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Air Jordans: The Genius of Strasser Moore and Vaccaro

What up! Hip-hop heads. We know that hip-hop has had a tremendous impact on the fashion industry, shaping trends and styles in clothing, accessories, and footwear. Air Jordans were no different, it was hip hop culture. From the early days of breakdancing and graffiti to the rise of rap music and streetwear culture, hip-hop has always been closely tied to fashion. Icons like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Tupac Shakur helped popularize streetwear staples like Adidas tracksuits, oversized t-shirts, and bucket hats. At the same time, designers like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren didn’t embrace hip-hop style or fashion in their collections. But hip hop has embraced Tommy and Ralph into their culture, driving sales of shoes, pants, and jackets through the roof.

Today, hip-hop continues to influence fashion, with artists like Kanye West and Pharrell Williams becoming major players in the industry and streetwear brands like Supreme and Bape achieving cult status among fans. Whether through bold graphics, flashy jewelry, or unconventional silhouettes, hip-hop has proven to be a powerful force in shaping the way we dress. Let’s see how hip-hop legends like Run-DMC led to the evolution of Adidas Sportswear.

Man, listen! 1984 was a total game-changer for pop culture. Prince dropped his cult classic Purple Rain, while in the tech sector, Apple came out with the Macintosh during a Super Bowl ad, and MTV even hosted the first-ever Video Music Awards. Crazy, right?

Back in the day, America was dealing with a lot of stuff like a recession, race and gender issues, the AIDS pandemic, and culture wars. But at the same time, Black culture, entertainment, hip-hop news, and sports were killing it in the news, at the box offices, on TV, and with the public. It was a wild mix of creativity and chaos.

The Power Of A Song: How Run-DMC Changed the Sneaker Industry With Adidas 

run dmc is hip hip dead
Run Dmc is hip hip dead

So, there’s this company called Adidas, right? It was actually started by a businessman named AdiDassler in Germany way back in 1924. Originally, it was called GebrüderDasslerSchuhfabrik. But in 1949, they changed the name to Adidas. Fun fact: they made the first track shoe with a leather sole and hand-forged spikes. And guess who wore them at the 1936 Olympics? None other than Jessie Owens! Pretty cool, huh?

So, back in 1964, these dudes named Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight started this company called Blue Ribbon Sports. But then, in 1971, they changed the name to Nike Inc. ’cause they wanted to be fancier or something. And then, all of a sudden, everyone was obsessed with running. So Nike made this shoe called the Cortez, which was super comfy for running. And then, Tom Hanks wore them in Forrest Gump, and Nike became super famous.

So, this sociologist named Yuniya Kawamura did some research on sneakers and found that there were three waves of the sneaker craze. The first one happened in the 70s and was all about sneaker culture in the underground scene and hip-hop.

There was this Adidas shoe called the Samba that became super popular in the football fan subculture. Then in ’86, Run-DMC came out with a song called My Adidas, and Adidas started sponsoring them. That’s when sneakers really became a big part of black hip-hop news and culture.

So, in 1984, Nike Air Jordans hit the scene, and suddenly everyone wanted cool kicks. Famous people started endorsing them, and it became a status symbol. Then came the digital age, and now sneaker marketing and resale culture are bigger than ever. That’s what Kawamura calls the third wave.

Sneakerheads are everywhere nowadays, and they’re obsessed with collecting and swapping sneakers. Nike and Adidas are always dropping special editions of shoes connected to famous people like celebrities, hip-hop artists, or athletes. These kicks are always in high demand and have a serious cult following.

People will do anything to get their hands on those rare models, even waiting in line all night long. Some examples are the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October” and Air Jordan x 1 Off-White “Chicago.”

Okay, so these shoes originally cost between $190 to $240 (or £135 to £170), but now people are selling them for crazy prices like $1,695 to $6,118 (or £1,202 to £4,339). It’s all because of this sneaker resale craze that’s got people making serious cash and getting super into collecting shoes. It’s pretty wild!

Sneakers are everywhere these days, from sports to fashion. But even though everyone’s wearing them, they still manage to stay cool and iconic.

Nike and Adidas Fought for Dominance 

Air Jordans
Air Jordan

In 1984, Nike’s Air Jordan shoes became a big thing in basketball shoes, and it all started with a weird mix of reasons like the NBA’s ban on the shoes, Michael Jordan feeling awkward about his slim legs, and a steamy scene in an indie movie.

In the early 90s, three dudes who were big shots at Nike left to join Adidas America. They wanted to make some cool new products and find a hot, young athlete to promote them. These guys were Rob Strasser, Peter Moore, and Sonny Vaccaro. Their plan ended up starting a big competition between Nike and Adidas called the “shoe war.” It got pretty heated and personal.

A lot of it was because Vaccaro wanted Adidas to be in control of the young basketball players in America. Some people thought his plan was smart, but others said it was just rich people trying to take over the sport and giving too much money to young players and their teams.

