Ten years ago, Jordan, a brand under the Nike umbrella, released the Air Jordan XVIs. It was an average sneaker in almost all regards; however, there was an aspect that made the sneaker special: its price.
The Air Jordan 17 was the first Nike sneaker to retail for $200 dollars.
Ahhh, the good ol days — back when sneakers were cheap!
This upcoming fall, Nike will make history again, this time with LeBron James. The sneaker conglomerate will release the LeBron X, a shoe that will retail for around $300, a record amount for a pair of Nike kicks.
(The Wall Street Journal reported that the shoe will retail for $315, but a Nike spokesperson told ESPN that the shoe wouldn’t break the $300 dollar barrier. Matt Powell of SportsOneSource, also told ESPN that he expects the shoe to float around the $290 mark.)
Now, there will be cheaper variations of the model (Only $175! Parents cheer!) but the special form of the shoe, known as the plus version, will be in the $300 buck ballpark.
Yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal article was published, there was outrage from everyone from sneaker heads on Twitter to sports columnists, who aren’t really embedded with the sneaker culture, with the general census being that Nike took things too far.
Well, the truth is, Nike took things too far because we let them.
Nike is testing us. They are seeing if they can release a $300 dollar shoe and have it be a success.
And I think they can.
Urban youth, which consume a majority of the sneaker market, dictates that market and Nike knows that market well.
Back in the mid 2000s, Jay-Z urged everyone to do away with jerseys and baggy jeans and to start wearing button-up shirts and tighter jeans. And we listened. The change wasn't instantaneous, obviously.
But, through time, our clothes gradually got tighter.
They also get more expensive. The urban youth wasn't satisfied with $70 dollar Pelle Pelle jeans. We wanted $300 dollar True Religion jeans. One hundred dollar sneakers were cool, but you know what else was cool? Six hundred dollar Gucci and Louis Vuitton loafers.
(Just look at someone like Chief Keef. The most ratchet 16-year-old on the planet is always decked out in Louis Vuitton.)
Don't think that Nike wasn't watching.
If we were able to spend $500 dollars on a high fashion shoe, why couldn't we pay similar prices for a sports shoe?
Over the years, almost all forms of popular Jordans and Nikes went up in price dramatically. The most obvious example is the Foamposite line. In the span of three years, the show went from retailing for $179 to going up to $225.
A $60 dollar difference hasn’t been enough to stop people from buying the shoe; Foamposites still sell like crack in the '80s.
Another market Nike has been keeping tabs on is the reselling arena. It’s become the norm for young sneaker heads to pay $500 plus for sneakers they couldn’t get because of availability.
All these years Nike has been watching us, dudes. And they are going to make a fortune again when this fall parents will be forced to drop a quarter of his or her check on sneakers for their son.
Nike and some others in the sneaker community have tried to justify the decision by saying that there will be a cheaper variation of the shoe and the plus version has some kind of special technology that measures how high you jump.
As far as the technology angle goes, a very small amount of people buy LeBrons to play basketball in. They rock 'em to style.
And as far as the two versions, Nike knows that kids will always gravitate to the more expensive alternative.
Back when I was in high school, the big in-style item were these big, hideous, spaceman looking coats called Marmots. There were two versions everyone wore: the regular coat, that retailed for around $300, and the "Big Boy" that went for around $650.
The coats came in the same colors and looked identical, with the exception that the "Big Boy" had a slanted pocket.
That didn’t matter. No one wanted the regular coat. Everyone wanted the Big Boy.
Nike knows little tidbits like this all too well. And they are about to make a gain of cash this fall using this info.
And we’re going to let them.
Say hi, please @Milkman__Dead