“It’s gotta be the shoes!!”
Who comes to mind when the number 23, the Chicago Bulls, and Nike is brought up? If Michael Jordan isn’t your answer, you’ve most likely been living underground or been in a coma for the last 30+ years. He’s not only been recognized by many as the greatest basketball player of all time, but is also one of the most significant trendsetters in history!
Trendsetter – Someone who sets a new fashion, style, idea, statement, etc., or helps to make it popular, repeated, and imitated by others.
Michael Jordan and shoes, specifically the Air Jordans, have become as closely associated with the superstar athlete’s winning nature as his phenomenal basketball career. The impactive ripples this innovator made on the NBA court have turned into global waves of cultural influence; in both representation of name and as a symbol.
The superstar ambitiously perfected his craft and product through trial and error, dedication, artistry, and improvisational ability. Michael “Air” Jordan wooed and wowed the masses, not only through his acrobatic drives and dunks, but through his defiant nature and winning attitude. He achieved a reputation for success and the stats to match. A list of his winning roster includes:
- 5 time NBA MVP
- 6 time NBA Finals MVP
- 6 time NBA Champion
- 10 time NBA All-Star
- One of the most successful and iconic athlete-endorsed brands of all time
Michael Jordan has gained living legendary status, and today, people still claim and debate him being the greatest basketball player of all time. Through his diligence and achievements, he gained an unstoppable-like momentum, perpetual buzz worthiness, and consequently a huge following. This notoriety has lasted through his basketball career and beyond.
The Jordan brand name and his Nike Shoe partnership has grown into a global business empire. His shoes and Nike Wear are still sought after by his fans and all whom he inspired through the image he has made for himself. The basketball superstar epitomizes what it means to be an apex trendsetter.
Making A Name
“There’s Michael Jordan, and then there’s the rest of us.” – Magic Johnson
Michael Jordan had to make a strong reputation before he could sell a shoe with his name on it. People buy into fresh, happening, bigger ideas. If there is no great or significant representation behind a product, it will in most cases flop or be short-lived. Big names move products. Great name-backing sells indefinitely.
Trendsetters don’t have to be famous, but often they are; or are the vessel to a trend. Take Jonny Depp’s quote portraying George Jung in the movie Blow for example:
“If it’s accepted by musicians and actors, the rest will follow…”
The phrase is in reference to the selling power of those with fame. The product in mind here was cocaine. And the plan was to make it mainstream to the public. The underground illegal drug-trade industry isn’t one you’d catch a star openly supporting today, but the concept applies to ideal product marketing today.
The trendsetter here, in essence, was Jung. And the actors and musicians were the influential medium through which his idea and illegal product moved. George Jung knew that if the public was aware of what these artists were into, they would want what they have or to imitate what they do.
Innovators often work behind the scenes. They are, in a sense, masterminds. Their name is known to those who are deemed necessary or relevant to their cause. Jung used the big names in Hollywood to move his product.
Michael Jordan was self-made, worked hard, and brilliantly/strategically became his own big name; while possessing an appealing, and legal product line, to sell to the public.
Nike wasn’t the only brand to catch on to the influence of Jordan and his name. Just mentioning ‘Mike’ even had selling power! The catchphrase, ‘I wanna Be Like Mike’ has echoed in song and through generations. Gatorade capitalized on the athlete’s popularity and came up with the slogan, ‘BE LIKE MIKE’. The sport-drink’s motto epitomizes the concept of Jordan as a trendsetter.
“His Airness” has not only made a name for himself, but has gained the respect of the public along with the entire NBA league. Many have accredited him to single-handedly redefining the NBA superstar. Shaq, the NBA juggernaut, gave this great reference of the star: “Michael Jordan is sort of the Hip-Hop version of Dr. J.” – Shaquille O’Neal
People have continually bought into his name, his influence, and everything it represents to them.
