Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that influenced my thinking as a youngster. As a kid in the 1990s, it was nearly impossible to not be bombarded with Michael Jordan. Back then, all of your information came from a handful of sources because they were the only sources. Eastbay catalogs, WGN, the Chicago channel that you became best friends with your neighbor that had cable in order to see, NBA Inside Stuff on Saturdays, and whatever spoiled kids who had convinced their parents to buy them Air Jordans, were the only ways I saw or could see sneakers. MJ was always the topic no matter which source you chose and even if I wanted to ignore it all, I couldn’t have. It was all one big giant flashing neon light that the younger me interpreted as being successful.
For me, I had no problems with that. I sought it out like a mosquito attracted to a bug zapper. Even though Air Jordans were 3-4 times my annual sneaker budget of $30, I found ways to feel connected to them from afar. Drawing sneakers (easily the most incompetent of my personal skills), making new logos, creating my own magazine advertisements, dreaming up shoes that combined different models, and even imagining shoes for some of my other favorite athletes of the era, became a nonstop obsession.
The obsession never went away. I still live and breathe sneakers, my interest has matured into human connections and business-focused aspects of the footwear industry but it’s crazy to think how a handful of things that Michael Jordan did, essentially set me on the path I am today. From the gold chain at the Slam Dunk Contest in 1985 to the armband on the left forearm, white laces swapped in the black Air Jordan 5, the earrings, every little thing that was different than the rest of the athletes of the time, made me more obsessed.
It seems crazy that just seeing a photo of Michael Jordan in the black Air Jordan 5 with white laces can send me down a decades-long nostalgia trip in just a matter of moments. But I know I’m not the only one, and being able to share the memories and connections with those of you that will read this is what it’s all about.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector, and Sneaker News, helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, StockX, and Stadium Goods better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.