Sneakers tend to have two lives; their first is as a cutting-edge signature shoe that is meant to catch a moment and let you wear it. Their second life comes much later, in a different sneaker world that has very different standards and expectations.
An often repeated quote once described form as temporary but class as permanent, and whilst the innovator of that quote was unlikely to be talking about rare sneakers, those wise words tell us a lot about the value of reappraisal.
In some cases, a shoe is eternal, such as the legendary Jordan 1 Chicago colourway, which looks as perfect now as it did in 1985.
Conversely, shoes such as the infamous Sprewell Spinners have always raised eyebrows, and time has not exactly been kind to them outside of nostalgic curiosity.
In many cases, a show initially caused a stir but was either forgotten or ended up being somewhat disliked in retrospect, but the most interesting cases are sneakers that were maligned at first but as the world caught up to their vision have since become iconic in their own right.
Here are some of the greatest examples of hated signature shoes that later became hugely desirable.
- Starbury 1
One of the most controversial signature sneakers ever made, the Starbury 1 has gained a few fans in the 15 years since its initial launch in 2006, but its controversy and later reappraisal stem not only from its bizarre, minimalist design but also the philosophy which directed its design.
Stephon Marbury, then playing for the collapsing New York Knicks, was exceptionally keen to make well-made professional-quality sneakers that were sold for less than £10, compared to the £150 for a pair of Jordans from that era.
The big issue came from a much-publicised interview where Mr Marbury claimed his sneakers had the same build quality as other sneakers from that era, which whilst technically true from a material standpoint did not help them appeal to players at any level.
However, with sneakers getting even more expensive, more people appreciate the attempt, even if the result did not quite stick the landing.
- Air Jordan XVII
Whilst the Air Jordan name is truly iconic, not every shoe His Airness deigned to put his name on was worthy. The Air Jordan II was amazing in hindsight but caused so much controversy that Jordan nearly pulled out of the Nike agreement, at least until he saw the next shoe in line.
Meanwhile, his first sneaker post-Bulls, the Air Jordan XV, have never stopped being controversial.
The most fascinating one, however, is the 2002 Air Jordans, built for his surprise comeback with the Washington Wizards.
At the time the most expensive Air Jordans ever sold, they came with all sorts of technological tricks to try and justify the price.
Inspired by freestyle jazz, the shoes had a lace cover embossed with musical notes, the “Tuned Air” system for the first time, a metal briefcase and a bonus CD-ROM.
As you might expect, that price was the main sticking point and opened up an entire discussion about prestige sneakers that led Footlocker to stop selling any Nike sneakers over £100.
With a much broader sneaker market and a chance to look at the shoes for what they are, they are one of the most underrated of MJ’s legendary signatures.