The Sneaker Evolution of Barack Obama
From custom Air Jordan IVs with the Presidential Seal to Spike Lee’s 2012 ‘Bordeaux’, Barack Obama’s sneaker journey over his eight-year political tenure was truly unique, not only helping the commander-in-chief stack his soles for his traditional Election Day basketball, but also informing concrete policy decisions in the White House.
This is the evolution of the biggest sneakerhead in US presidential history: Barack Obama.
2009: MY HEART BEATS 'BOK
Back in 2009, Barack Obama was balling at Fort McNair in the Reebok Flash DMX, a relatively obscure build from Reebok’s basketball catalogue. Obama would be gifted pairs of Yeezy, Nike and Under Armour over his eight-year tenure in the Oval Office, but it was the ’Bok that featured prominently during his inauguration year.
2012: 990 REASONS TO LOVE NEW BALANCE
The New Balance 990 epitomises sneaker manufacturing in the US, and continues to play a central role in streetwear across the globe.
Presenting Obama with some fresh steeze for Spring, New Balance delivered some steel 990s, carrying with it President Obama embossing and ‘handmade in the US’ cursive on the heel (a gentle reminder by New Balance citing the inextricable link between the Boston-based brand and American manufacturing). The move was an important one, introducing Obama to one of NB’s most sough-after silhouettes and prompting a move by Obama to introduce policy ensuring NB manufacturing stayed in the small town of Maine.
Damn, ‘Bama must’ve loved those 990s.
2012: IS IT THE SHOES?
Director Spike Lee threw a fundraising event at his Upper East Side digs back in 2012. Obama showed up, and he’ll be glad he did, because Spike gifted him a pair of Nike Air Jordan Spiz'ike ‘Bordeaux’. The sneakers, coming in luxe woodgrain boxing, were engraved with the Presidential Seal, and were one of the wildest hybrids from the Jordan cannon, utilising elements from the 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9. Yep, Spike Lee blasted Obama’s rotation with five classics from the Jordan arsenal.
2015: MISSIN' THE OLD KANYE
Kanye West’s relationship with Barack Obama has always been a rocky one. Despite calling ‘Ye a jackass, Obama was copping free pairs of adidas BOOST 350s and 750s at the Democratic National Convention Fundraiser in San Francisco. While not really adding Yeezy sneakers to his rotation, Obama obviously pulled heartstrings when he criticised Mr West — in a recent interview Kanye told Charlamagne that he wanted Obama’s respect.
Kanye said, ‘I’m your favourite artist. You know I’m your favourite, but I’m not safe. But that’s why you love me! So just tell me you love me. And tell the world you love me! Don’t tell the world I’m a jackass.’
2016: THESE ARE MY NEW BALANCE, THERE ARE MANY LIKE IT BUT THESE ONE'S ARE MINE
In 2016, Obama made a political move to save a brand he’d often repped throughout his tenure, signing an order for new recruits to buy New Balance sneakers. Previously, new recruits had been given an allowance to buy sneakers of their choosing (including brands manufactured overseas). The order saved an estimated 900 jobs for New Balance workers in Maine, and ensured they continued production of some of those sweet, sweet 990s.
2016: ELECTION DAY BALLIN'
Obama continued his election day balling in 2016, this time repping so many brands it became a kind of symbolic mashup of all the labels he’s been exposed to over his political career. Carrying a pair of Jets that Under Armour had gifted him back in 2011, the President wore ASICS, a White Sox cap, and Jumpman warm ups.
2017: THE RAREST SNEAKERS IN THE STATES?
During Obama’s last year in office, Dexter Fowler of the Chicago Cubs showed up to the White House holding a pair of custom Air Jordan IVs. These sneakers carried major drip, with Presidential Seals hitting the sneaker’s tongue and storage box, shiny patent leather across the uppers, and Obama’s signature scrawled across the spine. It was the last custom gifted to Obama over his eight-year reign, and was perhaps the prettiest of the bunch.
Keep balling Mr President, we salute you.