Micheal Jordan’s Air Jordans are arguably the most iconic sneakers in history. It is a shoe that like Micheal, made a cultural impact in the 80s and 90s and continues to do so as we speak. Despite the fact that the Air Jordans were Micheal Jordan’s signature shoe, its impact on fashion led many to forget they were originally basektball shoes. Since, the release of the Air Jordans, there has been countless numbers of signature shoes released each year. However, there has never been a shoe that has had a cultural impact quite like the Air Jordans.
Since the release of the original line of Air Jordans, there hasn’t been a basketball shoe in the modern era which has managed to have to same cultural impact beyond basketball. We’ve have had multiple great players that were reminiscent of Micheal Jordan. Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and Shaqille O’Neal all had a large influence in the game of basketball and they all had their own signature shoes. However, there still lies a barrier which prevents most basketball shoes from coming close to the status of the Air Jordans.
The reason behind the Air Jordan influence in the past and the present can be explained with Micheal Jordan’s influence as a basketball player and the constant partnerships with influencers of present times.
The Air Jordan 1, the most classic silhouette of 80s basketball went on to make $126 million on the first year.
Micheal Jordan’s success on the court was reflected on the shoe sales. Jordan dropped into the NBA like a bomb. No-one expected him to be great, but he was remarkable right from the start. When people look at Air Jordans, people picture Micheal Jordan’s excellence and grace on the court. As the slogan “Be Like Mike” goes, people want a piece of his excellence and grace.
The 90s was also the age which David Stern was looking to make basketball a world wide sport. With the NBA’s efforts to expand their viewership to Europe and other areas, Micheal Jordan being the face of the NBA, experienced his popularity grow all around the world creating further influence.
The lack of variety in source of information also worked in Micheal Jordan’s favour. In a time where social media was yet to be introduced, mainstream media had a monopoly in the distribution of information. As seen in the famous documentary and “The Last Dance”, the mainstream media at the time portrayed Micheal Jordan as a god like figure. The general public only had the mainstream media and with the media shaping Micheal Jordan into this perfect human-being further pushed his influence and solidified his legacy.
The retro Air Jordan line continues to influence culture to this day. With recent collaborations with Dior and Off-White, Air Jordan has made collaborations with a variety of partners from artists to street-wear and even luxury brands. The reason so much creative directors and artists want to collaborate with Jordan Brand is because they grew up watching Micheal Jordan play. They have a nostalgia for Air Jordan shoes. Now that they are in the position to make decisions regarding collaboration projects, they choose to collaborate with Jordan since it was their dream shoe. It’s Jordan’s greatness that initially put the Air Jordan at the center of culture and it’s the people that grew up watching him who are keeping it there.
Design is also a huge part in the success of the Air Jordan line in terms of fashion. While the Jordan 1 was designed by the same team that designed the Air Force 1, Tinker Hatfield, designer of the Nike Air Max 1 was part of the design process from Air Jordan 3 to Air Jordan 15. The elements of lifestyle that is mixed into the Air Jordan shoes is also perhaps a reason non-basketball shoe enthusiasts can easily wear and style compared to basketball shoes like Kobes and LeBrons.
While Kobe Bryant was also a influential player in his own right, his shoes were heavily focused on performance. Kobe wanted his shoes to do what he did best on the court; dominate. While that might be perfect for someone looking to play basketball, the lack of lifestyle elements in the Kobe line in general prevented the shoe line from going beyond basketball.
In conclusion, the Air Jordans released at the right time and with the right player. The age where mainstream media was dominant, it granted Micheal Jordan huge influential power. His large influence on fans beyond basketball led to the increase in popularity of his shoes, ultimately creating a fandom that will last till the present day, long after he retired from the game of basketball. And we may never see a basketball player’s signature line become this influential.
However, the LeBron signature line may have a shot at impacting present culture. LeBron is arguably the most influential basketball player ever since Micheal Jordan and his shoes have always been popular and the fandom can only grow as the LeBron line has seen the release of retros. Also LeBron shoes have been making collaborations such as John Elliot, Kith and Harlem Fashion Row giving a hope of other high tier fashion giants and influencers to collaborate with him to have the same influence.