4 January 2018

Nike Air Jordan 1: My Story

Nike Air Jordan 1 
Retro High OG
(with a Peanuts x Kaws Snoopy plush)

I just bought my first ever pair of Jordans.

During his rookie 1984-85 season, Michael Jordan debuted the Nike Air Jordan 1 on the basketball court. He had actually worn Nikes before, with the custom Airships, but everyone forgets about those. It was the Air Jordan 1 that started everything. It was commercially released in 1985, with advertising gold being struck when the NBA tried to ban him from wearing them in the original colourway due to uniform regulations. It is without a doubt one of the most important shoes in sneaker history. It took an underground subculture mainstream, to the point that sneakers are now the largest single share of the footwear market worldwide. I actually wrote an essay over Christmas on the Air Jordan 1, purely because it is seen as a given in academic writing that it was an influential sneaker, without actually exploring why or how. I might share that at some point in the future, but that is not the focus of this post. Instead I want to talk about my experience.

Over Christmas I was re-evaluating my wardrobe and personal dress. Recovering from illness is never easy, especially from a psychological standpoint. For my part I can recognise that I most certainly retreated, and that was clear even from my choice of dress. I think that I lost my way a little when my health was at its worst. I was still fascinated with everything related to fashion, but I really did not think too much about what I was personally buying and wearing, which was highly unusual for me. I am still recovering, but I am finally starting to feel ready to re-engage with the world. A part of that process for me will always be about considering my personal dress. And so in the past two or three months I have really been trying to reconnect with what it is that makes me so excited about my own wardrobe and what that wardrobe could be.

It took me a while to realise, but what I think I want to explore are all the clothes and ideas that drew me in when I was growing up. All the things that influenced my tastes as they stand today. I want to think about what I thought was cool before I really knew what was popular and what was fashionable. When it comes to high fashion, I had that light switch moment with Yohji's work, but that was years away from the initial experiences that first got me interested in dress. So that is something that I would like to explore.

I was six when Space Jam came out, and that was probably the first time I saw Michael Jordan on screen. Basketball was not something that came on television here in the UK at that time, and so I never really thought of him as a professional sportsman. For me he was this larger than life character from film, almost on the same level as Bugs Bunny who stood next to him on the movie poster. In much the same way I remember watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on the television, and seeing all the clothes that Will wore, especially the shoes. Sneakers for me never had anything to do with sports, or indeed did basketball sneakers have anything to do with basketball. They had to do with characters on screen. And that was their initial appeal for me - they were something from a world of imagination on the other side of a screen.

I remember what the popular sneakers were in my neighbourhood at that time. Or at least I remember the most popular - the Air Max 95. It was in a class of its own. The older brothers of my classmates would rock them, and the teenagers who sold drugs in the area would rock them (although they would later move onto the black Pradas). For me and my classmates, anyone who wore them was a superstar. They were bold, they were flashy, they were something that people turned their heads at. To be honest I was never actually the biggest fan of how they looked, but even at that age I understood the power that they held.

Jordans were however another story altogether. The only way you could get them at the time was if you had family in America who could send them over. I had seen them on television and on the cinema screen, but never in real life. That is until one day when a kid in my class came back from the Christmas holidays. His father had sent him a gift from New York. He came in that first day of term with his brand new Jordans, and I remember all of us crowding around him to have a look. I still remember that feeling of awe and amazement. They were unreal to us. They were something that existed on the screen, we never thought that they were something that one of us could actually wear. The funny thing is, I cannot even remember which model they were, only that they were Jordans. And so it was not even so much the particular shoe, the brand name alone was mythical. For me the brand represented something futuristic. This was what we will all be wearing one day.

That is one of the earliest memories I have of being awed by a pair of shoes (except for a petrol blue pair when I was four, but that is a story for another time). I remember that feeling so clearly, and so I thought that it was finally time to do something about it. Fast forward to some two decades later and I thought I would buy myself a pair of Jordans. I am not really sure why I have never bought a pair before, but I think it was one of those cases where the time was not right. Maybe I would not have appreciated them as much before, maybe they would not have had such an impact on me before, and maybe I just needed to grow to truly understand what they could mean. But here and now, the time seems right. Yes, they are only a pair of shoes, but clothes are never just clothes for me - they contain that little hope of who we wish to become.

So I thought to myself: where better to start than at the very beginning? I picked up this pair of black Air Jordan 1 Retro High OGs. Of course I went with black, because no matter how strong the nostalgia, I want to make to sure I actually wear them and that they go with my wardrobe. I got the box in the post this week, and when I opened them up I had that child-like sense of awe again. I could not stop smiling as I laced them up and put them on for the first time. It is that feeling that I really want to explore this year where my own wardrobe is concerned. And so, as Yohji would say - with an eye to the past, I walk backwards into the future. Sometimes it's about the small pleasures in life, and I plan on wearing these into the ground.



  1. I enjoy your writing. I never was into sneakers but Michael Jordan (and Space Jam!) are such nostalgic memories from childhood. Jordan himself was mythical himself--I distinctly remember watching him play and it was like he was walking on a staircase through air to the hoop.

    1. Thank you! I only discovered his basketball games a lot later on, so I still can't quite shake that feeling of seeing him as a film/TV character. But definitely mesmerizing to watch his games even now on YouTube.