How a Generation’s Sneaker Became the Jordan 1
When Prince’s rock opera Purple Rain was released in 1984, popular culture underwent a radical transformation. A Super Bowl commercial featured Apple’s Macintosh computer introduction. The first-ever Video Music Awards were hosted by MTV. Not to add, I was a senior in high school, living in a state of existential paradox between extreme optimism and apprehensive terror about my eventual release into adulthood.
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America at the time was plagued by a recession, racial and gender difficulties, the AIDS pandemic, right-wing ideological posturing, and fierce culture conflicts amid an atmosphere of inventiveness and turmoil. On the other hand, Black culture, entertainment, and athletics also saw a fresh rebirth that dominated the media, box office, TV, and general public appeal. (Does this sound familiar?)
Growing up in Cincinnati as a Black teenager, I looked up to several Black luminaries as role models, but one in particular stood out to me: Michael Jordan, a rookie for the Chicago Bulls who resembled me and seemed to soar through the air while scoring points on the court. Jordan recently inked a five-year, 2.5 million dollar endorsement deal with Nike.
Even though my basketball skills were at best mediocre, I dared to dream of being as good as him by investing $65 in a pair of Jordan 1 sneakers, which, like the winged sandals of the Greek god Hermes, symbolized success, willpower, agility, high performance, and most importantly, coolness. Yes, Jordans represented a reality that I aspired to achieve in my own life as a disenfranchised adolescent in America like myself.
The secret sauce behind the Jordan 1 was actually pretty simple: they catered to customers from all walks of life, regardless of whether they were basketball fans or not. And because of its accessibility, the sneaker has grown even more legendary in the modern day, inspiring the creation of the 35-model Air Jordan brand.
Peter Moore, Nike’s first Creative Director and designer of the Jordan 1, is the solution. According to folklore, Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk proposed the moniker Air Jordan at a meeting with Nike officials in Washington because of the player’s ability to glide through the air gracefully while completing his signature dunk shots.
After the meeting, Moore allegedly saw an attendant giving a youngster a winged pendant, and while returning to the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, he drew the winged logo on a cocktail napkin. “Can I have a pair of those wings? The flight attendant had just given it to him,” the passenger remarked. In 2018, Moore told Slam magazine. “After she handed me the wings, I took a seat and began sketching the wings. I positioned a basketball between them.
The remainder is recorded history. The most noticeable (and disruptive) innovation of the Jordan 1 design was the color. This was in addition to the inventive construction, which included air cushions, padded ankle collars for a more comfortable fit, a heel cup for additional support, fixed straps to the forefoot and ankle for more stability, and a winged logo on the upper part of the high tops. The majority of NBA-required basketball footwear in 1984 were either all-white or all-black. On occasion, the team’s accent color was paired with white shoes. By designing the Jordan 1 in the Chicago Bulls’ colors of red, black, and white, Moore advanced this theory. This colorway of the Jordan 1 earned it the moniker “BRED.” Like the man who wore them, the Jordan 1 was bold and brash, drawing a lot of attention. In actuality, Jordan was fined $5,000.00 for every game in which he donned his Jordan 1. After the sneakers gained notoriety as “BANNED,” Nike wisely chose to turn lemons into lemonade.
Nike, a relatively newcomer to the athletic shoe industry with innovative marketing techniques and state-of-the-art technology, used the $5,000 fines as a springboard to ignite a revolution among young Americans and community-build an even larger fan base around the newest NBA star. a Nike ad showing a youthful Jordan dunking a basketball while sporting censor bars over his shoes. “On September 15, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe,” the voiceover continues. The NBA removed them from the game on October 18. Thankfully, you are not allowed to quit wearing them by the NBA.
The Jordan 1 and subsequently Air Jordan’s notoriety and instant cool ness were a marketing and fashion gaffe that no one else could match. It was the height of an athlete-branded product. As a result, among of the most sought-after sneakers available today are the Jordan 1. A pair of Jordan 1s was sold by Sotheby’s auction house in 2020 for $560,000. Sneakerhead culture made it possible for people to purchase, exchange, and resell sneakers thanks to eBay. similar days, similar activities take place on websites like StockX, Grailed, and Round Two, in stores like Flight Club and Stadium Goods, on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter, and on applications like GOAT. Jordan 1 has gained fashion cache thanks to partnerships with high-end labels like Off-White, Comme des Garçons, and Christian Dior. Through their partnerships with professional BMX biker Nigel Sylverster and rapper Travis Scott from Houston, Jordan 1 has been able to attract even younger consumers with the help of youthful influencers.