Becoming A Symbol
“There’s an enjoyment there. Certainly a creativity there. I think The JumpMan symbolizes creativity; but yet still a joy and a love for the game.” – Michael Jordan
A trendsetter’s image can become symbolic. Everything behind what they represent; whether of hope, change, or a reminder of what it means to be something more, is reflected through them. Action, emotion, and ideals are influenced through their exhibit. Relevant symbols will ignite these inspirational fires.
Michael Jordan leapt from popular to iconic in many ways. His deep competitive desire and high levels of success would transcend beyond the court. He’d let the world know he was more than just a basketball athlete. In trendsetter fashion, Jordan broke his mold.
His next big leap was his elevated game into the business world of entrepreneurship; further showing off his trailblazing ways, artistry, and going on to form a global brand.
Jordan became a literal symbol in The JumpMan; formed from a silhouette of a 1985 Nike poster: Airborne, legs spread, aligned towards a successful score and landing. An idea of individual transcendence is defined through the iconic figure while transmitting Jordan’s essence and character.
The JumpMan is a trademark of personal style, power, and innovation. This conception, paired with Jordan’s dynamic on-court skills, abilities, and presence, was marketed to the masses in an unprecedented shoe-marketing campaign.
Jordan, In True Trendsetter Form, Defied the Norm
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
Trendsetters simply won’t accept less than the best, or defeat as an end-all result. It’s through the doing, the trial and error, that they discover winning ways and what works. In the end, they do what they like; regardless of popular opinion. These innovators may not even be looking to inspire, but their actions cause residual social wakes.
In his Sophomore year of high school, Michael Jordan was cut from the varsity basketball team. At the time, he was a skinny 5’11’. Jordan grew the following summer to a height of 6’3″. During his absence off the varsity court, he practiced, practiced, and practiced. He didn’t accept the rejection, and instead worked harder for what he wanted.
The ‘no you can’t‘ wasn’t a definition to Jordan. It was merely a pushy suggestion; an opinion at the time. Michael had ‘yes I can‘ in his mind. That was his definition.
In his Junior year return, began the start of the Jordan the public would come to know. Success was his vision and rejection to him, was perceived as part of the process! This desire to constantly improve and innovate his abilities, stayed with him through his pro NBA career.
“Every year he came back, and he was better. He was stronger, he was quicker. He shot the ball better. He had a three-point range.” – Doug Collins, Chicago Bulls Coach 1986-1989
His trendsetting defiance stayed with him during his NBA career as well…
One version of the Air Jordans had a unique blend of his team’s red and black colors. The stylish shoes were considered in violation of the NBA’s ‘Uniformity of Uniform” rule. Michael was fined $5000 thereafter every time he wore the shoes. It didn’t stop him from wearing them from time to time.
The league tried to put their foot down. And all Jordan really did was put a shoe on it.
This occasional display of the illegal shoes on court caused an unprecedented demand for the sneakers and other versions of the Air Jordan shoe line. His trendsetting ways didn’t stop there…
Michael’s innovations went from the floor up to his waist line; changing the style of the NBA’s regulation uniform shorts. Jordan would ritualistically wear his University of North Carolina college shorts underneath his standard issued NBA shorts. This caused for discomfort, and he was continually tugging on the shorts; making for a slight distraction in his game.
He requested the manufacturer to take down the seam, making the shorts longer and looser. This personal tailoring of the shorts was noticed by the other players. Soon, Jordan’s baggy short trend was followed by the entire league and subsequent sport as the choice for comfort, function, and style.
It just seemed that know matter what Jordan did, people followed or tried to be like Mike.
Inspiring Others (To Believe They Can Fly)
“He just makes you wish for that one day and for an eight/tenths seconds that you can fly in the air!” – Magic Johnson
Trendsetters can inspire and show the public that they can be more. Whether that’s through a:
- Coolness of attitude
- Heightened sense of style
- Next-level ability
- Mode of thinking, or
- Freeness of being
They rise above, take risks, and tend to cast their cares to the wind. These pioneers show that a person can be free to express oneself fully; without worrying about what others think. Even in failure, they take something from the experience, grow, and move on.
