The Air Jordan 1, first worn by Michael Jordan nearly four decades ago, remains an eternal presence in the ever-changing world of sneakers and fashion. On Saturday, Nike will re-release this iconic shoe in the notorious Chicago Bulls colorway, and despite reportedly producing 500,000 pairs, it is expected to sell out within minutes.
As a past owner of a sneaker museum and shoe enthusiast, Jordan Geller firmly believes that the Air Jordan 1 reigns supreme among iconic shoes. Elements like its fascinating origin story, Nike’s clever supply management to boost demand, recent collaborations with high-profile figures and the release of The Last Dance documentary all contribute to its high status. It’s universally agreed among sneaker collectors as well as industry experts and critics – owning the Air Jordan 1 is essential for any serious shoe collector. From October 1st onwards, more than a third of all deals on Tradeblock – an app for trading sneakers – have included the Jordan 1.
The platform reveals that their members collectively own over 250,000 pairs of this particular model. This year witnessed a spike in eBay searches for Jordan 1 with daily searches exceeding 100,000 – marking an increase of 11 from the previous year. Even though certain non-original iterations of the shoe have seen a drop in demand, Lost and Found is projected to be one of this year’s top-selling colorways on StockX.
Dylan Dittrich, Director of Research at Altan Insights and author of “Sneakonomic Growth,” notes that the Jordan 1 has “basically locked down any colorway release from 2019, 2020, and early 2021,” as his book tracks sneaker growth as an asset class.
However, he points out, “This year has been different, with some releases no longer selling out immediately and some secondary market prices showing weakness.”
The Chicago “Lost and Found” colorway of the Air Jordan 1 is set to prove otherwise.
“For some, the demand for the Chicago colorway of the Jordan 1 will always exist because it is the true holy grail that transcends all other shoes,” says TJ Keasal, a digital creator focused on sneakers and sportswear.
A Game-Changing Partnership
Tradeblock’s Co-founder and CEO, Mbiyimoh Beems Ghogomu, highlighted that the initial collaboration between Michael Jordan and Nike, now considered the gold standard of athlete endorsements, began on shaky ground. He noted that Nike’s decision to present him with a substantial sneaker contract even before he stepped onto the court was received with more doubt than affirmation. However, as Jordan began to rise in the NBA, his debut signature shoe also gained momentum. In March 1985, Nike launched the Air Jordan 1 across the country and it raked in $130 million during its inaugural year. A comprehensive 1992 article from The Washington Post about Jordan’s alliance with Nike stated that if their footwear and apparel line were an independent entity, it would rank as the world’s fifth-largest sportswear company.
“They hit the ground running,” says Geller. “What made these shoes so iconic is that they came in multiple colors. Before Air Jordans, most basketball shoes were plain. They were usually white and black, white and navy, or white and gray.”
The Air Jordan 1 also helped Nike turn the tide during a rare downturn in the mid-80s when Nike was struggling to keep up with Reebok’s aerobics craze.
“By the spring of 1984, things were a mess,” said Nike co-founder Phil Knight in a 1993 Harvard Business School case study.
By the late ’80s, Nike had a full lineup of Air products, including the Air Max, and the Jordan brand continued to grow. Nike’s sales averaged 36% annual growth from 1988 to 1991. Nike reclaimed its industry-leading position from Reebok and never looked back.
“Jordan’s rise propelled the development of the Air Jordan 1, creating nationwide demand and making it a must-have for sneakerheads,” says Ghogomu. “When it went from being seen as a basketball player’s shoe to something skateboarders rocked every day, it exploded in the market.”
From then on, it became a fashion staple, seen on red carpets, NFL players, musicians, and celebrities. People would line up outside Foot Locker, Champs Sports, and boutique stores whenever a new pair dropped.
Scarcity, storytelling, collaborations, and “The Last Dance”
After 1985, the Air Jordan 1 wasn’t retroed in its original specifications until 1994. Nike didn’t retro the shoe again until 2015, although a version close to the original was released in 2013.
“All these releases have been highly coveted by sneaker collectors, and ‘Lost and Found’ Air Jordan 1 will be no different,” says Geller.
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