Full disclosure: In this post you’ll see both my embarrassment, and how little I know about Jordan Brand – to this day.
When introducing my gateway sneaker and my first grail, I mentioned that when I started really looking at sneakers the way I do now my focus was solely on Nike Dunks. As someone who collects in totality, a style that has a deep well of highly collectable variations was the perfect inlet. But after finally getting a pair of Bison Red Toes (despite the fact that they didn’t and still don’t fit), I allowed myself to take a breath and look outward.
If you don’t know anything about Jordans it’s hard to see a through line with the models. Obviously if you look at the 4 and 5 side by side, it’s impossible to not see the progression. Likewise the 6 to 7. 10 to 11. You could even argue that the asymmetry introduced in the 12 is the defining theme in the 13. But, to the uninitiated it’s impossible to draw the line between a Jordan 1 and a Jordan 11. Unless you’re savvy enough to see the Jumpman you’re not going to know it’s from the same lineage. Especially if you don’t even know to look for a Jumpman. So, it took me a long time to even know what Jordans are.
What I did know is that I liked what I saw. And what I saw were the Jordan 5 “Green Beans.” (I call them that because that’s what Google tells me to call them, so if you hate these nicknames – forgive me. Jordan Brand is still a sect I’m trying to educate myself on, especially its history.) The flair along the midsole, the rubber netting on the saddle, the springy lace thing that is usually reserved for the pull ties on jackets. There are a lot of bells and whistles on the 5, and I loved them. They were everything the Dunk wasn’t: a whole lot of design, but subtle colors.
My first attempt at a Jordan was a Jordan 4 Black Cat – what I ended up with were horrible fakes that were about 18 sizes too big and unwearable. I eventually donated them to the homeless and decided to only buy retail since I didn’t know enough to spot fakes – and obviously had no idea what my size was going to be in these monsters. What I really wanted were Black/Cement IIIs, as I could tell – even with what little I knew – they are an epic shoe. I could go on about them, but this isn’t the place. All I knew is that they hadn’t come out in years, and were supremely expensive. Way out of my budget. If I had it I would have paid it, gladly. But I was teaching yoga at the time, and keeping my expenses tight. I eventually discovered that these things had release dates (who knew!), and saw that one was coming up. It was for a Spizike which seemed like a good idea at the time. The worst things always do. All the same bells and whistles as the 5, a red, white, and blue colorway, and the perfect excuse for a Christmas present to myself. Something I claim 7-10 times every December.
I know now that it was a horrible choice. They’re a hideous shoe. Not that I would ever tell them to their face, for fear of hurting their feelings, but I would never wear them into a situation where I needed to impress – because they don’t make me feel impressive. They make me feel like I had no idea what I was doing and was just buying to get a piece of history. Which has its own merits. But when there’s a variety as wide as that within Jordan Brand, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel before looking at the cream on top. I convinced myself these were a good choice because of the cement print. And that they were Jordans. That’s the full extent of PROs. The lining says “DO YOU KNOW?” I obviously didn’t…
The lessons learned with cash are learned most quickly, and unless I did it in secret (for the Stealth, or Infrared, or Bordeaux, or Black/Red…), I’d probably skip every Spizike. Not that I don’t appreciate what they stand for – but they’re playing second fiddle to an orchestra of firsts.