The Rise And Fall Of Air Jordan Sneakers?
. As I said in our last video on the top 10 most iged sneakers we didn't see a Jordan Brand sneaker show up until the 18 spot. Which may sound crazy but if you follow the stock prices of sports wear brand, or happen to be a millinal sneakerhead this may come as no suprise. With the introduction of Boost in 2013, Adidas proved to be serious competition to both Jordan Brand and big brother Nike. Using a combination of innovative designs and super comfortable fits, not to mention the halo effect of Kanye West, Adidas catapulted past Jordan to become the second-biggest footwear brand in the U.S. in 2017.
With running lifestyle casual shoes surpassing retro hoops shoes in terms of cool, Adidas was primed for a takeover. Fun fact that's totally off topic, did you know that adidas actually owns Reebok. It's true, check it out I was florred to find this out. But I digress.
And while Jordan has been trying to make running and training happen for a while, the Jumpman has never got the same level of respect on anything outside of a basketball silhouette. Before I go any further lets jump in the way back machine and give you youngins a lesson on just how popular Jordans once were and how they got that way.
Air Jordans were first released 30 years ago to a public that only knew Michael Jordan as the untested guard who hit the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA Championship game for North Carolina, and who went third after Hakeem Olajuwon and Sam Bowie in the 1984 Draft. He wasn’t the greatest player of all-time yet, but he had his own sneaker.
When Jordan hit the court at the start of the 1985 season in the now-iconic Peter Moore-designed 1s, the NBA thought the sneakers were too loud for the basketball court. This alone lets you know how revolitionary these were, the NBA actually thought the ones were "too loud". Guess they were too Easy to spot in the sea of white Converse favored by the Magics and Birds of the era. The NBA would initially fine MJ $5000 per game for wearing them. By 1988 things were different. Working with designer Tinker Hatfield, whose background was in architecture, not footwear, Nike replaced the wings logo with the Jumpman, essentially rescuing its partnership with Jordan, who was being courted by Nike’s former head designer for their new company, Van Grack.
What the hell are Van Gracks? Imagin in an alturnate universe Jordan played in and popularized Van Gracks. But in this universe Van Gracks lost out and have since been forgotten to history. Instead, in what today looks like the greatest organic marketing stunt in style history, Jordan took off from the free throw line for a dunk that looked a lot like the silhouette logo and defeated Dominique Wilkins to win the 1988 Slam Dunk contest. And although his 6-foot-6 frame flying through the air at Chicago Stadium wasn’t the inspiration for the logo, it did legitimized the silhouette and now iconic logo.
He was his own best marketing strategy. The more games he won, the more shots he made, and the more points he racked up, the more shoes he sold. His success led to the continued success of the sneakers on his feet and made Nike’s competitors scramble for players and stunts. The sneakers were just as much a part of the greatest player’s legacy as any of his numerous championships or awards, with the proof being that even years after MJ retired his sneakers continued to be a hit with fans and largely responsible for the creation of the sneaker resell market.
So you may ask, what changed? Why the sudden fall from grace? Ok the thing is with every passing year, the flagship Air Jordan model becomes less and less relevant to the young consumers Jordan Brand needs to attract this demographic if it wants to remain a top player in the future.
Ask yourself, just how important retro shoes are to a consumer who never even saw Jordan play in his prime. The first generation of retro consumers was the easiest to sell to—they were the ones who knew firsthand what the shoes were and what Jordan did in them. They already knew the stories.
The second generation learned from the first. But as we move to yet another generation of sneaker buyers, they become even further removed from both the original shoes and the man himself. It’s hard to expect kids to watch grainy YouTube highlight reels of Jordan when they when they can see Lebron and KD in HD live.
Another issue plaguing Jordan Brand is over saturation. Not just in retail, but on the secondary market, where even individual models are readily available in several models and colorways. Because really, how many cement 3s does 1 person really need? With every re-release even of the most popular models, it contributes to a hoard that already exists.
Another problem for the Jumpman brand is retro-inspired designs of late have tied what is supposed to be the leading edge of their designs to the past. Although Jordan does operate as its own brand, research and development is still done by Nike, in Nike labs.
Jordan Brand clames that their flagship retro the "the best basketball shoe on the planet" but for anyone who has worn a pair of them and then a pair of the newer more confortable sneaker designs. It's no comparison, leather sneakers are not the most ergonomic.
This makes you wonder why it took Jordan so long to utilize flyknit, 1st breaking it out last year although it has been available from Nike since 2012. So we have a widening generation gap in where kids just don't relate to MJ in the same way as in the past, and the evolution of sneaker construction posing serious threats to the Jordan Brand. Is the picture starting to come together now?
Whats even more insane is that Jordan Brand executives fully anticipated all of this, and still seem to have very few answers. Jordan VP Howard White, who’s been with the brand since Peter Moore first sketched out a ball and wings logo on a napkin, likes to tell a story about Mercedes-Benz, and how they were the names of actual people has become secondary to what the brand itself stands for.
Karl Benz and Mercedes Jellinek both died in 1929, but the brand lives on. The fact that I can't even pronounce Mercedes (The lady) last name is testament to how different these situations are. The huge difference is that Mercedes-Benz was never actually about Karl and Mercedes (the lady) I feel like I have to keep saying that lol. But Jordan is not just the name of the brand, he IS the brand.
But before I stress out the Jordan hardcores too much, its not all doom and gloom for the brand, there is light in their tunnel. The body of work is too good, and the Jumpman is too iconic. Surely they will continue to exist in some facet right? But how?
Although Jordan is a multi-billion dollar brand, which was forecast back in 2015 to nearly double its revenues by 2020. It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how that will happen.
A common theme in large business suddenly loosing market share, is lack of vision and failure to embrace the future. It can happen to any business if they are not careful, ask Harley Davidson, or Nokia, or famosuly Blockbuster. All of these business are either strugling in the modern market or flat out closed, and if Jordan Brand truly wanted to avoid this they should have acted sooner. Just imagine if Tinker Hatfield, who revitalized Air Jordan with the III, had been able to release his cross-category Huarache concept with the Jordan Jumpman instead of the Nike Swoosh. Imagine if Jordan had established itself as a brand back in 1991 instead of waiting until 1997, imagine if its history in other categories was as rich as it is in basketball. Instead, Hatfield’s innovative designs went to Nike, as he turned out just one Air Jordan model per year. Jordan’s history is deep, yes, it’s not that broad. And as they’ve found out, establishing themselves in training and running now is easier said than done.
So Jordan Brand has to make a decision, whether releasing a new flagship Jordan every year is still worth it— and how to approach retro in a new way? Nike has been working on a “Protro” concept, as seen on the Kobe 1. an old design that looks the same but is updated with new technology. Some have even introduced a rather interesting idea, sort of a level system in which stitch-for-stitch premium replicas are produced for the obsessives in limited quantity while mass-produced lower quality (and cheaper) versions would be released for those who simply crave the look. I don't know about this though, I mean it could go really good serving as a way for everyone to get what they want rather you're a sneaker collector or casual fan. Or it could go horrably tanking their stock even further with their remaining fans.
Therese also been talks of a whole women’s line which is a step in the right direction, but what are we talking more retros only smaller and with more pink? Idon't know.