One Block Down x 90sAnxiety team up for the new AJ 4 Crimson "Red Thunder" - Chapter II
The One Block Down editorial archive is an ever-evolving resource detailing the cultures, movements and ideas that defined contemporary stylistic discourse. From unique takes on today’s leading pop-culture topics, to off-kilter stories that might have slipped through the net, our editorial archive is as fundamental as it is abstract.
One Block Down and 90sAnxiety are partnering to honor the upcoming release of Jordan Brand: the Air Jordan 4 Crimson 'Red Thunder'. We'll be exploring the model's legacy and cultural relevance from several angles, expressing each through unique visuals that, when pieced together, tell the story of a profound cultural shift.
Here, we look at the years after Michael Jordan retired from the NBA in 1998 and Jordan Brand’s evolution in the early 2000s to express the underlying meaning of 'Red Thunder’ - a symbol for passion, culture, and energy.
Jordan Brand propelled a cultural shift in the early 2000s, transcending the confines of sports by introducing driving subcultures of the time into the brands’ universe. This contextual expansion, one that only a few iconic sportswear brands ventured into, can be regarded as the bedrock of modern-day sneaker culture.
Hip-Hop was the fundamental cornerstone that initialized an incentive to engage deeply with communities beyond sports. Since the 1990s, a time regarded as the “Golden Age of Hip-Hop,” rappers have integrated Air Jordans into their stylistic framework, majorly shaping the culture’s style discourse: a relationship that continued to manifest itself over the years.
When Nike officially launched Jordan Brand as a separate entity in 1997, the company held a tremendous celebration in New York, accompanied by influential Hip-Hop groups such as A Tribe Called Quest. The event symbolized the brand’s deep-felt respect and admiration for the culture-defining community, willingly opening the gates for future partnerships. Hence, Nike enhanced its association with Hip-Hop.
Later, the Air Jordan 4 “Encore,” a highly limited collaboration with Eminem released in 2005, certified Nike’s great emphasis on Hip-Hop as it continued to shape the face of Pop-Culture significantly. The shoe, eponymous to the rapper's 5th solo album, marks the first Air Jordan in official collaboration with a rap artist.
Even though the project was limited to just 50 pairs and never went to retail, the partnership was an example of the sports brand’s evolution into the broader domains of other cultures. Ultimately, Nike aspired to become a brand of the youth.
At the same time, the figure of Michael Jordan continued to grow in popularity as an icon, not only restricted to basketball, even though he continued being part of the NBA by owning the Charlotte Hornets - symbolizing his infinite admiration for the game.
The former athlete's passions and mentality beyond his former profession transcended the realm of sports, and hence, portrayed an excellent narrative for Jordan Brand to cement its aspired position in mainstream culture. Besides Michael Jordan simply being the cultural icon he was, Jordan Brand amplified its strategy by launching products that stood in relation to the retired athletes’ interests and lifestyles.
The Air Jordan 4 “Thunder,” initially released in 2006, is an example of one of Jordan Brand’s first colorways depicting the cultural icon’s personality beyond his profession of sports. As the predecessor of the now-releasing Air Jordan 4 “Red Thunder,” the original “Thunder” colorway was developed to celebrate Michael Jordan’s endeavor in founding his personal Motorcycle Race Team. Throughout his professional NBA career, Michael became a highly passionate motorhead, building up an impressive collection of cars. The hobby-referencing colorway illustrated Jordan Brands’ ability to cautiously step into the lifestyle market without distorting the company’s core DNA.
The passion for the persona of Michael Jordan was observable worldwide. Thanks to his unrivaled career with the Chicago Bulls and the USA Basketball Team, Michael is still widely renowned as the greatest basketball player of all time. The greatness underlying the athletes’ legends of success made fans from several places of the globe want to “be like Mike.”
The enthusiasm around his legacy not only remained with the progression of time but continued to reach new horizons with the rise of the internet. Accordingly, Forums like NikeTalk became the cultural venue for sneakerheads from all over the world, facilitating a platform for like-minded fanatics to discuss and talk about the cultural significance of the greatest athlete of all time.
To receive updates on our latest editorials and documentaries, be sure to follow @oneblockdownon Instagram and subscribe to our newsletter below for more.