The most iconic sneakers of all time

A lot of the marketing around the shoes was more like that of a car promotion, says DeLeon, who’s not sure of the exact number of pairs he owns  – he acquired five or six in the past month, and has somewhere in the 100s in total. In 1989, adverts were released, “very Spike Lee style”, as DeLeon puts it, in which Lee appears as Mars Blackmon, his character from his film She’s Gotta Have It. In the ads, he questions Jordan on what makes him the best player in the universe, and repeatedly says, “it’s gotta be the shoes!” Teaming up with Lee on the adverts was a savvy move. It was, says DeLeon, unprecedented for any brand to tap into the cultural zeitgeist like that. “I think that was the moment that, ‘ok, these are a status symbol,'” he says.

The shoe was initially banned by the NBA because of its red-and-black colour scheme at a time when the organisation stipulated that players’ footwear had to be predominantly white. This inevitably only created a rebellious mystique around it – it is the shoe’s ability to take colour that might also have helped in its long-lasting popularity. “Whether it was the toe box or the contrast on the swoosh or the collar, the way that you could design it and make colours pop was just eminently noticeable in a way that was relatively new to sneakers, and I think that was part of it,” says DeLeon.

Cult appeal

Despite not owning any himself – “I’m very much a Nike Airforce guy” – Haines also nods to the design itself: “The cleanliness of the model, the way the panels are constructed and the way that they can apply hundreds or thousands of different colours to that, and different materials and keep it fresh, I think it’s a versatile sneaker, for men, for women, for kids.”

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