via The UCSD Guardian

Sneaker culture has become mainstream, and despite its association with hypebeasts and poor financial decisions, it was built from a deep appreciation for the art.

We lost many things with the transition from in-person to online classes: engaging participation, connections with classmates, and the ability to flex your shoes. A pristine pair of Jordans or Yeezys sell for hundreds if not thousands of dollars, but college students all over the country still wear them, subsequently making me feel bad for just wearing Vans to class. 

The hobby of collecting expensive sneakers has grown from being a subculture to mainstream, and, in the process, the community has developed its own identity separate from the fashion community at large. Clearly, there’s something here that draws people in, so what makes these shoes so popular?

Sneaker art by Dave White

“I think it’s true that a lot of people just buy expensive shoes because they look cool,” Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Joshua Hoang said. “However, I also think that there are a lot of people who feel a deeper connection [with their shoes].”

For many “sneakerheads,” shoes aren’t just about how they look or feel. Every shoe has a story, something that people remember it by. Rather than an explanation, this is better understood with an example.

The year is 1989, and Michael Jordan has just made a jump shot, bringing the Chicago Bulls into a 99–98 lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers with only six seconds left on the clock. The setting: the Eastern Conference, a tournament for teams in the East to fight for positions in the NBA Playoffs. It’s an important game for the Bulls, and they are the underdog. 

There wasn’t a doubt in any basketball fan’s mind that the Cavaliers were going to win. Before this game, the Bulls had lost all six of their games against the Cavaliers in the regular season. Going into the conference, the Cavaliers were seeded third and the Bulls were only sixth. 

But now, Chicago had a chance to make an upset. They were able to grab the lead, and there were only six seconds left for the Cavaliers to bring it back. Shortly after Jordan’s shot the Cavaliers called a timeout. The ensuing play was made by Craig Ehlo and Larry Lance. When the game resumed, Ehlo passed the ball to Lance. A pass back immediately followed as Ehlo drove into the court. Sprinting through, Ehlo scored the layup, reclaiming a 100–99 point lead for the Cavaliers. 

Bulls fans grew tense. Now it was Chicago’s turn to call a timeout; with only three seconds left on the clock, there would only be one last play in the game. This was Chicago’s last chance to pull off the upset and add to their legacy.

When the game resumed, Cleveland immediately sent Ehlo and Lance to double-team Jordan. Drifting right, Jordan faked out Lance. He quickly shifted left to catch the pass from Brad Sellers. Jordan ran to face the basket from the free-throw line. As the buzzer screeched for the end of the game, Jordan jumped and made the shot, winning the game for the Bulls 101–100. From then on, this moment was dubbed simply, “The Shot,” and famously, during “The Shot,” a crisp pair of Nike Air Jordan 4s were on Jordan’s feet.

Source: Jordans Daily

From then on, when a kid in Chicago went to their neighborhood court in some 4s, they relived the moment when Michael Jordan hit that shot. By playing basketball in his shoes, fans felt closer to their hometown hero. And so, the Jordan 4s became more than just a shoe; it became a symbol of Chicago’s triumph over a giant.

This legendary shoe is celebrated through the story of “The Shot.” Today, much of the younger generation of sneaker fans were not there to experience the 1989 conference game live. However, whether they know it or not, they experience a piece of its legacy through that moment’s shoe.

Read more on The UCSD Guardian.