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The most wanted sneakers of all time?

Posted on August 24 2020

The fashion house’s update of Michael Jordan’s classic footwear has brought joy to sneakerheads and point the way forward for luxury shopping. Is this the restart of hype?

The fashion house’s update of Michael Jordan’s classic footwear has brought joy to sneakerheads and point the way forward for luxury shopping. Is this the restart of hype?

Two months ago, it was modish to theorise that consumer desire for extravagant luxury fashion might never recover from the pandemic.

But two months is a long time in fashion, and early one week in July, we were granted acess to the blockbuster must-have come roaring back into style. On 1 July, an online prize draw decided the lucky few who have won the privilege of spending £1,800 on the new Air Dior trainers. Even by the hype standards of the sneakerhead world, the buzz around the luxury take on basketball’s most iconic hi-top is breaking pre-pandemic decibel records.

Selfridges pop-up “collection point” for the first Air Jordan 1 OG Dior sneakers was the first luxe iteration of the click-and-collect retail mode that is part of our contactless new normal. The hands-on elements of the pop-up had to be shelved to comply with social distancing and sanitising guidelines, but – for 13 days only – Selfridges aimed to bring an experiential element to the process of picking up a pair of pre-purchased trainers. A bespoke architectural experience “based on the concept of air” features glass walls that cloud up with “smoke” to reveal the Air Dior logo, and a real-time countdown showing how many pairs are still to be collected.

 

Brand obsessive ... Dior’s menswear designer, Kim Jones 

The Air Jordan is the Rosetta Stone of sneaker history. This was the first trainer to become part of pop culture, a serendipitous coming-together of the bouncy Air sole technology that Nike had developed in the early 1980s and the gravity-defying magic of Michael Jordan on the basketball court The Air Dior, which swaps out sportswear primary colours for a soft “Wolf Grey” borrowed from the Christian Dior headquarters on Avenue Montaigne in Paris and overlays the Nike swoosh with Dior’s own distinctive “oblique” logo, is the first luxury link-up in the Air Jordan’s 35-year history. For two bluechip bloodlines of sportswear and luxury, this is a royal wedding.

Nonetheless, the story of Air Dior’s hype is, as per the 2020 zeitgeist, a level of craziness that no one saw coming. Not even Dior’s menswear designer, Kim Jones, an Air Jordan obsessive who owns more than 40 pairs himself, unveiled this collaboration at a Miami catwalk show last year, and has designed a summer capsule collection including basketball-style long shorts, a sweatshirt with Dior-branded “wings” and a dove-grey cross-body bag to accompany the sneakers.

The raffle-to-buy concept, which allowed only one pair per customer, was conceived by Jones as a device to prevent the limited edition of 8,500 sneakers being snapped up by resellers. (A few pairs have, however, already found their way on to resale sites, presumably via being gifted to celebrities or influencers. The going rate on StockX, if you’re interested, is £10,000.)

 

Shortly after its original drop date was postponed because of the pandemic, dangling the new-look Air Jordans tantalisingly out of consumer reach, the Jordan brand was unexpectedly turbocharged via television. The Basketball docuseries The Last Dance, a potentially niche Netflix offering, found a vast fanbase among a global audience stuck at home and hungry to indulge in nostalgia for the simpler world of the 20th century, and rocketed Michael Jordan back to the pinnacle of sport.

 

A pioneer of peacocking in sportswear, Jordan turned stadiums into his personal catwalks in the 1980s and 90s with his Nike berets, earrings, supersized tailoring – and, of course, his shoes. Air Jordans became an extension of the star’s personal brand to a degree that few collaborations have matched. In the wake of the show’s success, Air Jordan mania exploded. Last month, a pair of Air Jordans once worn by the player on court, in the iconic red, black and white colourway, sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $560,000 (£455,000) – more than three and a half times their initial high estimate, and a new world record for a sneaker auction.


So is the hype warranted.......

 Dior and Jordan Brand unveiled their collaborative Air Jordan 1 at the Dior pre-fall 2020 show in Miami. Prior to the official debut, Travis Scott gave us a preview of Dior’s Air Jordan 1 via his Instagram Story

Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the Air Jordan, the limited-edition Air Jordan 1 High OG underscores the timeless appeal of the sneaker and the style of Maison Dior. Designed using the same principles as a luxury bag, Kim Jones’ goal was to make “the most luxurious Air Jordan 1 ever.”

The special AJ1 is made entirely in Italy featuring a mixture of white and Dior Gray leather, with an Oblique monogrammed Swoosh (similar in style to the graphic featured on the fashion house’s popular B23 high-top sneaker) and hand-painted edges. “Air Dior” has also been applied to Jordan’s familiar Wings logo. Lastly, the 1s are finished with a translucent outsole below.

“Every collaboration we do starts from a genuine connection and desire to expand the dimensions of each brand through creativity and design innovation,” said Martin Lotti, Jordan Brand VP of Design. “Our partnership with Maison Dior will offer a new look into the style of basketball and blend high-end streetwear with luxury fashion. We will pay homage to both brands’ rich iconography and draw inspiration from our heritage.”

 Since the Air Jordan 1 was designed in 1985, Dior and Jordan Brand have only made 8,500 pairs of the collaborative high-top; there’s also 4,700 low-tops. Each pair is individually numbered on the ankle lining, seemingly confirming reports of 8,500 high-top pairs. 

But the main element is that this is the first coming together of street culture and luxury designer brands - it is an icon, rather than a statement. It is well made, but the hype is real. It's a statement that may change the face of the game.

 

That is why it is the most coveted sneaker of the decade, maybe even since Jordan himself started the movement.