Year released: 1991
Designer: Tinker Hatfield
Most Popular Colorways: Hare, Bordeaux, Black/True Red, Cardinal, Olympic
First Retroed: 2002
How can the Retro 7s be conceptualized? What is it to different groups of people and individuals? How is it situated in the world and how is the world situated in it? The world of Air Jordan is situated in the very designs of the shoes and I argue wearing the shoes themselves has transformative possibilities that could affect, transcend, and re-define the race, gender, and class of the subject. Read semiotically, the sign of Air Jordans VII’s has different significations on different bodies that have real life implications on ones subject. Indeed, a Vine compilation of Jordan shoes will be presented alongside an anecdotal timeline of my love for the retro 7s.
“When most people see art or listen to music, they may only see or hear what’s on the surface. Tinker Hatfield tends to dig deeper and discover more than most would. When designing the Jordan VII, Tinker took ideas from Western African tribal art and Afro-pop, two very random but well-calculated places to find ideas for his next classic Jordan. He also took some ideas from his Huarache concept and added them for the perfect combination.” – Brandon Elder Finish Line Content Manager
The above is but a short history on the Air Jordan VII, the sexiest shoe ever created and is the “it” I look to implode trough semiotic analysis and media ethnography in non-linear blog form. Although older than I, the retro 7s have come to represent many facets of myself; my dreams, my hopes, my failures; my fashion sense, music taste; my identity– my being. More than “just shoes” the Air Jordan 7s to me are a visual and physical embodiment of who I am and who I could be.
Some words to describe the Air Jordan VIIs include: Cool, sexy, timeless, USAmerican, hip-hop, the Fresh Prince, [product] unboxing, sneaker heads, Jordan culture, and Jordan appropriation. Jordans in weddings? You bet. To me this the counter to a pair of Chuck Taylor’s at weddings. The two in conversation almost become an antithesis to the other. Tradionally Chucks are punk, preppy, and counter although classic. Jordans, on the other hand, can be viewed as “ghetto” because of its association to blackness. On a white body, however, Jordans are viewed… differently. More on this later.
I must have been no older than five or six (98/99) when I was consciously aware of Air Jordan shoes. My older cousin Nancy (about twelve years older than me) had an iteration of all the shoes up until then. She was the first sneaker head I ever met. Which was I guess “weird” since, as I would later learn, it’s a “man” thing to do (collecting Jordans– as if). But if gender stereotypes need be included or at least mentioned then what is a man doing collecting so many damn shoes? Isn’t that what women do? Or so my mom would ask me as I got older…
Nancy had a pair of Jordan 5s that I had only seen on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Back then, Will Smith was the epitome of (Urban) cool– he was the FRESH PRINCE! And since my cousin had them too I considered her the Fresh Princess. Right there and then I made a link between class, race, and gender. Will Smith had Jordans, my cousin had Jordans. He’s a black man, she’s a Mexican woman. He has money (in the show)… so she must have money, too! Its all in the shoes, I thought!
Jays were beinning to take on a new meaning to me. Nancy once said to me, “My [newborn] kids are never leaving the hospital without a pair of Jays [Jordans]!” Take a moment, let that statement sink in. Would one not rather have their newborn child be healthy? For their baby to be of normal weight? For the doctor to come out and congratulate the parents for having a perfect delivery and a perfect child to go with that? One might assume that Nancy’s priorities are out of line if she thinks her child having Jordan shoes at birth is more important than a healthy baby. Either way this to me reiterates that Jordans are much more than “shoes” to many people, to some they are a life style and status symbol (we all wanna be, fresh, right?). Before Jordan, sneakers were just sneakers. They were considered gym shoes, because one only wore them in a gym, not for style.
As I got older the Air Jordan frenzy only grew. Everyone, so it seemed, wanted to get their hands on a pair of Jordans, some even resorted to killing. In the spring of 2005, a seventeen year old, Steve Terrett, was murdered for his Jordan shoes (http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1572827.html). Keep in mind this happened twenty years after the first ever release of Jordan shoes. Michael Jordan’s impact is still seen today in our everyday cultural, from babies having shoes at birth to those having them till death.
The summer of 2002 the movie Like Mike was released; this movie is about a kid who finds a pair of shoes with the initials M.J. (Michael Jordan) on the tongue of the shoe and when the shoes are on him (Lil’ Bow Wow) becomes a great basketball player. Due to the shoes the phenome child goes on and plays in the NBA. Though this is of course just a movie, this demonstrated to me just how powerful of an impact Jordan had on society that even four years after he retired from the game of basketball, his inspiration still lived in the hearts, minds, and souls (soles) of others. Michael Jordan was a class act; he always dressed like a stud nearly every time he was out in public. This need to be well dressed was also represented in many of his sneaker designs and color ways. The way Jordan dressed off the court was truly how a gentleman should dress when in the public. This may have influenced the NBA to have a dress code policy issued in 2005 (baggy pants and sneakers were not accepted by the white majority). When one wears Jordan apparel they get that status of greatness, like Jordan. Many do not want to work for that status, people believe they can just go out and buy it. Now, there is a certain standard people have to live up to, and that is: The brand is who you are. Meaning, if one does not have the latest craze one is not good enough, but if one does, no matter what kind of person they are, they get that automatic respect people long for. “Become Legendary” –Air Jordan slogan. The slogan should be, “Become Shallow” because that is what people become when they let the brand take over their judgment. Buying a 300 dollar pair of shoes does not make one “better” or “cooler”, all it means is: Hey! You just spent 300 dollars on shoes that attract others for all the wrong reasons. And HEY! let me tell you, I don’t regret spending that on my retro 7s.
All I ever wanted (famous words in childhood) was a pair of retro 7s. I was 15 years old when my older brother bought me my first pair… but from some bootleg website. I was so excited to get home and see the beautiful shoebox with the shoes in them! Accept when I opened the box and pulled out the shoe they… looked off. I did hella research into how to discern real and fake Jordans. I cried that night.
My irrational consumerist compulsion and need for validation got the best of that day. And while I wish I could go into depth about my affinity for the Jordan retro 7s I point the reader instead to this YouTube Vine compilation video all on Jordans. While most of the clips have an identifiable black lead there are a few with a white lead. One at 1:58 is of lack and white unity by means of Jordan appreciation. Another has a white guy asking why Jordans are important, having this YouTuber verify the “type” of white guy that was and being thrown out by his group of friends in the video. Others explored the importance of the shoe and the lengths one goes to buy, clean, and protect their investments. This video, however, is sexist, misogynist, and racist. Like the two tone Jordans pictured above it should be noted that within Jordan lies both dark and light forces.
But Jordans for me?
When I put them on I feel fresh as fuck. I look American. I feel American. Growing up wearing botas y tejanas (boots and felt cowboy hats) I felt really un-American and out of place even though I’d go places seeing similarly dressed people. But even then I knew that those were Mexicans which for some reason was different than Americans. That spoke outsider/insider to me. “How can I be both?” I asked; I was a very existential child.
Like my older cousin, Nancy, my cousin Roy (Rogelio) was able to navigate both the Paisa and US worlds just fine. I thought it was in the clothes. And to a very large extent I still do. Appearance means a lot to me; I know that people judge books by their covers, that many approach the inhabitants of this world as a casting director might casting Classical Hollywood productions. Clothing and fashion is an alternate form of communication. How do I communicate American? How do I communicate class? Or race; black, white, Mexican, straight, queer, masculine, femme? To me and many others its through clothing. And for me, it starts with sneakers. I plan to make a video exploring this topic more.