Sherpa of the J’s

If anything, I would consider myself somewhat of an agnostic pagan; not really sure what’s out there, but mostly certain that gods are a manifestation of our desires and needs, a la American Gods. In that universe, there are a lot of demi-gods, more every day, constantly reinventing themselves at the whims of their believers to help justify and keep value in a world of symbolism. All of these lesser gods compete for humans’ time, and getting into the minds of their constituents is paramount. Or risk becoming obsolete. 

On rare occasions, a cultural event will rise above expectations and norms, ingraining into the fabric ofsociety so seamlessly that we almost forget it ever wasn’t a thing.  Often times these live as just memories, phrases, or terrible TV movies. They are usually monetized to the point of satire (D.C. Universe, Harry Potter Universe) and sometimes they may fluctuate based on trending looks (Scrunchies, JNCOS, Fannie packs ((let Fannie packs die)).

To achieve Cultural God status with all the staying power that comes with it, something must be non-generational; and sadly, not every time in history gets a good one. Can you name a keeper from the early 2010’s? Can you name anything good to come from 1982?! 

Usually no one cares unless if you were there and can instantly recall the nostalgia from your time. If you don’t have that, the trend has already passed with little to hang on to. 

My blogging cohort Clarke and I went into the heart of one of these cultural realms, eyes wide shut, led by a jovial chap who we would soon recognize as a true mouthpiece of The J.

Maybe Jordan logo here or the first Jordan shoe? 

In the realm of Hip-Hop culture, The “Jordan” (J, J’s, Jays) stand stalwart as a necessary compatriot of The 4 Pillars of Hip Hop Culture. Their influence has melted into countless other subcultures, each of which could presumably keep the brand alive should the others lose connection. Artists wear them to paint, e-sports athletes wear them to compete, and skaters still love the classic Air Jordan for the right situations.

Photo or youtube or something to exhibit this?

Clarke and I were sitting in the backyard at a Memorial Day party in my backyard, engaging in the small talk you could imagine two music bloggers talk about (nothing). A friend of ours; Kiel, who would become our sneaker sherpa, was standing nearby. His wardrobe always exudes a precise and calculated patina that amplifies impeccable awareness of the times, all without overwhelming or obvious strain. He’s Clean. For events, he has the right tool for the job; Supreme when necessary, Adidas when called upon, or a gambit of J’s to suit. 

For some reason, took particular notice this day. I can’t recall the exact string of events here (again, hosting a party) but one thing led to another, and an excursion was finally decided upon to help get us up with the times.  

The date was set plenty far in advance. Different than the Pillars of Hip-Hop, J’s are obviously a material object, immediately throwing up a barrier for entry. We needed to make sure that our first starter pairs could be had on our first summit attempt, as the sensation of love at first sight is often times necessary for a truly desperate and loathsome addiction. 

There is  a mall close to our location that somehow had 5 different hunting grounds, each with a unique selection: Shoe Palace, Foot Locker, Champs Sports, House of Hoops and Finish Line. For a suburban Colorado mall, Kiel told us that this mall was an anomaly for the given demographic of the area. In other words, , and that we are lucky to have it so close. 

Kiel, hailing from Kansas but with loose roots in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, has a keen sense of the hot zones for the finest kicks. Clarke and I are pleased that we can participate in a similar experience here in Colorado without much left to the imagination.

Our plan was to hot-lap a few times, grabs some lunch (and an Orange Julius, because no trip to the mall is complete without one), not be hasty, and close hard when we found The One. 

We started at Shoe Palace, the newcomer to this mall and the area in general. Founded in 1993 alongside the release of the Jordan VIII “Strap Iin”, the store feels like a slight upgrade from the Foot Lockers we all remember from ‘90s malls that have been torn down for apartment complexes. Employees wear matching sports gear, the display shelves are endlessly clean chrome and glass, and there is not a single article of apparel or a show out of place. 

Their centerpiece display is the traditional “Air Jordan 1” style shoe, originally released in 1985, in a rainbow of color and style options. This shoe is obviously their cash cow, and even to this day probably their highest seller. Nothing immediately striking our fancy here, we strolled with our guide to our next spot. 

Finish Line is a few bays up; competition is fierce in this mall, as I am leaving out another non-culturally releveant shoe store just between those two. Finish Line, founded as a single entity in 1976 as a running shoe retailer that has a more traditional focus of running and athletics shoes, doesn’t try to overwhelm shoppers with a specific brand. They actually keep their J’s in the back of the store, knowing that any buyer that is interested in the style will make it all the way to the back for them. We try on a few pairs of Adidas shoes at the insistence of Kiel, have a look at some of their sale deals, and move on. Kiel made sure to play the part of devil’s advocate here, trying to throw Clarke and I off the scent. We were absolutely brand hungry on this trip, but the Aadidas were by-far the most comfortable pair I tried on that day. 

House of Hoops and Foot Locker are a combined store, the former being the child breakout of the latter, targeting anyone Ready to get serious about getting into shoe culture. They make no attempt to deceive; a literal shit-ton of new releases, the hottest apparel, the loudest music, and the most ‘culturally woke (apologies for using this)’ employees that gave the experience you would expect when dishing out a hefty chunk of cash. They know the shoes, they clearly want your money, they know they have the best stock, and their employees are happy to make a sizeable commission off of you. . The employee to customer ratio here is the best, and we were approached multiple times for sizing and opinion. None of the other stores offered this, where we almost always had to seek out a flustered high school age employee to get a few pairs out from the stockroom. They don’t try to sell you a pair of kicks, they try to sell you two, and then laugh about it all they way to the club. This was their strategy on me, and it was overwhelmingly successful. I bought two pairs of J’s here, after the requisite hot lap. 

Our final stop was at Champs Sports, the largest of the five by far. Their selection of any and every style of athletic shoe was fantastic, and they also have by far the largest selection of apparel. Their options of non-Jordan brand Nikes caught the eye of Kiel in particular on this trip, starting him down the dangerous route of purchasing another pair. He ordered a pair from Champs as their only pair in his size and interest had a terrible and regrettable sticker goo issue. 

After a hot lap, I was more immediately decided on a pair than Clarke. As mentioned above, I was easily goaded into two pairs by the sharks at House of Hoops, opting for a pair of the Jordan XXXIII SE’s in the ‘Baseball’ color way, and a pair of off-white Jordan Apex Reacts. Both a poor and great investment, but Kiel stayed hands-on with the decision, making it apparent that he would emerge as a spirit that will lead me down the path of ruin. 

Clarke, wiser and more analytical than myself, decided on a much more ‘Entish’ route to his first pair, made a few trips back and forth, carefully sidestepping either fatal sizing or color issues. This is common, Kiel tell us. It’s very rare to make a purchase in one fell swoop, especially with a decision like this. I realize he’s right, especially after my blood- drunk decision, and I realize that my approach will need to change if I am to sustain a healthy collection alongside a functional marriage. 

Low-Key Orange Julius Recipe. You’re welcome.

Upon leaving the mall, Clarke and I start asking the hard-hitting questions, much like children that finally talked their parents into a puppy and have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into. 

“How do we seal them?”

“When do we buy another pair?”

“What happens if someone scuffs them?”

Cooly, Kiel answers all of our questions with sage-like expertise, but delivers little comfort. After asking about buying toe box crease resistors, feeling deathly afraid to ever remove my J’s from their hyperbolic chamber, Keil proclaimed, “Save your money. Buy more shoes.”


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