In today’s current climate of sneaker mania, where every release is analyzed and judged for style as well as value, few shoes are as revered as the Air Jordan 1 “Bred”. The original “must have” sneaker when it debuted in 1985, the Air Jordan 1 “Bred” is just as coveted today as it was 30 years ago, maybe even more so. On the occasion of its most recent re-release next week in conjunction with the debut of the brand new Air Jordan 31 “Bred”, we thought it would be interesting to see where this newest "Bred" stands in relation to prior releases. Since we just so happened to have a 1985 "Bred" and a 2001 "Bred" hanging around the office, we decided to compare the three releases that are each separated by 15 years to examine the differences in their construction and in the surrounding culture of the time.
The original Air Jordan 1 "Bred" was released in 1985 at a retail price of $64.99, which seems like a steal today but was one of the most expensive sneakers on the market at that time. Nike tasked Peter Moore with designing the signature sneaker for their new rookie signee, Michael Jordan, who they hoped would help them crack a basketball market that was then dominated by Converse. Moore created something distinctly different from any other shoe, where an all white or all black makeup was the norm. The Air Jordan (as it was then known, the numbering came later) featured black and red colorblocking throughout its full-grain leather upper, with virtually no white showing at all, save for the midsole. It was revolutionary. Nike and ad agency Weiden-Kennedy created the "Banned" campaign, a series of commercials that positioned the shoes as being outlawed in the NBA, creating tremendous hype surrounding their release. The successful marketing combined with Jordan's exciting, All Star-caliber play and Rookie of the Year award to propel the shoes to over $100 million in sales and set a new standard for what basketball sneakers looked like, and what they meant to the people buying them.
In 2001, the "Breds" were released once again, this time into a world very different than the one in which they debuted. Michael Jordan was a Washington Wizard, and the design of the current shoes he wore shared more in common with sports cars than the original Air Jordan. After an initial retro release in 1994 during MJ's first retirement ended up with the shoes on clearance racks for $19.99, expectations weren't high. But the shoes, priced at $80, ended up selling quite well. While the hype around sneakers was nothing like it is today, the rise of the internet at that time created a place where people from all over the world could come together in service of their shared love of sneakers. Ebay was just blowing up, and the online resale market was beginning to become "a thing". The "Breds" were selling for over retail price online and magazines like Slam were beginning devote coverage to sneakers outside of the players who wore them. Sneaker enthusiasts weren't yet mainstream at this point, but a thriving sub-culture was beginning to develop and the Air Jordan 1 "Bred" was a foundational piece.
Today, "sneaker culture" is thriving not only as a community both in person and online, but as a marketable concept with thousands of re-sellers, blogs, websites, magazines, conventions, and influencers all vying for attention and dollars. It is into this climate that the latest Air Jordan 1 “Bred” iteration is released. But that is not the only thing that has changed since 2001. Air Jordans have become so successful that they have spawned their own brand, with a separate identity and product line than Nike. No longer do Jordans come in a box emblazoned with a swoosh, instead using the iconic Jumpman silhouette of Michael Jordan flying through the air as their primary logo. At a retail price of $160, exactly double the the cost of the 2001 edition, these "Breds" will be the highest quality model ever released. With the institution of Jordan Brand's remastering initiative at the beginning of this year, the 2016 “Breds” will combine the original specs of the 1985 model with premium tumbled leather, most evident on the toebox and swoosh, to create a retro that is exact in detail, yet definitely superior to the original.