How Nike’s Air Jordan 1 became — and remained — the most prized lifestyle sneaker

Michael Jordan first wore the Air Jordan 1 nearly four decades ago, an eternity in the fast-moving world of sneakers and fashion.

On Saturday, Nike will re-release the shoe in its infamous Chicago Bulls colors. And even though Nike is releasing a reported 500,000 pairs, it will likely sell out in minutes.

“The Air Jordan 1 is the most iconic sneaker of all time,” said Jordan Geller, a sneaker collector and former owner of the ShoeZeum who in 2020 sold a pair worn by Jordan for a record $560,000. “The white, black, and red shoes are instantly recognizable and are a part of American pop culture.”

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The final piece of the continued success of the Jordan 1 is the 2020 documentary “The Last Dance,” which introduced Jordan to a new wave of sneaker collectors.

“‘The Last Dance’ documentary comes into play for the current generation,” Keasal said. “Younger collectors or Air Jordan fans have never seen Jordan play live, but add in the perfect storm of this larger-than-life viewing experience with the world essentially reliving the greatest to play the game with an intimate look we’d never seen.”

The boost from the “Last Dance” even got the attention of Nike CEO John Donahoe, who mentioned it on a June 2020 earnings call with stock analysts.

“The Jordan Brand resonated deeply in (the quarter) with the airing of ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary,” he said. “The response we saw from the cultural conversation around each episode to the rapid sell-through of the AJ5 Fire Red demonstrated the love for the Jordan brand all over the world.”

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