Gold Standard Part I: The Fall of Jordan Brand

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Today, the sneaker industry is not what it used to be. That’s not a bitter old man’s perspective (20-something) waxing poetic about the “good ol’ days” and how kids today armed with their parents’ credit cards, bots, and an active IG account are ruining the game. No—it’s far worse than that and it has been for some time.

Our fractured sneaker market runs parallel to our hastening collapse of the US Dollar. For complete transparency to the reader, I am not an economist nor will I bore you with any misguided attempt to make such a claim. I am but an avid sneaker collector and a mild history buff —or maybe a conspiracy theorist—that could not help but connect the dots. It all started with—you guessed it—President Richard Nixon.

If you thought you’d ever see that name appear in the modern day blogosphere amongst names like Yeezy and Ronnie Fieg, you deserve some recognition or some sleep because that would mean that we’re thinking alike. I’ll get to it.

On August 15th, 1971, President Nixon announced to the world from the Oval Office that the United States would be divorcing the globally recognized Gold Standard. Before that date, the US—like the rest of the world—used gold as a monetary system in which paper money was convertible into a fixed amount of gold. Not anymore.

This announcement was known as Nixon Shock. After which, gold prices jumped more than 2000% in a decade from around $35 per ounce to $850. So what did that mean for those little green notes in everyone’s pocket? It meant that they were now traded and accepted everywhere on, well…faith. Faith that the dollar is just as strong as Uncle Sam said it was.

uncle-jordan

In the realm of sneaker reselling, we buy, sell, and trade in a way that directly mimics the stock market. Buy low and sell high. The secondary market is a gauge for the shoe’s value after retail which helps maintain the company’s prestige or status. From a conceptual standpoint, consider your footwear as a kind of social currency, if you will.

Enter Jordan Brand. Michael Jordan has been showing kids and adults alike how to get it done on and off the court. His talent backed by the genius Nike / Widen + Kennedy made Jordan an icon and the world has never seen such a star burn brighter. Every aspect of his life from his career highs (and lows), passions, friends and family have all been packaged and sold in the form of footwear.

Even his nicknames and alter egos have seen releases to much success. If Jordan’s shoes were US currency, then his career is the gold that once backed them. In fact, this analogy sums up what made Jordan Brand such a force to be reckoned with. And this is where JB and our nation’s dollar dangerously collide.

jordan-last-game

December 23, 2008, Jordan Brand closed out their overwhelming releases of the iconic XX3 and aptly dubbed it the ‘Finale’. It would seem that Jordan’s off the court legacy was now coming to a close after reaching a number synonymous with the man and the brand. This was the last untapped reserve of gold for the brand after MJ’s retirement for the company to introduce.

It’s special to note that every shoe thereafter was released sans the roman numeral signifiers until the XX8. What made the shoes iconic was equal parts Jordan himself building a tremendous career and the sneakers crossing the chasm into into popular culture as the ultimate status symbol amongst young adults, entertainers, and tastemakers.

People want to wear the shoes of a champion. To be honest, we’ve all been buying Jordans on the faith system since he retired from the NBA in 2003 in the XVIII. Before MJ signed with the Wizards, we’ve seen Jordan Brand produce models that represented Jordan in concept but had no real value for the now retired athlete to wear. This is what economist would call fiat money:fiat-money

Fiat money markets are always unstable and eventually morph into commodity markets (I’ll explain in a moment) or face complete currency disaster. Proof of this term takes us back to his retirement for the second time in 1999 in the AJ XIV and the company came up short with the XV being arguably the worst shoe from the Jordan line.

This moment from a company standpoint could be known as “Jordan Shock.” Even with Team Jordan sporting the shoe on the court, without Jordan Brand’s guiding light to lead the way, it would be considered an airball model after Jordan’s departure, setup to disappoint and in great fashion. The marketing and credulity of the fans would help make every shoe thereafter a (recuperating) success.

The vehicle that help solidify the flagship models was that the most impressive player the world had ever seen wore them. The success behind the shoes are what helped push these colorways into to iconic status. This is what economist would consider commodity money.

commodity-money

I never expected Jordan Brand to go away quietly. That would be in stark contrast of the man behind the brand. Fiercely competitive. When Jordan was building his empire through sweat equity on the courts in the 90’s on the Gold Standard, we saw the success of the brand compete with other growing athlete “currencies”: Pennys, SC Trainers, Agassies, and Iversons to name a few.

All athlete backed lines piggyback on the success of the athlete. Jordan just championed this business model. Like our dollar, JB may be headed for a collapse. Retail prices are inflated, the secondary market for retros are slowly declining, and we’re seeing some classics do what we haven’t seen happen at a retail level for a while…sit on the shelves. Or even worse, go on sale.

Every shoe after 2008 seems like JB is printing their own money in retros, new models, and intrinsically worthless Team Jordans to stay afloat. Much like the US printing money in excess of real value in the economy.

jordan-dollar-sheet

Their best days are now behind them. The constant devaluation of the brand plus the artificial limited supply of retro models every year can only go for so long. They don’t just happen upon a restock of limited releases months later by chance. Even Drake, Don C, Doernbecher Childrens’s Hospital and the occasional Eminem collaboration have proven that strategic partnerships work for short-term gain but it’s evident that Jordan Brand needs a new champion.

