Why is the Air Jordan XI the Most Chaotic Sneaker of All Time?

The Air Jordan XI is one of the most successful sneakers of all time. No color way has failed, and for each release, kids camp overnight in lines that stretch around the block just to make sure they cop a pair of these $170 kicks. They are never on the shelves long enough for dust to gather, selling out as soon as the crowds are allowed in-store.

But as Jordan prepares to open its first flagship store tomorrow in Midtown, we can’t help but ask the brand to consider the hype around the shoe and seek an alternative means of distribution. The fallout over demand has come too far.

Every time a Jordan XI is released it performs well for Nike and Mikey. According to CNBC, in 2009 the Jordan Brand topped $1 billion in annual revenue. We can only assume how much the “11’s” contribute to Jordan’s money bank, but being that they fly off the shelves, it’s safe to estimate that it’s a lot. But whenever they drop, someone gets hurt, or worse, killed. Michael Eugene Thomas, Johnny Bates, and Juan Reyna are just a few of the victims subjected to senseless acts of violence over a pair Air Jordans through the years.

Dazie Williams, mother of slain victim Joshua Woods, launched the website Life Over Fashion to bring awareness to the violence over sneakers. The website serves as a call to action asking others to sign a petition and share their story. Williams uses her own story as a example:

Joshua Woods was only 22 years old when he was shot and killed…over a pair of Air Jordan shoes. No mother or family should lose their loved one over their sneakers. Shoes, clothes, and jewelry come and go, but a human life is irreplaceable. Are you going to let this story go unheard? Or will you take a stand and let your voice be heard?

In December 2011, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill wrote about the release of the Air Jordan XI “Concords,” saying, “It’s the basic supply-and-demand sales strategy, but it’s irresponsible for Nike to ignore the violent problems these limited-edition shoes create.”

For a long time, Air Jordans have been a symbol of success and a signifier of being fashion forward amongst different demographics; from kids, to teenagers, to athletes and especially among urban youth. This vast number of audiences can get rowdy when you have over 200 people waiting on a line for hours in the cold. I mean, people line up all the time when their favorite brand has a sample sale or does a limited collaboration (i.e. Supreme or The A.P.C. x Kanye West Collection) and yet tales of violence and injury from these releases so rarely sprout up.

I guess it’s easy to blame the corporate monster with their lack of sympathy and ice cold connection to their consumers, but the value of the product comes from the consumers themselves. Apologies from Nike (sincere or not) don’t stop the drama surrounding the shoe, but what else could Nike and Jordan really do about the unnecessary violence? They could stop releasing these sneakers altogether, which wouldn’t be the greatest business move. Maybe they could invest in extra security to keep the peace during a release; but I would also guess once the product is shipped from the factory all their resources would be focused on the next money making venture.

Foot locker riot

We could also blame retailers for this madness as well. Mom and pop stores charge up to 3x the original retail price. Flight Club does the same as both a retailer and re-seller; splitting the cost with kids who bring them sneakers as the store sells them. This only creates more issues being that your only options are waiting in line and damn near risking your life or copping a pair from a re-seller with higher price points.

Bigger franchises such as Foot Locker have recently come up with raffle systems, alerting consumers via text and Twitter. Niketown has a RSVP system to help manage their exclusive releases. That might be annoying for sneakerheads who are about to spend $180 on shoes anyway, but if you want the luxury of waking up and not waiting overnight on a line, its going cost you an extra $200 bucks – depending on how much a re-seller feels his time on line is worth.

Just ask Justin Omosanya, manger of independent sneaker shop, Platform. He says, “It’s a lucrative business and once the last shoe leaves Foot Locker, Champs, Modell’s or any other chain store, we are the only ones who still have it. Today’s youth is willing to spend up to $500 on a pair of kicks. It just is what it is.”

One former Foot locker employee offers his take on the sneakers. “I’ve seen mothers and kids cry, people of all ages and races wrapped around New York City blocks, get into fights and everything, but the joy you see on people’s faces is priceless,” said Jae Tips.

In my humble opinion, these sneakers are not even worth standing in a ten person line for. I’d rather stand on line for CNCPTS X New Balance 999 aka “The Kennedy” or some of the Size? X Nike “Air Hurache” collaborations. The bottom of the XI’s turn yellow within 3 months after the purchase and scratches on the patent leather are unfixable, hence why I personally never went out my way to own a pair.

If the supply tried to meet the demand as opposed to making them limited, wouldn’t it be beneficial for both consumer and retailer? Sneakerheads get what they want, companies make their money, and we all get to walk away alive. People will still flock towards these joints for their futuristic design and an appreciation for the aesthetic. A few sneakerheads will be pissed they are no longer so exclusive, but they’ll get over it.


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