By 1997 the Jordan subsidiary was so big Nike spun it into its own brand. Last year it reached another milestone – hitting its first $US billion dollar quarter. Last fiscal year it hit $US3.14 billion, up 10 per cent from 2018. It’s estimated Jordan’s annual cut is $US130 million.
As Forbes reports, arguably more pairs of Air Jordan sneakers are still sold than any other former or present NBA player.
For Simon Wood, editor of the globally influential Melbourne-based sneaker magazine Sneaker Freaker, it’s a combination of factors driving the lasting popularity of Air Jordan.
First, there is, as he puts it, “the mystique of Jordan,” that we’re all familiar with, whether we grew up with Michael Jordan on the back of our cereal box or not.
Watching him on the court, says Wood, made “time stand still”.
“He was up against some pretty amazing athletes and pretty powerful personalities, and his light shines brighter than anyone,” he said.
Then there’s the design of the shoes and the stories behind them. Jordan’s first pair was famously banned by the NBA for not having enough white on them. In 1985 Jordan’s were released to the public and the Air Jordan 1, originally released from 1985 to 1986, with re-releases throughout the years, remains a desired shoe for sneaker fans (colloquially known as sneakerheads).
“From a design point of view, you know, each of the shoes has a very carefully constructed narrative around the design around the mythology of them,” Wood said.
“Each of those shoes appeal to a slightly different consumer.”
The Nike marketing machine behind the brand helps too – the brand recognition is strong (“any young sneakerhead kid can identify all the models,” says Wood). The careful releases of certain shoes ensure the market isn’t flooded, which can mean the instant death of cachet.
“They know FOMO is a big part of this world and if you can buy it everywhere there’s not much point, it’s a bit boring,” Wood says.
Later this year luxury French fashion house Christian Dior will release a line of limited edition Air Jordan 1 Air Dior shoes, a collaboration between Dior Men’s artistic director Kim Jones and Jordan. It’s already waitlist-only to get your hands on a pair.
Then there’s generational loyalty. Wood says while other brands might have this, it’s accentuated with Jordan’s thanks to his charisma and the memories people treasure of seeing him play.
“You’ve got the grandparents who remember him playing as adults and their children just remember him as teens and now their kids are buying the shoes, and there’s sort of a tradition that is passed down,” he said. “If you really love basketball, when you love Jordan, it definitely gets passed down from generation to generation. You hear it a lot from stores saying all three generations come in together and buy the shoes.”
TOP FIVE AIR JORDANS ON RESALE
- Air Jordan 12 Flu Game (Autographed) – $104,000
- Air Jordan 10 OVO (Samples) – $100,000
- Air Jordan 1 Silver Shoe (Autographed) – $60,000
- Air Jordan 11 Retro Premium Derek Jeter – $18,257
- Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem Encore 2017 – $18,000
Source: resale website, stockx.com
Annie Brown is a lifestyle writer at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.