Today the Red Jordan XI's were released here in the UK. I went on the website to see if the 'Win like '96' tribute shoes were easy to get hold of. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were. If anyone's feeling generous, I'm a UK8.5...
I've never been a sneaker guy. I'm not sure why that is, maybe the cost as a kid, maybe because I've always loved jerseys so much, or maybe it's a bad experience or two.
As a kid I loved Gary Payton's 'The Glove' kicks (also known as the Air Zoom Flight 98) which were made by Nike. One day I breezed into Footlocker as I used to as a teenager, mainly just to window shop, when I saw that The Gloves had been heavily discounted, I don't know by how much, but the fact that I had a chance of buying them meant that it must have been significant! I did all that I could to bulk up my pocket money over the next couple of weeks and made a special journey to Footlocker with the cash in my pocket and a smile on my face.
It was 1998 and GP had not only worn these legendary kicks on the cover of SLAM #26 (a cover which I later learned the SLAM team hated because of the photoshopped face... I couldn't take my eyes off his feet, it seems) but I'd also been drooling over them in the first issue of Kicks. Boom, page 87 saw Nike shoe designer Eric Avar rocking The Gloves with jeans and looking like he felt great, I wanted to feel great too!
Footlocker in the city I grew up in (Birmingham, UK) was in a shopping mall situated in the train station. I exited the train, walked straight into the shop, picked up the shoe and chirpily asked for a size 9. The response was short, the shoe in my hand was the last pair they had left, it was a size 6. I left the shop instantly, got back on the train and spent the journey home trying not to cry in public and wondering if there are any legitimate ways to shrink feet.
Another bad experience came a couple of years prior. Like most kids, I loved Allen Iverson. I was also a genius... I had basically figured out that most family members buy you birthday presents which you don't actually want and my parents were never going to spend money that they didn't have on big expensive gifts. Basically, I realised that asking everyone for money instead of gifts meant that I could buy something which I actually did want. Like I said, I was a genius. In 1996 the thing which I really wanted was a pair of Reebok 'The Answer I's'. Allen Iverson was the guy, Reebok actually had some athletes and The Answers were sick.
On this trip to Footlocker I had the money and they had my size, but then I made a dreadful mistake. Having made it clear that I would be buying the shoes, I was pounced upon by those Footlocker pests who deceive vulnerable kids into buying extra stuff that you don't need... brutes. Given the fact that I was about to spend more than a 13 year old usually does, wax shoe protector seemed like a wise idea. After all, I wasn't one of those pretty boys who could afford to have a pair of shoes JUST for playing basketball indoors. I was going to have to get some wear out of these, indoors and out... So yes please, I'll take the beeswax protector too.
This was a big mistake. The wax was sticky and never dried, The Answers had small fabric lines on the sides of the shoe and when I wore them outdoors ALL of the dust and dirt stuck to them and wouldn't come off. One of my cousins came to visit later that day and asked me what I brought with my birthday money, I showed him the Iversons. "They’re new?" was his response when he saw them "they look like you've had them for ages, why are they so dirty?"
Attempting to return them was a waste of time, I stood at the checkout knowing that my reason for bringing them back sounded ridiculous and felt embarrassed having even tried to have the conversation. Buying basketball shoes was a waste of time and money, and I was done with it.
A good few years ago, but when I'd become an adult none the less, Jordans were back on trend, and in a big way. Retro releases in different colourways definitely caught my attention, but online hype and lines outside sports shops were enough to put off anyone who just wanted a nice pair of sneaks without their day being ruined. Again I felt a level of resentment, this time is was towards the companies releasing footwear in limited supply and watching everyone fight over them. People brought shoes because of the resale value, or for the collection in a back room, those of us who just wanted to rock something nice had no chance of doing so without putting in work. Stress.
But then something changed. Yeezys. All of a sudden, in late 2016, the kids were now on a different hype. It was no longer about the Jordans, it was about some strange cloth things which Nick Young wore in a game once. This was actually great news.
Because at the end of 2016 I was able to get my first ever pair of Jordans, and with relative ease! I copped the Jordan XI Space Jams and felt like I was MJ himself when I slipped them onto my regular sized foot (I never did get that foot surgery to make them a size 6).
Since then I also picked up a pair of the Jordan XIII's, they're beautiful! I got them for cheap, they look great and I brought them because I liked them. Isn't this how footwear shopping is meant to be?
I'm not sure what the future of Jordans will be, they'll obviously always be popular, but I'm kinda hoping that they're never a fad again. I just want to buy stuff because I like it. I want Nike to make more if a style sells out. I don't want to have to feel like I'm walking around in pension shoes which will one day make me a fortune so I stress out and keep them in a box. I want to enjoy them and only be mildly upset if someone should step on my toe.
I’m not sure if I’ll have the cash to buy the latest XI’s anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that they’ll be there if I’d like them.
Here's to shoes being fun again.