I can still recall the first pair of shoes I fell in love with. I was nine years old and had just joined my first real basketball team. I can still remember the feeling of excitement as my father handed me that orange box with the white Nike swoosh on it. That first pair, gold Nike foamposites with black insoles, gave me confidence as I put them on my feet and tied the knots tight. I felt like Jordan the moment I put them on. I grew out of those shoes, but I never grew out of my love for sneakers. In my continuous search for shoes there is one name that is the golden standard, Jordan.
In the 1980’s basketball and hip-hop communities changed the perception of sneakers from sports equipment to a way to express one’s self. While Julius Erving may have had his own shoe, it was Michael Jordan who changed the game. Nike released his signature shoe line in 1985 and the world of sneakers would never be the same again.
During a time when all shoes on the NBA court were black or white, Michael and Nike defied the status quo with bright red, black and white. The shoe cost $65.00 and at the time people could not believe how expensive it was. Then things changed, Nike was forced to pay a $5,000 fine for every game that they were worn. This stunt would go down as one of the most clever marketing ploys of all time. Sales skyrocketed as everyone wanted the “banned” shoe. The Jordan I sell millions of pairs and is still in production to this day, having spawned nearly 50 different colors and designs. This shoe not only sold well, but helped to launch one of the most profitable brands Nike had ever seen. It changed athletic wear and would make Michael Jordan a billionaire.
Jordan brand broke the rules again with the Jordan II, the very next year. It was the first Nike shoe to not feature the iconic Nike swoosh. While this was risky it ushered in an era of shoe’s were design was put before branding. Jordan took a further dip into pop culture with the Jordan III, by hiring Spike Lee to direct and star in the advertising campaign for the shoe. This shoe was an instance success and helped to keep Michael with the brand.
Jordan brand shoes would go on to release 30 consecutive pairs and still continues to release new ones each year. Along with this they constantly release new color schemes for older shoes. They opened the door for the sneaker market and now we can see competitors like Adidas and Under Armour following their lead. While many companies have joined the sneaker market none will have as big as an impact as Jordan had. Whether it was the iconic design, amazing play by Michael or simply luck, these shoes will always hold a place in the hearts, and wallets of “sneakerheads.”
Another important appeal of Jordan shoes and other sneakers comes not only from their place in history, but from the fact that sneakers are both a mark of exclusivity and an equalizer. Anyone can love sneakers. Athletes and business men to rappers and middle schoolers, they all can be a part of this culture simply by slipping them on. Sneakers have helped to shape American pop culture and allowed us to live our big league fantasies.
Jordan shoes and to a lesser extent Nike, have always meant cool to me, and millions of others. The combination of innovative marketing, reverence for Michael and amazing design created something that continues to inspire athletes, designers and pop culture. Jordan brands’ enormous popularity and status as the pinnacle of stylish sneakers, cement the brand as a cultural icon, without which fashion and athletics would never be the sa