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Air Jordans are flying less reliably lately

Courtesy of Flight Club LA

Jordan Brand, Nike’s Michael Jordan gear subdivision, makes a killing every holiday season by dropping some of the most sought-after shoes of the year in limited quantities, forcing us “sneakerheads” to either camp out in the cold or use our well-placed connections to get our greedy, little hands on His Airness’ newest kicks. We are slaves to Jordan’s marketing machine. But if that’s what we have to be to bless our feet with these shoes, I hold no shame.

But through all this effort and spending, most of us who know what we’re looking at have been disappointed with the quality of the sneakers that Jordan Brand has released as of late.

Glue stains, cracking midsoles and yellowing leather are some of the things that make us wonder why we would camp out in the early morning hours to spend $175 on a pair of sneakers.

The problem is, these shoes aren’t what they used to be. The original signature models that hit the market when Jordan was playing were sought after not only because of the way they looked, but also because consumers knew they were getting the highest quality basketball shoe on the market.

Consumers could get the first pair of Air Jordans on clearance for $25 in the late ‘80s. In the ‘90s, prices rose to more than $100. “Retros” now retail between $150-$175, if you can get them. If you’re like the rest of the world and don’t camp out for sneakers the day they come out, you have to acquire a pair from a third party for double the retail price for the most sought-after pairs.

In the world of today’s retros, the quality that was so important to us has taken a back seat to the world of business and mass production. These new versions of old shoes aren’t sold for utility, but vanity.

What were once great basketball shoes now crumble after any run on the court.

For those who purchased a pair of Flint XIIIs this past November, there’s a good chance there’s dried glue somewhere on the midsole, making the flawless design and color stripe look like a cheap Payless knockoff.

And still, the shoe flew off the shelves because the silhouette, clad in navy blue and flint grey, is tougher for a shoe connoisseur to pass up than his grandmother’s homemade cookies.

If you were lucky enough to get a pair of the Cool Grey XIs, congratulations. I am indeed jealous. But if you plan on keeping that signature sole icy (an “icy sole” is a term for the white, translucent bottom on basketball shoes) and clean, you better not have any intentions of wearing them more than a few times. Otherwise that icy sole will look like the dirty yellow and brown slush we walk through every day to get to class.

That particular pair of XIs, much like last year’s Space Jams, sold out across the country in less than a day.

The declining quality of retro Jordans is not a new topic. Message boards and websites are chock-full of chatter from angry sneakerheads complaining about the poor quality of their “investments.”

I write this on the eve of a release that has Jordan fans salivating: the white and cement IIIs.

On Jan. 22, the shoes that kicked off the relationship between MJ and one of the greatest shoe designers ever, Tinker Hatfield, will re-release. Jordan wore these in his first MVP season, and when he dunked from the free-throw line in the famous dunk contest of ’88. They are an absolute must-have.

The problem with these IIIs is the midsole will crack like an egg after a few wears, much like the black version that dropped two years ago. The only way to keep these shoes from looking like a Shar Pei is to simply not wear them.

There couldn’t be a more depressing truth about some of the greatest basketball sneakers ever. Shame on you, Jordan Brand. You are destroying the legacy that got you here.

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