Air Jordans become popular with business clothing

When the Air Jordan 1 made its retail debut in March 1985, Converse was the official shoe of the NBA and was worn by the NBA’s two biggest stars, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Jordan wore Converse at North Carolina and wanted to sign with Adidas after getting drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the summer of 1984, but was swayed by Nike’s vision, not to mention its unprecedented five-year, $2.5 million contract. The Air Jordan 1 looks basic now, but its color scheme (red and black), its winged logo (based on a flight attendant’s wings) and its hint of rebelliousness (because the shoe didn’t have enough white, the NBA threatened to fine Jordan every time he wore them) were revolutionary at the time. It didn’t hurt that they were being worn by the NBA’s most exciting player, one who would go on to become the greatest in league history.

“It was the perfect time to take a chance,” said Terance, who was born Aaron Jevon Simmons in 1985. “People love it when rules are broken, and he really broke the culture with being cool and people saying, ‘I’ve got to get that shoe.’ Then with him becoming the best player in the world and never losing championships, he almost became like an untouchable person. Almost like a sneaker god.”

While later pairs of Jordans became iconic — particularly the 3s, 4s, 5s and 11s — the 1s returned to fashion in the 21st century, in part because celebrities started pairing them with high-end clothes and in part because the basketball shoe market is oversaturated. Getting the latest shoes worn by Kobe Bryant (Adidas, then Nike), LeBron James (Nike), Steph Curry (Under Armour) or Zion Williamson (Jordan Brand) doesn’t carry the same weight.

But the Jordans 1s, particularly in a rare color or design, are timeless.

“Over the last five-plus years, the number of people casually wearing basketball shoes has gone down,” said Akron native Brian Windhorst, who covers the NBA for ESPN. “One of the fallouts of that is, the basketball shoe business is retrenching. Nike and Adidas have reduced the number of athletes they have on contract, and a whole bunch renewed for less money. Not as many people are buying LeBron James’ latest shoe to wear out on Saturday night.

“But one of the things that has grown — and Dan Gilbert owns part of it — is (sneaker marketplace) StockX, where wearing a certain pair of shoes has become a high-end accessory. It’s like wearing a watch — not only is it about the actual cost of the item, it’s about the scarcity and the availability of an item.”

So, instead of drawing attention for your Hermès tie or your Rolex, you can get the same reaction from wearing a specific pair of Jordans. The Travis Scott purple Jordan 4s or the Just Don BHM Jordan 1s have become like Gucci loafers or Bruno Magli oxfords. And, best of all, you no longer have to camp out outside a Foot Locker to buy them.

“Obviously, people with a discerning eye can say, ‘Yes, that’s a $7,000 suit and that’s only a $2,000 suit,’ but as business gets less formal and ties and coats go away, there are only certain things you can do to differentiate yourself,” Windhorst said. “Shoes have become a place where you can show off not only style, but access, which has been the case for women for decades. That’s why places like StockX have become a growth industry, while the overall basketball shoe market has shrunk.”

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