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Column: The NBA couldn’t stop them: The Jordan 1’s imperishable legacy 

Photo credit: Olivia Miro
This is one of of the Jordans I have been lucky enough to own; it is called the Nike Dunk Low Championship red. From the NBA court in the 80s to my closet, the Jordan 1’s will follow you everywhere.

You can find them in any corner of the 50 states, stomping through the halls of Archer or even on your own feet. The Jordan 1 shoe showcases an exciting rendition of classic basketball footwear — and they really do go with any outfit. Michael Jordan, Jay Z, JLO and many other fashion icons have worn this carefully crafted Nike masterpiece, so it’s safe to say the shoe has made its way into the fashion Hall of Fame. But how did Nike’s 1985 leather creation become the holy grail of fashion history? 

The construction of the shoe is unique not only in its look but also in its story. It all started with an unobtrusive cocktail napkin, where Nike’s first creative director, Peter Moore, sketched the shoes’ legendary angel wing logo. Moore drew inspiration from the image of someone many would call the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, a basketball player known for his incredible height and for soaring on his way to the basket. 

At the time, Nike was widely known for their running shoes, and they were struggling to separate their image from the countless other sportswear companies in the business — think Converse and New Balance. Moore took a chance and advocated for a $2.5 million dollar contract with Jordan, a rookie at the time, releasing the AJ1 “Chicago” (the first Jordan 1).

In the 1980s, regulated basketball shoes were mainly all black or white, whereas the first Jordan 1’s were red, black and white to pay homage to Jordan’s former team, the Chicago Bulls. With their fixed straps at the forefront and disruptive, but stylish color, the Jordan 1 Chicagos were both literally and figuratively daring.

This bold statement extended beyond fashion and onto the court. At the time, the NBA had very strict rules on what shoes players could wear during games. So each time Michael Jordan slipped on the shoe, the association fined him $5,000 for disregarding their uniform regulations. 

This was a small price to pay for the traction the shoes were gaining and proved to be no setback for Nike. They seamlessly marketed this fine into their sales with a commercial saying, “On Sept. 15, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe. On Oct. 18, the NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA can’t stop you from wearing them.” This genius marketing tactic leveraged the influence of both Michael Jordan and the NBA to hand the consumers a $65 pair of shoes, resulting in the craze for the sneaker commonly known as the “Banned 1’s.” 

The public’s interest in the future of Jordans was astronomical. Michael Jordan dominated the court, releasing a new shoe each year. For the thousands who admired him, owning the pair of shoes he scored championship-winning baskets with was a “no-brainer” purchase. 

I pride myself on being a part of the sneaker-head community, and the Jordan 1’s have appeared on all my birthday and Christmas lists without fail. I spent my nights before those holidays dreaming of how they traveled from Nike’s first wave of influence in the 80s to a random fashion-loving teenager in 2023. 

Knowing the history is essential to understanding what the effortlessly cool leather shoe at the base of your closet means. They aren’t merely devices protecting your feet from the floor, but a statement intertwining worlds of drive, talent and creativity; to me, they are art.

As usual, I can’t only leave you with descriptions of this masterpiece; take a look at some of my favorite suggestions.  

With 37 different styles of Jordans, there is truly a shoe for everyone. To get your sneaker-head journey started, the classic Jordan 1 – Retro High – OG True Blue (range $239-$149) is simple and reasonably priced. With a classic blue, gray and white color wave, this shoe is an amazing rendition of the original Jordan.

The 4s are slightly bulkier than the 1’s, with a thicker sole and hardware on the sides, yet they remain a staple for most collectors. The Jordan 4 Frozen Moment 2023 (range $199-275) is a pricier investment, but the unique grey and metallic rendition of this style of Jordans is a “chef’s kiss.” 

Lastly, I could not leave you without a Nike Dunks recommendation, which has a lower ankle than the 1’s. My personal favorite is the 2020 Brazil Dunks (range $239-$531), with their awesome green and yellow color wave. 

For ever-present sneakerhead communities GOAT and Stock X, two popular resale sites, this timeless shoe has proved to be the centerpiece of their business evolution, a pioneer of sorts. Ultimately, this shoe redefined how successful the footwear business could be. With a $5 billion franchise, pairs sold in Sotheby auctions for $560,000 and people from all walks of life in this concoction of leather excellence, the Jordan is undoubtedly of great cultural significance. It all started with a rookie basketball player whose name the world will never forget.  

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About the Contributor
Olivia Miro
Olivia Miro, Columnist
Olivia Miro wrote a column about fashion trends. She graduated in 2024.

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