This is how one sneaker release transformed an entire brand. The period from 2000 to 2005 was a time during which sneakerheads were given the opportunity to explore their own niche. We forged relationships with shop-owners, enjoyed the greatest sneaker collaborations in history, and resold only when we had to. All the while, the brands didn’t have much of a grasp about what was going on and frankly nobody outside of our weird foot fetish did either.
During that span, the Air Jordan Retro was just one of the many categories that operated in its own ecosystem, and it was far from being the ubiquitous retro basketball shoe it is today. Back then, some rocked SB Dunks or Air Force 1s (rarely both). Others hunted after general-release Retro runners that were often available at clearance. There were campouts for certain collaborations, but Jordans almost never garnered a massive crowd like it does so often today. 2001 will go down as the best year in Air Jordan Retro history, but nobody gave a damn then, and the enthusiasts that go wild today are either too young or too new to this.
Most of the time, we copped Jordans simply because we couldn’t have them back in the day. But if it wasn’t an original colorway, that shoe rarely mattered. There was no cultural or historical tie to why the color pink belonged on an Air Jordan VI (a Low, no less), and there never will be. In fact, that was the whole stigma against new retro colorways; there was no reason for them to exist, because Michael never wore them. There are exceptions to that rule, like the Laney 5s and the Cool Grey 11s – that latter which was the subject of a segment in TLC’s “Buy-ology”, an educational program that explored purchase habits of the obsessed. Shows like that have been cancelled, of course, in favor of the garbage that’s on air today.
In 2005, not a year after Michael Jordan officially ended his playing career, word started to spread about a unicorn of a sneaker release. I remember all the comments of disbelief on NikeTalk when the news first spread, and those thoughts were justified because it just seemed too good to be true. At the time, the Air Jordan VI and Air Jordan XI were the two most popular Air Jordans – more so than the Air Jordan 1 and even the Air Jordan III. It had been half a decade since Jordan Brand put out either shoe on store shelves, so to release both as part of a package didn’t seem possible. It seemed out of Jordan Brand’s realm of concern.
As photos and release info continued to trickle through, it was quickly understood that the Defining Moments Package was more than a shoe release – it was a necessary and appropriate tribute to Michael Jordan done in a way that pushed the envelope and forced the industry to step up its collective game. It was a history lesson in shoe form and it shifted the public perception of Jordan Brand from a company hinging on old products to one that uses the past to educate the future. The challenge for Jordan Brand today is to educate the young consumer that never saw MJ play or is too busy retweeting Jordan crying memes to look up old clips. How will the brand fare? Will anyone really are about Jordans in fifteen years?