executive editor of Task & Purpose. His writing has appeared in Aeon, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the New Republic, Pacific Standard, Smithsonian, and The Washington Post, among other publications. Contact the author here.