So, like, Phil Knight from Nike was gonna realize that this whole situation was, like, seriously gonna mess with their domination of the basketball shoe market, even if it messed up the sport in the long run.

Vaccaro, Moore, and Strasser were excited to compete with Knight and their old company, Nike, as former employees. They were inspired by their memories of working with the legendary Jordan when he was a young, talented basketball player and an expert at selling shoes. The launch of Air Jordan in 1984 was a crazy time, and they look back on it with fondness because it made a ton of money and was the highlight of their careers. They credit Jordan’s magic with making it all possible.

Even David Stern wanted a signature pair; can you believe it? Peter Moore would chuckle about it when thinking back on it thirty years later. Back in ’84, Nike and Adidas were both kinda struggling with their athletic shoes. They were trying to find their place in the market and figure out who they were. You could’ve snagged Nike’s stock for like seven bucks a pop.

So, there was this guy named Sonny Vaccaro who had this cool idea to make a whole bunch of stuff with Michael Jordan’s name on it. He and some other dude named Billy Packer talked to Phil Knight from Nike during the 1984 Olympics.

Vaccaro tried hard to convince Knight to sign Jordan to a big contract because he was going to be famous. Packer remembers that Knight didn’t seem too excited about the idea.

So, Nike Vice President Rob Strasser had seen Vaccaro do his thing in college basketball before. Back in the late 70s, Nike had hired Vaccaro because of his idea to pay coaches secretly to have their amateur players wear Nike shoes. That helped Nike become the top brand. So, even though Knight wasn’t interested, Strasser was open to hearing Vaccaro’s pitch for Jordan. In no time, Moore drew up the first logo for the product line, which had wings. Strasser was a big, enthusiastic guy.

So, Nike had a meeting with the bratty young star and his mom in Portland. It was Moore’s big chance to sell Air Jordan to Jordan himself. Jordan was going to be the first team athlete with his own product line, but he hadn’t played an NBA game yet. At the time, Jordan was only 21 and had a pretty negative attitude towards Nike.

Adidas and Converse couldn’t even come close to the sweet deal Nike offered. They were offering Jordan a percentage of the profits, which was unheard of for an endorser.

As the meeting went on, Jordan started to like the idea more, and Moore noticed how charismatic he was. Strasser, known as the “fat guy” at Nike, was the one who connected Jordan with the company. He was a big, bearded lawyer with a lot of charm and quickly won Jordan over.

When Jordan played his first exhibition games in October 1984, Nike gave him these cool red and black Air Ships. But then NBA commissioner David Stern’s office called Strasser and said Jordan couldn’t wear them because the league only allowed white shoes. Total bummer.

It wasn’t until February that Stern’s right-hand man, Russ Granik, bothered to send Strasser a letter that sort of reminded him that the shoes Jordan was wearing weren’t up to NBA standards. Shoe nerds later scoured through videos and pics of Jordan’s games that season and couldn’t find any proof that he rocked the red and black Air Jordans on the court.

Strasser and Moore just took advantage of the NBA’s weak enforcement and turned it into one of the best marketing moves ever for Air Jordan, which ended up making over $150 million in sales.

But it wasn’t just about the shoes – Jordan also had a knack for fashion. He started with the NBA uniform, which he thought was too short and revealing. So basically, Moore got the idea for Jordan’s new image from a pic Rentmeester took of him in a tracksuit during the ’84 Olympics. Moore paid $150 for the rights to use it, and Rentmeester had taken the pic in a really cool way.

Later, Rentmeester sued Nike, saying they used his photo to create the famous image of Jordan jumping across the Chicago skyline that Moore wanted for Jordan’s second logo.

Moore was looking for a Russian dancer vibe for Jordan’s new image, which was pretty important to him. His second favorite thing he did for Jordan and Nike was creating the Jumpman logo right after his first success. The logo showed up on the third Air Jordan in 1987, which was designed by Moore’s former assistant, Tinker Hatfield.

So, the idea for the Jumpman logo started and ended up being the symbol for Jordan’s super-successful Nike line. Not long after that, the designer stumbled upon a picture of Jordan’s Jumpman poster hanging in a hut in the Philippines. It dawned on him that Jordan had a special something that resonated with people all over the globe.

So, the company had this plan to add Spike Lee to Jordan’s image, but it would take a couple of years to make it happen. Funny enough, Moore had made a hip-hop-themed campaign for Jordan as a joke, but it never went public because it didn’t match Jordan’s style back in 1986. But if they had ads directed by and starring Lee, it would totally change that. And even though Strasser and Moore weren’t involved in Spike Lee’s success, it almost made Jordan leave Nike.

So, Air Jordan was taking off, but then things got a bit messy within Nike, and it almost all fell apart. They had missed out on the aerobics shoe craze in the 80s, which hurt their stock prices.

The Air Jordan line blowing up helped out, but it also brought a bunch of attention to Rob Strasser as the guy who rescued Nike. Strasser and Phil Knight had been friends for a while, but their relationship started to become strained unexpectedly, over the Air Jordan brand.

