When they first arrived on the shoe scene, Air Jordan shoes were hugely popular. In fact, so many people wanted these shoes that there were often riots and fighting over them. People would actually come to blows about who would get the most popular shoe on the planet. No doubt, Michael Jordan never anticipated how popular the shoes would become, but each additional version of Jordan’s signature shoe line is as popular as the last.
Michael Jordan signed a deal with Nike in 1984 to endorse a particular brand of Nike basketball shoes – the Air Jordan. Besides Michael Jordan, other athletes to endorse the brand are Carmelo Anthony and Roy Jones, Jr. You might say Air Jordans were the shoes that built Nike, as they had been struggling prior to Jordan signing the shoe deal. However, if it were not for Jordan’s manager, the deal may have never taken place. Jordan himself actually preferred the shoes made by Adidas and Converse.
The Air Jordan Deals
The initial deal for the Air Jordan I shoes was $2.5 million, plus royalties and other benefits, for five years. As the first shoes (with a winged basketball logo and a price tag of $65) rolled off the manufacturing line and into the stores, it was obvious the pairing was ‘gold.’
Eventually, though, the National Basketball Association (NBA) banned Jordan from wearing the black and red shoes by handing out $5000 per game fines. However, Nike wasn’t about to let go of this valuable advertising. The company paid the fines and kept Jordan’s feet shod with the shoes. This kept the public clamoring to get the same pair or similar ones for their personal use.
The Banning Story
While the red and black Air Jordans might be popular, they’re seen more than their share of controversies. As if Michael Jordan wanting to opt out wasn’t enough, the very first Air Jordans are also known as the banned versions.
We’ve mentioned above that Jordan was fined for wearing these shoes in NBA games. The reason behind this was that they broke the uniform rules for the whole league. While Nike did pay the fines to retain the advertisement, they went a step further in their campaign. Their main aim became marketing the shoes as a sort of forbidden fruit, hence enhancing their appeal.
Still, there are some sources that say this whole story is a myth. It’s hard to find photographic evidence of Jordan wearing sneakers with that color combination in any NBA game from that time. In fact, Marvin Barais, a known Jordan collector, has claimed that the player was likely wearing the Nike Air Ship. For whatever reason, Jordan himself has stuck to the banned tale for more than three decades.
The Air Jordan log changed to the current logo, which features the Jumpman, after Jordan won the 1986-87 Slam Dunk competition. At the time, the retail price of the shoe rose to a $100 a pair. By the third year, Jordan wanted to void the contract. After Tinker Hatfield spoke face-to-face with Jordan and asked for his input into the shoe, Jordan decided to maintain his commitment and the rest, as they say, is history.
While Michael Jordan may not have thought the shoes named after him were the very best, he actively put in ideas towards making it better. This is why the Air Jordan III shoe was redesigned upon Jordan’s suggestion to have it three-quarter cut. The materials were lighter than average, which made wearing the shoes more comfortable. This change was wildly popular, so the shoes flew off the shelves.
Jordan and Hatfield continue to work on the designs for the Air Jordan until the XV version. By 1997, the Air Jordan brand became a sub-brand to Nike. In fact, you will not see the name Nike or the Nike logo – the Nike Swoosh – on the Air Jordan shoes.
The original red/black Air Jordan shoes were a powerful item, and they were far too powerful not to make a comeback. Around 2001, Nike came out with several old models of the Jordan brand. This appealed to Nike purists, who appreciated the similar price range and the Nike Air brand logo o the shoe’s tongue.
There were many more retro releases in the coming years, but they weren’t all so popular. In fact, the 2009 version created quite a bit of debate among Nike and Jordan collectors. This was because it had the Jumpman logo instead of the Nike Air Branding on the tongue. For someone who was passionate about having purely Nike goods, this move was close to sacrilege.
A Satin Pair
While the popularity of the ‘Banned’ Air Jordans was partly due to its extra-buttery feel, Nike decided to take things up a notch. To this end, they made a super-limited version of Air Jordans which has an upper made completely from satin. They also came with matching accessories such as sports apparel.
These shoes might not have the same performance and durability of the original Air Jordans because of that luxurious satin. However, the price is quite hefty due to this being a collectible item. This is why the Air Jordan 1 Satin can even resell for more than $2,000.
Air Jordans may have changed over the years, but each new shoe has met with the same fervor. The brand, as well as the shoe, has grown and prospered. Many wonder if the Nike brand would be as popular today without its past Air Jordan connection.
The latest Jordan shoe – the Air Jordan XXXI (31) — was released in 2016 and marked the 32nd year of the Nike and Michael Jordan partnership. Being engineered for performance, they are much more than a shoe fashion item. Ask anyone who has worn a pair of these shoes, and they will tell you that they’re proud to be part of the Air Jordan legacy. Even in a very limited way, anyone who’s ever worn a pair of Air Jordan has been a part of shoe history.