JORDAN MANIFESTO, THE ORIGIN OF A BRAND

In April of 1985, the first Jordan sneaker was officially launched, it was already an anomaly at the time to wear a player’s name, but it was also very audacious to use the name of a player in his first year, a Rookie who still hadn’t proved anything.

The success of the first sneaker is only comparable to the commotion that it caused. However, that explosion thinned out with the Jordan II, a conceptual turn that can only be understood in hindsight. Nike counterattacked with Tinker Hatfield, a designer who showed him a new design, the Jordan III and, above all, a new idea about how a product should be developed, the Jordan Manifesto, a plan that the brand should follow and that supported itself in what Michael was proving about himself inside and outside the courts.

“Michael Jordan demonstrates to me that, youthful exuberance, fun and desire need not be a clownish unsophisticated and loudmouth affectation,” Hatfield said. “By the same token, style, class, and maturity need not be aloof, stuffy and boring. Let’s be cool and have some fun while we’re at it!” According his manifesto, Michael Jordan is:

Educated & Animated.
Sporty & Tasteful.
Class & Style.
Fun & Flush.
Successful & Urban.

With the Jordan III, Tinker Hatfield proposed Jordan to have his own personality and he showed it with a sneaker that followed the principles from the manifesto, with Michael Jordan front and centre. The Jordan III didn’t have any big logos, it was a revolutionary concept with top-notch technology that blended an urban style with high performance. And that’s how it was until his first retirement in 1993.

Until that moment only a few players had even dared to play in Michael’s sneakers and mainly these were his teammates. As Michael had retired many of the top players started to use his sneakers: Penny Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Latrell Sprewell, Harold Miner, P.J. Armstrong, Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Hubbert Davis, Nick Anderson or Kendall Gill. Many of them with personalised models.

That Jordan Manifesto marked its own journey that managed to last even after Jordan’s retirement, once the players adopted the brand as its own symbol. But not everyone thought that way, even Nike. The Jordan X sole was designed as a curriculum that showed Michael’s achievements in what looked to be his last sneaker. Tinker Hatfield, however, still took a chance on Jordan as a brand that had to be kept alive even beyond Michael’s sports career.

Should it have been Jordan’s last sneaker? It all became quite clear when Michael mouthed two words: “I’m back”. His comeback to the courts would become the moment to transform Jordan into something much bigger and he did so with the Jordan XI . On November 1st 1997, the first items under the Jordan brand were available. Michael personally chose the first sportsmen who could fit into Jordan’s imagery; Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Eddie Jones, Derek Anderson, Michael Finley as the original basketball team, which with time would become broader with young people who had grown up idolising Michael, like Kemba Walker, Russell Westbrook or Victor Oladipo. The team grew at first towards other sports, baseball, American football, boxing, athletics, car racing, its own motorcycling team, appearances in music and football. New members of a Jordan Team that implied new designs in training, running and specific women’s models when it came to sneakers. When Tinker Hatfield brought up the Jordan Manifesto, a sneaker with the name of a player was seen as a novelty. When Jordan retired there were a couple of dozen NBA players with their own sneakers, even though none of them has managed to create a legacy that lives up to Jordan’s.