The challenge will lie in the transition of power. In sports, talent is the only real commodity and while Nike may be the empire, JB is a big source of currency and is in need of some hard realignment to survive in the long-term. Some valid proof to a younger audience—and a maturing one—that the brand is still worth it’s weight in gold.

Share your thoughts below and stay tuned for Part 2.

About The Author

I’m funny about serious things and serious about amusing ones. Sometimes sneakers are seriously funny.

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  • ZZZZZZZzzzzZZZ try again guys. Just because you followed kanye to adidas doesn’t mean you know this sneaker game……

  • If you’re 30 and under, you shouldn’t even be writing about Jordan brand. You don’t even fully understand this sneaker game….

  • Great misleading smear campaign headline. I read there article, but there’s nothing in the article to support such a deliberate negative headline.

  • Jordans always sat on shelves. You kids don’t even know what you’re talking about. It’s just around the last 3 – 4 years that things got crazy and everyone started becoming culture vultures and trying to sell NEW releases RIGHT AWAY for over retail. It is about collecting. A lot of Jordans reselling for over $300 on ebay now were just sitting on shelves a few years ago.
    Adidas has been copying the Nike/Jordan release formula for the last 2 years. How many variety of Jordans do you see in stores? That’s what it is about. Expand your brand and make billions.

  • Byron Devon

    I totally agree that this is really the ” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f820bbf566ad7951b41f2e53106bca58141b5399599928c16cfe24d33b1551e6.jpg Death Of Jordan”. His time has come and gone! It’s only so much Nike can and could do. As time progressed, so did the evolution of shoes! It’s like tape to cd’s, and from cd’s to digital. Jordan brand will forever be the best selling athlete shoes of all time! Kobe couldn’t do it, Lebron surely can’t do it & Iverson didn’t really take pride in the designs in his shoes. Now to add, what if any of these 3 players would’ve signed to the Jordan brand exclusively? Things that make you go hmmmm? But we all know all 3 players wanted to find their own way and wouldn’t be branded with “JORDAN” instead of their name. Why not right? I don’t blame them. I thought Kobe was for a minute after the departure from Adidas when he started wearing Jordan’s in more than a few Lakers games. More like taking over the company when dad (Jordan) retires. Lol! So the death of Jordan has become the birth of Yeezy! The birth of Adidas & the perfect time for RUN DMC to bring back a remake of “My Adidas”. In the mist of waving the white flag to the fallen soldiers of Reebok and Nike. As a shoe boxer I can’t even imagine people wearing NMD’s, yet NMD’s selling out drastically with each release. The close I would come to buying NMD’s is to beat the Heaven out of those shoes to run in. Lol! Can we say that this is an Anarchy of a New Shoe Order of bots, bogus rigged apps, rotten resellers and Yeezy being the new face of Jordan to the young generation BRO & literally about to, if not already, JUMP OVER THE JUMPMAN! ~@byrondevon -Houston, Texas

  • Creep
  • CoreyEggHead

    I haven’t the slightest interest in leading a smear “campaign” against JB. The title speaks to an overarching theme that runs parallel with our currency in the US. I didn’t say it would happen tomorrow or even 5 years from now. My theory is just a theory until it is proven to be true.

    Your opinion—like others—leads me to believe you think that JB is too big to fail. People thought the same about Ford. FORD! Chapter 11 and a govt. bailout later and they’re still here just badly bruised. JB still carries an enormous amount of cachet with celebs, tastemakers, and true collectors/resellers BUT the piece was written to show signs of wear and tear on the brand that are unavoidable.

    Mainly with Jordan himself no longer proving why he—like his brand—are the best at what they do on and off the court. Millennials never seen him play and emerging demos are less concerned with his legacy. This is the same problem we’re seeing with Ralph Lauren. He may be retiring next year and they’re having a problem with a transition of power to the new CEO but they’re making an effort.

  • CoreyEggHead

    Kanye is the red herring of the sneaker industry. People are looking at who is promoting and wearing the product more than what the product actually is. I’ll have to go so far as to say that I don’t think Kanye has the stamina to give us anything solid that we’ll be consistently buying for years to come like JB did. Maybe if he signed with them from the beginning and never with Nike than I could see it but he’s too capricious as a CEO for sustainable shoe / clothing company.

  • QAEvOR

    well im gon be harsh.
    this man happens to be black.. does NOT like his fellow black men and insists on making products targeted at us…F*** JORDAN!
    the man been pushing poor quality, cheaply-made product our way for a long time at a ever increasing price point, and because of the wave riders…him and his brand think it`s acceptable to drop 11s for $400. if u dont like us , wont take pics with us, sign autographs or shake hands with us…DONT SELL US SHIT.
    i been boycotted this moron since the sport blue 6s. that mofo not gettin my money for nothing. yall can follow the hype if u want, but the quality does NOT DICTATE such a price even after the remaster.
    he had his chance to do it right, had the audacity to call it a “remastering” and bs`d on it. i saw glue trails on those aqua 8s n died laughing.
    C`MON son!

  • Thad Greer

    Excellent read.