I was THAT college student who was utterly convinced they'd built up a tolerance to caffeine because of the copious amounts of coffee consumed to power through peer reviews and midterm papers. Though I've sworn off caffeine for health reasons — it has been two whole years since it's run through my veins! — I still have a love for all things coffee. This was why my cup-of-Joe-devoted heart was extra intrigued to hear that Rens Original shoes, launched in 2019 by Jesse Tran and Son Chu, both Vietnamese and living in Finland, were made out of coffee waste.
Getting into logistics, every pair of Rens sneakers consists of six recycled plastic bottles and 150 grams of coffee grounds. The outsole is natural rubber, and the yarn derived from coffee waste contains antibacterial and antiodor properties. "Ren" also means "clean" or "pure" in many major Scandinavian languages. Talk about sustainable! Rens are comfortable and breathable, too, while waterproof, so you can jump in puddles if you want (I wore my pair in the rain a few times to see for myself).
The specific shoes I received were Rebel Black ($119), and the slip-on style is convenient when I'm heading out the door to run errands, when I'm walking (read: being walked by) my dogs, or when I just need a burst of something unique to turn a bland outfit into a bold one. The hashtag symbol smack dab on the top part of the shoes isn't a detail you'd normally find on footwear, and Tran told POPSUGAR it represents community and a movement worth joining. But I'm all for wearing a message where the world can see.
Rens's efforts were crowdfunded from the beginning, and now Tran and Chu are launching a new sneaker called the Nomad, also made from coffee waste but designed as more of a performance sneaker with laces and added functionality. Though I have worn my Rens while hiking uphill on the treadmill, the Nomads, which have a crowdfunding campaign already in the works, are meant for activities like running and "anything in between," Tran said. He noted that Rens, on the other hand, are an "urban, everyday shoe" despite the fact that many consumers do use them for dancing and certain gym sessions.
"What we want to convey with Rens is something really edgy, really intense," Tran said. "And so it's about a sustainable brand for the bold generations." As a sneaker startup that's changing the production game by turning caffeine into a cause to "lighten" our ecological footprint, Rens does so with shoes that come in a variety of colorways. They're attention-grabbing, statement-making, and different. And different . . . well, different is good.