To mark the 10th anniversary of its flagship shoe, Nike dropped pairs of the famous Bred and Chicago colorways, making them available to the public for the first time since they fell out of production in 1986. By the end of the season, Jordan became the NBA Rookie of the Year—and Jordan 1 sales total $126 million. The “Lost and Found” is already on track to also be one of the year’s best-selling Jordan 1s on StockX, even though demand is softening for some non-original colors of the sneaker. Waithe says her story is one of visibility: Growing up in Chicago during MJ’s Bulls playing days, putting on the shoes gave her a sense of pride; they made her feel like a superhero when she rocked them to school. To her, Michael’s greatness was almost transferable. Michael Jordan wearing his Air Jordans during a 1985 game against the Washington Bullets Focus on Sport via Getty Images Mayden now had a life goal. A Batman fanatic obsessed with Lucius Fox’s inventions, he started sketching sneaker designs, with the hopes of one day doing so for Nike. He would eventually become Jordan Brand’s first design intern, and then get hired full time by the subsidiary in 2001, when he says it had roughly 70 employees. There, he learned firsthand from the brand’s namesake, a hands-on leader who routinely visited the campus to instill wisdom in the team, which was then “kind of like the little brother at Nike.” “It connected both this phenomenal player with these eye-catching shoes, and it spoke to ideas of American exceptionalism,” Semmelhack says. “Here’s a man who’s not only amazing because of all the hard work he does, but he also does it in his own way.” “MJ sat us down and told us, ‘Hey, we can go for it.
Who wants to be part of creating history? We can become a billion-dollar brand,’” Mayden says. “And we all believed in it.” The Jordan 1 is back at the head of the sneaker table, with a new edition announced seemingly daily, and versions ranging from general-release everyman kicks to high-end luxury items like the planned Dior AJ1 that are rumored to cost $2,000. But how exactly did a 35-year-old model become the most desired sneaker in the game? It turns out that much like with the renewed hype for Michael Jordan himself, it’s not just about recognizing greatness; it’s about finding new ways to tell the stories that build the myth. Despite not owning any himself – “I’m very much a Nike Airforce guy” – Haines also nods to the design itself: “The cleanliness of the model, the way the panels are constructed and the way that they can apply hundreds or thousands of different colours to that, and different materials and keep it fresh, I think it’s a versatile sneaker, for men, for women, for kids.” This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why Jordan, aside from his historic athletic achievements, NBA Championships, and Olympic wins, is considered the greatest of all time. Jordan and his classic shoe represent a cultural and sociological tipping point in society that was so needed in 1984 and even today. Everyone still wants to be like Mike—or at least walk in his shoes. The Nike Jordan 1s was the first Jordan shoe in Michael Jordan’s groundbreaking signature line, and paved the way for the many coveted player collaborations we see today. Perhaps the most pivotal shoe in sneaker history, today the OG High is a grail for collectors worldwide. With its sleek silhouette, signature Wings branding, and revolutionary air cushioning technology, the Peter Moore-designed Jordans debuted in 1985 to whirlwind success. MJ wore Air Jordan sneakers on the court, and they quickly became a must-have for sneaker collectors and basketball fans alike.
The iconic Nike Air Jordan 1 OG High 1985 “Chicago” colorway, in red, white and black premium leather, celebrates Jordan’s pioneering legacy with the Chicago Bulls. The Nike Air Jordan 11 has the distinction of being the favorite sneaker of MJ himself. Released in 1995, the iconic Jordan shoes made NBA history during Michael Jordan’s legendary 72-10 season with the Bulls. Jordan’s spectacular on-court performance wasn’t the only thing that made the Air Jordan 11 stand out: with a ballistic mesh upper wrapped in a shiny patent leather mudguard, this was a basketball shoe the likes of which had never been seen before. This Nike Air Jordan—which Jordan also famously wears in the 1996 movie Space Jam—became an instant pop cultural phenomenon, and remains to this day one of the most popular Jordans. Michael Jordan went on to become arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, and off the field, he has also made $1.3 billion to date from his deal with Nike, alone. This was also before retro culture had matured: The 1994 pack didn’t take off, and while Air Force 1s were popular enough to inspire a top-10 rap single, they had remained in production with few interruptions following their 1982 debut. Shoe companies weren’t often resurrecting old models that had only a brief run, and consumers didn’t seem to mind. But by the end of the ’90s, fashion was shifting. Hip-hop culture began embracing throwback jerseys, and suddenly, the classics were cool again. Mitchell and Ness, the vintage jersey manufacturer, saw its sales rise from $1.5 million in 1998 to $25 million in 2002. While Bengtson says the earlier Jordan retro pack may have planted the seed, the interest in throwback jerseys—and with them, throwback shoes—was a watershed moment for retros. TheThe basketball rolls toward the man, who’s standing alone on a playground court.
When it reaches him, he flips it up with his foot like a soccer ball, catches it and dribbles between his legs in one motion, and begins sprinting. The camera switches to slow motion as the sound of jet engines fades in. Within seconds, he’s in the air with his left arm outstretched, and he’s reached cruising altitude. In the next frame, we’re looking upward toward the sky as he slams the ball through the rim. “Who says man was not meant to fly?” he asks in a voice-over that plays with just clouds on the screen, as if speaking straight from the heavens. These days, it feels like I see the Jordan 1 everywhere. I was recently taking an afternoon walk in my New York City neighborhood and I noticed a young girl wearing a navy plaid Catholic school uniform paired with navy and white Jordan 1 mid. On my way to a Bermudian cooking class in Lower Manhattan, I almost collided into an office worker (both of us deep in our iPhones) wearing a charcoal overcoat, dad jeans, and white and pale gray Jordan 1. Long before Mayden spent 13 years with the brand, where he worked his way up to senior global design director, he was a kid growing up in Chicago in the 1980s and early ’90s. To this day, he can vividly recall the first time he saw a pair of Jordans: He was in fourth grade when his classmate Tiana walked in wearing the Military Blue 4s. “I got in trouble, because the teacher thought I was staring at her biking shorts,” he says. “I was staring at her shoes, and I risked it all in that moment to get a glimpse.” The first Jordan shoe, the Nike Air Jordan 1, was an instant hit, kicking off modern sneaker collecting as we know it. In fact, it was so popular that Nike continued to make new Air Jordan models each season.
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