AIR JORDAN FEVER AT THE NIKE STORE
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Most of the time, our memories of great things, great times, and great people fade over time.
It’s increasingly rare that we can appreciate something special the first time, and then the next generation can see that same special something through their eyes with the same awe, feel the same inspiration, and have the same awe.
What’s really crazy is that I’m not talking about Michael Jordan the basketball player… I’m talking about his eponymous Air Jordan sneaker. At the Nike store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, there were hundreds of people trying to “Be like Mike” at least when it came to sneakers.
“I think the sneakers have gone beyond Michael Jordan. I think his legacy continued through his sneakers. It’s something people love to collect and experience through his sneakers. It’s great,” Alex Catanescu says of Jordans.
Catanescu is a Hoffman Estates collector who claims to have over 18 pairs of Jordans. This included the Jordan 7s he had on his feet that he calls his “beaters.” It’s basically a pair that’s already messed up. But Catanescu says drummers or not, he still has Jordans on his feet.
“It’s ethics. Just like the Comfort, just like knowing you have J’s on your feet. You feel more secure. I don’t know, it’s just something in my brain. I can’t describe it.”
If you didn’t already know there is a HUGE market for Air Jordans, aka “Jordans”, aka “J”, aka many other aliases, depending on where you’re from. Release day is also an event and a party where Air Jordan lovers can meet, chat, compare sneakers. It’s almost like a mini convention, with a DJ and everything.
“I love Michael Jordan!” said Ernest Gardner of King Drive, “I’m a ‘Mike-head’. I have every pair of ‘Mikes’ there is. Starting with the number 1 through 9 through 12. I’ve been buying ‘Mikes’ since I was 18. I too am a collector.
Nino Zacharia from Skokie says: “He’s a sick man. I just like how it looks. I fall in love with my shoes, with all my Jordans. You just have them, you just love them.
There are generally three types of people who buy Jordans: people who plan to wear them for fashion or to play basketball, people who collect them and will probably never wear them unless they have two identical pairs, and people who buy them to resell them. them for a profit.
Yes, expensive sneakers can be a major investment. But unlike classic cars where the original parts, the original design, the original branding are coveted, the biggest draw are the reissues of previous sneakers with different patterns, materials and colors, these are the “colorways” . For example, with the brand new Air Jordan XX8 which will be released on February 16andthere was a reissue of the Air Jordan 1 with a Black/Royal colorway (the original was black/red and white) and the Air Jordan 3 “Joker” colorway a black shoe with lime green accents (the original was black , red with “elephant skin” accents).
By a margin of at least 5 to 1, people queuing, clamoring to get in the door, trying to find ways around the one sneaker per customer limit were trying to buy the retro Jordans and not brand new spankings.
Let’s take a step back. If you want ‘J’s the first day they come out, it’s not as simple as going to the Foot Locker, asking for a pair and walking out. Usually there are queues, you get a wristband or a ticket and there are crazy amounts of jockeys to get the sneakers you want in your actual size.
Here at the Nike Michigan Avenue store, they’re using Twitter to set up an RSVP system to keep things tidy and give the real sneakerheads who also follow @nickechicago an edge. Corn…
“It’s virtually impossible to get the RSVP” according to Rockford’s Neil Moallem, “so we decided the only thing we could do to possibly get the shoes we really wanted was to queue as long as possible because they are also first come first served…so we stayed up all night We left town, it’s about an hour and a half drive We left town around 3pm We get into Chicago around 4:30. We circled this area around 5:15 a.m. By 5:30 a.m. we were in line…5:30 a.m. we were in line in the freezing cold before the sun even came up with a whole bunch of other people! And then around 8 o’clock they gave us a bracelet and told us that with each bracelet we could get a pair that we wanted”.
Sounds like a lot of effort, right? Here’s the thing. Moallem has no intention of wearing the sneakers he bought. He’s just going to sell them. He took the trip with two buddies because they saw dollar signs, not because they see MJ as a hero.
“We each made $100 today,” says Jordan Salzman, who also made the trip from Rockford. The markup on a pair of Jordans really depends on the rarity of the shoe and the seriousness of the buyer’s request. Salzman admits he likes Jordans a lot more than the real Mike. “I love these sneakers because they bring me a few extra bucks.”
At the Michigan Avenue store, athletic shoe entrepreneurs were in the minority.
For the most part, it was an emotional experience, not an economic opportunity.
“Thanks to the Jordans, my love of shoes evolved and it’s crazy. It just took over me,” says Morton Grove’s Andrew Balitaan.
Michelle Baynes made the trip from Detroit to Chicago just for a chance to buy Retro Joker 3.
“It’s Jordan’s 50and birthday so I kind of wanted to come here and see what’s going on and of course get a pair of Jordans”
Baynes says each time she buys a pair, she feels closer to the legendary player.
“In fact, I liked them from the first time he wore them. He got in trouble for wearing them on the pitch. The rebellion! He just has such a history and such a legacy. It’s great to discover things little by little, little bits of his story and all that. That makes shoes more than shoes.”
Desmond Haramis traveled from Milwaukee, for Jordans. For him, the whole process is a hobby.
“I love sneakers, I collect them. Usually I don’t even wear them, I don’t sell them or anything. I’ve been collecting them for years,” says Haramis, “I wear them if I have two. pairs. I got two pairs of everything. Those are the ones I wear so I put one on. So when I get… I’ll get like 365… and all the ones that aren’t worn. I will take a photo of each of them”.
It might sound a bit obsessive. But Haramis thinks it’s all justified because of one key element.
“The quality, the quality of some shoes. It really is. It’s just a better shoe than any other shoe,” says Haramis.
Retros, reissues, reissues, whatever you call old Air Jordan models that are resold in different colorways, are clearly the darlings of most sneaker collectors. But the new Jordan XX8s still hold a place in the hearts of Jordan fans.
“It has a new feel…I really like the design on it…they are really futuristic”.
Flavio Martinez of the Midway Airport area paid $250 plus tax for the Jordan XX8s. He’s had a few retro Jordan fairs, but he feels it’s all getting out of control now.
The price of the new sneakers may seem steep compared to $165 plus tax for the Retros. But Martinez says XX8s are still indispensable.
“I know it will be worth my dollar. I got the concords (a reissue of the Air Jordan 11) last year. Got them for 150 bucks, still haven’t worn them. They are worth around $800 now. I know I could sell them on eBay for around $800. It’s worth the investment no matter what I’m taking them for.”
Another draw for Martinez, the new model is called the XX8. Each model after the XX3 (23 as Michael Jordan’s number on the Bulls) was named for the year. A small detail with great significance in the world of Jordans, apparently.
While some may see Air Jordans as having a life beyond Michael Jordan’s playing days, Martinez couldn’t disagree more. He sees each pair as a testament to the greatness of the player and the person.
“His symbol is what represents Chicago, it represents everything. It represents struggle, it represents the pursuit of perfection. It means working so hard for what you want to achieve. This symbol, really, fascinates me.”
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