Some people thought Knight just wanted to make sure he was the only one getting credit for Nike’s success. Strasser took a break from Nike but left for good in June 1987. Moore left a week later.

Jordan wasn’t too thrilled about Knight. According to Knight, Nike shouldn’t rely on just one athlete. Any athlete is fine, but not just one. But let’s not forget Jordan plays basketball while Knight is a track and field runner who did the mile. He was a lone runner, and they have two different ways of thinking, you know.

Former Employees Create New Agency

So Strasser and Moore hustled to create a new marketing agency, and Jordan was eager to jump on board and ditch Nike. But after mulling over the sweet deal Nike had given him, with royalties on shoe sales like never before, Strasser and Moore advised him not to let go of his Nike shoe contract. It was just too lucrative.

Jordan thought it was a good move to stick with Nike for the shoes, but they weren’t interested in branching out to casual wear or expanding the Jordan brand.

Jordan was thinking of starting a new company, Michael Jordan Inc., and thought it would be cool if Strasser and Moore could help him out. They could make clothes and gear with the Jordan name on them and get the word out to everyone.

Jordan thought it would be a cool idea for the three of them to team up and maybe even get Nike to help fund it. Since Jordan’s original contract was almost up, they decided to meet with Knight and talk about their new plan.

Jordan went to a meeting that helped him make his own special brand. Strasser and Moore went a different way to try and make Adidas America better than Nike in America.

Adidas hired two people to help them sell more shoes in America and compete with Nike. Their job was to make Adidas more popular and take some of Nike’s customers. It was like a game of finding the next really popular shoe, like Air Jordan.

Did he want to find a new talented kid? Vaccaro, who was a bit chubby and had tired-looking eyes, was really excited about it. He didn’t like Phil Knight very much.

A man named Knight made a lot of money selling shoes with the help of a basketball expert named Vaccaro. But in 1990, Knight got rid of Vaccaro without giving him any money. We don’t know why he did this.

Vaccaro didn’t like Nike and the group that oversees college sports, called the NCAA. They tried to bully him and his friend, who coached a team at UNLV. They even hired someone to look through Vaccaro’s money stuff. Vaccaro wanted to get revenge on both Nike and the NCAA.

He had an idea to find a really good player for a game and make a deal with them to wear Adidas clothes when they finish school.

Adidas wants to do better than Nike by finding a great player who can sell lots of shoes. They also want to help a talented player forget college and go straight to the NBA. It would be a big victory for Adidas and a problem for the NCAA.

Vaccaro believed that young athletes who were really good at basketball should have the choice to play professionally instead of going to college. He thought that the group that made rules for college sports only cared about making money and didn’t treat the athletes fairly. While college sports are great for some athletes, he believed that the very best should be able to play professionally if they wanted to.

Some people thought that Vaccaro was a bad person because of his past of gambling in Las Vegas. But Moore thought differently and believed that Vaccaro was really interested in helping athletes get paid fairly, even if it meant he wouldn’t make as much money himself.

Back in ’93, Vaccaro was on a mission to find the next big thing for Adidas. He thought he had it with NY high schooler Felipe Lopez. So, he hired one of his fams and started getting to know the kid, prepping him for the big leagues and a sweet shoe deal.

Lopez was a cool dude, and we eventually found out he was top-notch. But a lot of scouts, even Vaccaro, thought he was better than he really was. Plus, Lopez wasn’t really into the idea of going pro right after high school. Back then, basketball was mostly for guys, and only a few tall folks went straight to the big leagues from high school. It was pretty dumb for a guard or wing to try it.

Vaccaro dealt with that problem a lot while working for Adidas. There weren’t many super-talented players, and the ones who were didn’t want to skip college.

Vaccaro tried to strike a deal by hooking Lopez up with a $500,000 contract to play ball in Europe, but the kid wasn’t interested and ended up enrolling at St. John’s for college ball.

Yo, everyone in the shoe game knows that Vaccaro was doing some work with Lopez. Phil Knight from Nike was worried that Vaccaro was gonna use all his basketball connections to help out Adidas. He asked his crew how Vaccaro beat them to the punch with Lopez.

Things could have gotten pretty heated, but only ten months after Adidas made a comeback, Rob Strasser passed away unexpectedly at a meeting in Germany in October 1993.

So, in 1993, the athletic shoe industry took another hit. Michael Jordan’s dad, James, was found dead in South Carolina that August and two guys were accused of killing him.

The Final Chapter Of Strasser Moore and Vaccaro 

So in October, right after Rob Strasser passed away, Jordan just up and said he was done with pro basketball. The shoe biz didn’t take it well, and Phil Knight’s Nike stock took a hit of over fifteen million bucks.

After finding out that Strasser had passed away, Peter Moore gave Phil Knight a call. Following the loss of his friend, Vaccaro started thinking about who could be the next big thing in basketball. He wondered if there was a high school player out there with enough courage to become the next Jordan.

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