Those that have made it to the top, or make it into the spotlight, have a list of failures along the way. It shows they’re human just like the rest of us. Jordan is no exception.
He’s had failures during, and in both his pre and post NBA career. Even in embarrassing moments he moved on with a lesson. Of course there are going to be negative emotions felt, but they are used to drive forward instead of sulking.
Michael tried and failed badly at minor league baseball after his 1994 basketball retirement. He showed a vulnerable side and that it was okay to take risks, even if you don’t succeed. Once again, showing that failure is part of the life process in any endeavor. Sometimes we find out this way what is not meant for us.
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” – Michael Jordan
Trendsetters know there is no worthy reward without the risk! This is how and why they awe, inspire, set trends, and gain followers…
One of Michael’s most successful and inspirational moments took place through his aerial abilities in the 1988 MVP All-Star Games. Particularly during the Slam Dunk Contest.
In an intense battle against Dominique Wilkins, in the final round, Jordan needed to go big with his last dunk and score a 49/50 to win. Michael started his stride towards the rim from half-court, running up to the free-throw line, and taking off from there…
It was as if someone hit the slow-motion button as he soared through the air; making it all the way to the rim, and successfully slamming the ball into it!
The successful slam-dunk won him the contest championship, on his home court, and into infamy. This trendsetting, gravity defying, insane hang-time dunk made him superhero-like to many. Air Jordan really could fly!
Michael was wearing the Air Jordan III’s and consequently made them one of the most memorable basketball shoes of all time.
The Shoes On Display
Prior to the Air Jordan III’s, basketball sneakers were just thought of as simply basketball shoes. Their engineer, Tinker Hatfield, knew Michael was into luxury, and incorporated that into the design. They came to not only represent a winning persona, but an exquisite taste of style (with an expensive price tag to match).
Air Jordan III”s original price tag was $100; which wasn’t cheap for sneakers back in the 1980s. Many a kid upped their allowance work-hours to pick up a pair to be with the trend! There must have been a lot of clean rooms and houses in the late 80s!
When the AJIII was released in 1988, it was the first Nike Air shoe to feature the visible Air-Sole, the iconic JumpMan logo, and unique elephant print. The shoe became a statement of individuality, great taste in style, and a show of confidence by its wearer.
It is said that your shoes say a lot about you, and can gain insight into your personality. If you wear or ever have worn Air Jordan sneakers, you’ve been affected by the global trendsetter’s fashion ripples. And have dressed for success in a sporty style, no doubt.
Air Jordans are still in demand and remain on of the most sought after basketball sneakers to date. The popular Air Jordan III and others in the brand line-up are still sold in Retro. They now can reach prices in access of $900!
It’s Not The Shoes!
Jordan repeatedly told Mars Blacmon in the commercials it wasn’t the shoe. His message comes down to the idea that You define You! It’s not the shoes, jewelry, or the clothes. These are ornamental to what your being truly represents. And it is your actions, worth of words, and essence that are more definitive of your person than any garment or shoe that you put on.
Trendsetters may inspire, but even they will admit that they got their ideas and own inspirations from others. Michael Jordan’s trendsetting message that began in the 80s was to be yourself and work for what you want. That is a great road to take to success in all aspects of your life.
Another thing to learn from Jordan is, If you like how something looks, whether from a star-endorsed suggestion or thrift-store grab, rock that gear! You just may find yourself starting your own trend!
Where Has Michael Air Jordan Landed?
Jordan has become known as a renaissance man; succeeding as an athlete, entrepreneur, artist, and businessman. These traits have come through in his Nike Air Jordan brand. His skills, ambitions, and tastes have become synonymous within the Jump Man symbol.
Aside from his talents, influence on culture, and global symbolism, the trendsetter has made Forbe’s list of billionaires and has become the highest paid athlete of all time. Michael Jordan has a net worth of 1.9 billion dollars as of 2019.
Well, maybe that has a little something to do with the shoes!
THANKS FOR READING! ANY COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS CAN BE LEFT BELOW.
– Mark G