There are few things in the sneaker world quite as legendary as the red and black Air Jordan 1 silhouette. Dubbed the ‘Banned’ Jordan 1, the story behind this pair of infamous Nike sneakers is one of rebellion, attitude and a whole lotta cash.
The iconic red and black hi-top Jordan 1 debuted in 1984 and each time Michael Jordan wore them on the court, he was fined $5,000 because they broke the league’s uniform rules. The rule book stated that each player “must wear shoes that not only matched their uniforms, but matched the shoes worn by their teammates”. The rule was lifted in the late 2000s but during the eighties, the NBA board took it rather seriously.
How did Nike react? Well, they reacted like any multi-billion dollar company would, they paid the $5,000 fine and encouraged Jordan to keep wearing the sneakers on the court. He did and they quickly garnered the ‘banned’ nickname.
Then on February 25th 1985, Nike received a memo from the NBA that explained the rules were not to be broken. So, naturally, the New York-born basketball star and sportswear powerhouse developed an entire marketing campaign around the league’s rules – releasing a series of commercials that censored the now-iconic red and black sneakers. It was a resounding success and kids rushed to get their hands on a pair of their very own ‘Banned’ Jordan 1 sneakers.
A partnership that’s gone down in history as breaking the rules for all the right reasons, the Nike x Michael Jordan empire gets stronger by the year. When discussing his rule-breaking tendencies in a promotional video, Jordan said “It’s like a young kid, when your parents say you can’t do something, you want to do it more.” Clearly the secret to success, the Jordan Brand (which sits within the Nike Inc. Umbrella) now earns upward of $2.3bn in revenue annually.
Although this is the story both Nike and Jordan stick to to this day, there have been a few questions asked since. There’s actually no known evidence that Jordan wore the ‘Banned’ sneakers during an official game – but instead, a lot of fans suggest that he wore them during the 1985 Slam Dunk contest. Whatever the truth is, the iconic black and red Nike Jordan 1 ‘Banned’ silhouette will always have a place in the sneaker hall of fame.