The current limited production numbers and distribution methods still mean some diehards miss out though, as dudes with dollars in their eyes flock to the sneaker resale scene. Whether it’s pulling some connects, having the spare time to beat the fans in the line up, or exploiting sneaker bots (see our story on bots also in this issue), people who don’t really give a Swoosh about shoes are making a lot of money flipping Js online as soon as they’ve bought them. Auction site eBay shifted well over $60 million worth of Jordans last year last year, which equates to a third of all their sneaker sales. That’s an incredible figure. Most sold for a few hundred bucks, but plenty reached four digits too. But could this secondary market, which Jordan Brand has no real control over, lessen the public’s love of retros and negatively effect retail sales?
English blogger Basil Burley warns that limiting supply is a double-edged sword. ‘When prices rise well above the fundamental value of an asset, a bubble is forming and bursts as fundamental values are realised by market forces,’ he explains. ‘As the bubble is forming, speculators who are motivated by the prospect of profit, buy up assets expecting that the market price will continue to rise and demand will increase. As the bubble bursts, sellers flood the market, driving the prices down and a crisis follows.’
There is also a threat that committed Jordan campers could grow fatigued by the lengths they continually have to go to for a sought-after release. Sleep-outs can be fun but are a bit of a buzz-kill if you’re doing them every weekend, and the threat of violence from those who missed out (over-reported though it may be) still lurks.
Dann Snapp, senior designer at brand consultancy firm Brand Extract believes these factors scrub the shine off Jordan Brand. ‘When customers camp out anywhere between 12 hours to two to three days before the stores sell Jordans, when people trample each other to the point of injury, when physical structures are damaged in the race through the doors to get to the store first and when, finally, someone is robbed of those shoes outside moments after buying a popular pair of Air Jordans – the brand experience begins to erode the brand itself,’ he says.
Then there’s the question of product quality. Many of us have rose-coloured views of the past and believe certain parts of life were simpler or better ‘back in the day’, but there’s little doubt that today’s Jordan releases use sub-standard materials compared to the OGs. The blaring chorus of complaints about the quality even recently triggered a rumour that Michael Jordan was thinking of taking his namesake brand away from Nike. When our favourite Queens-based Albanian Jewish rapper, Action Bronson, dropped by the SF office, he too bemoaned the declining quality of retro models. ‘It bothers me, it really does,’ he said. ‘It’s the way they’re made – it pisses me off, they don’t use the same materials as they used to. It’s synthetic garbage now.’
Wearing a nine-year-old sneaker in a professional basketball game probably isn’t a wise idea, but it still wasn’t a great testament to the excellence of Air Jordan production when the sole of Tony Wroten’s Varsity Red 10s was completely obliterated earlier this year. It did make for some great viewing as Wroten ran across court in his white socks, though.
Matt from Kickz hears predictions of the Jordan Armageddon regularly. ‘Everyone talks about when will the bubble burst,’ he says. ‘You look at Vans, it wasn’t that long ago that seventy-five percent of people that walked in this store had Vans on their feet. Vans, Vans, Vans, Vans! Now it would be about ten percent of people.’
While there have been lulls in the Jordan obsession, Hammond says the classic models have always sold well and if anyone can have sustained success with retro footwear, it’s Jordan Brand. ‘There’s just something very unique about the brand. The marketing they do, the power they’ve got, it’s something different than everyone else. Will it eventually calm down? I’m sure it will, but how far, who’s to say?’