The moment Michael Jordan rocked a pair of signature Nike sneakers in 1984, the world of footwear changed forever. But it was nearly over before the phenomenon actually took off.
Nike signed Jordan, at the time a rookie coming out of North Carolina to a five-year endorsement contract worth a reported $2.5 million (plus royalties). There was initially some skepticism over the hefty contract being given to an unproven marketing commodity, but then in 1984 the design was revealed.
Chicago Bulls fans and sneaker connoisseurs everywhere had to wait a year for Jordan’s signature shoe to be released but already the NBA stepped in and banned the shoe because they featured “non-regulation” colours.
Suffice it to say, Jordan and Nike didn’t listen and despite being fined $5,000 by the league each time he wore the colourway, Nike gladly footed the bill each time. The Jordan I was a roaring success and the basketball shoe trade truly began.
Jordan wore several colourways of the Jordan I, including the infamous “Chicago” sneaker where he scored a career-high 63 points against the Boston Celtics in the 1986 Playoffs. It was the most sought-after shoe and when the Bulls’ run ended, Nike knew that they were on to something and enlisted the help of legendary designer Bruce Kilgore to create the second edition, which many believed would not reach the heights that the first shoe did.
Kilgore, the brains behind the Air Force 1, one of Nike’s most iconic sneaker created the shoe and the trainer was made in Italy in two colourways. While the sneaker itself was highly anticipated, it never reach the height of popularity that the first model enjoyed. Even despite re-releases in 1994, 2004, 2014 and collaborations with fashion designer Don C, along with five different colourways, the sales were not as common as the previous.
∞∞∞ WHEN THE JORDAN BRAND BROKE GROUND ∞∞∞
When the Jordan III was released in 1988, Tinker Hatfield, the man behind Nike Air Max stepped into Kilgore’s footsteps and with it, completely changed how the Jordan shoe looked forever.
Gone was the ‘Wings’ logo that had graced the first two shoes and in its place was the new ‘Jumpman’ signature that portrays a simple, yet more marketable silhouette of MJ in mid-air for a slam dunk. The logo appeared on the tongue on the sneaker and the third instalment included a visible Air bubble; a trademark of Hatfield’s.
Following the Jordan III, a year later, Hatfield was the mastermind behind the Jordan IV, which introduced us to a breathable mesh design as well as the return of the bubble.
The IV model also arguably gave sneaker fans the most iconic individual Jordan ever: the ‘Cement’ colourway, which has been retroed on several occasions.
With the Jordan brand firmly established as the most sought-after basketball shoe on the market, based on the popularity of the first four editions, each annually released sneaker showcased something new. But it wasn’t until the Jordan XI where the product reached the heights that the III and IV did previously.
Now if the Jordan IV ‘Cement’ is arguably the most popular shoe, then the Jordan XI is arguably the best line of sneakers released, with every colourway a quick sell-out upon release. The eleventh edition originally released in 1995 with the infamous ‘Concord’ and every year, the Jumpman team retroes an old favourite from the XI range with the most memorable being in December 2016 when the ‘Space Jam’ XI’s was released.
∞∞∞ HOW THE JORDAN’S WILL ALWAYS BE TIMELESS ∞∞∞
With so many collaborations and new, exciting colourways that have been released, the Jordan shoe will always be a hot seller. The Jumpman brand has been folded into the evolution of sneakers, competed with signature lines from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and even musician Kanye West – and is still winning.
With each Jordan that comes out, a new piece or material is added. For NBA All-Star Weekend, The Jordan I released an ‘All-Star’ shoe that perhaps showcased the most interesting colourway, highlighting the event being staged in New Orleans.
The following month, the Jordan IV got the royal bling treatment with the brand releasing the ‘Royalty’ shoe in February. The sneaker sold out, albeit after a few days and has since been re-released.
Three months later, the ‘Pure Money’ IV was released which was seen as the opposite to the ‘Royalty’ that was brought out earlier. The first model had a luxurious black suede, with gold coloured detailing that hits the eyelets as well as the Jumpman branding on the heel and tongue both in gold.
The ‘Pure Money’ release continued with the exuberance and luxury but opts for something a little more refined than the Royalty release.
Premium leather adorns the upper in a clean shade of white. This hits virtually everything in sight with the exception of the metallic silver details to the lace locks, the opposite to the gold hit on the Royalty release.
The Jordan line will always excite sneaker fans with a mixture of new looks and retro releases with the XI’s almost annually bringing something out before Christmas.
The Saturday release of Jordan’s also make the shoe more accessible especially to the kids who normally had to wait until Friday for the shoe to hit the shelves and the internet. The weekend date gives those kids a fighting chance of getting their hands on a Jumpman product.
And long may it continue.