**Note** This is Example 1/5 of our “coiski 101: 4 Steps on Writing an Effective Personal Narrative” lesson.
The sneaker culture has been through its fair share of changes throughout the years. Within the ever-changing trends and fluctuating popularity of brands and models, there have been a few mainstays. No brand has been the epitome of sustainability like the Air Jordans. Some claim that their love affair with the brand has faded recently due to the sheer number of releases, but there is always that one model or colorway that brings about nostalgic feelings and fond memories. With the upcoming weekend release of the “Black Cat” Air Jordan 13, I was taken back to a great time in my life and the earliest memory I have of owning a pair of Jordans.
Growing up, my mom and pop always had a ton of shoes. Of course, they weren’t sneakers. My dad had a pair of British Knights that he wore strictly with sweats and/or during driveway shootouts. Moms had a pair of who-knows-what’s that today’s kids would undoubtedly riddle with, “What are those?” jokes. I had no desire to rock British Knights or any other shoe my dad swore was just like the brand names, nor did I care about his uncanny assortment of loud colored dress shoes he always boasted he had since some year in the mid 80’s. I’m an 80’s kid, man. I wasn’t into Hi-Teks or any sort of boot at the time. I wanted sneakers. That’s it. Sneakers.
I started to play basketball when my family moved back to Texas in 1990. From that time, I naturally became an enormous Michael Jordan fan. I never played any other little league sport. That’s all I wanted to do. I embodied ‘Ball is Life.’ I used to watch Jordan games and literally keep every stat, including a shot chart. I mean, I wore #23 on my 5th and 6th grade city league team, coincidently (or not) named the House of Floors Bulls. It was not a game for me. I tried to emulate everything he did on the court, but I talked too much to chew gum and didn’t have the athleticism to shoot the high jumping, flat jumper that Jordan had mastered. There were two things, however, that I could effectively do that would make me like MJ: wear #23 and wear his sneakers.
In 1995, my 7th grade year, the Jordan 11 dropped. Sneakers didn’t have nicknames back then so we simply called them the “patent leather joints.” Never seen anything like them. I wanted those shoes so badly, but they were a no-go for my dad. Not even a sniff. I was only two years removed from grabbing kicks off the ‘2 for $25’ bin and had upgraded to the ‘$60 and under’ selection. No way on God’s green earth my family was making the astronomical jump into the over $100 realm for a pair of sneakers. I remember getting the Eastbay magazine in the mail and ecstatically running with false hopes of persuading my dad that $125 wasn’t that much because…look at them. My request was met with a flat, “How much?” followed by a smirk and a “tuh,” which we all know translates to “yeah right.”
My dreams were shattered. I needed those. Instead, I settled on wearing #23 for the basketball season and the next because Jordans had already extended beyond the reach of the Void family budget.
Then, my life changed forever. Jordan Brand became an entity under Nike, and were now releasing the latest Jordan in a brand new, shiny silver box. If that wasn’t enough, the Jordan 13 had a hologram on the back. A hologram?! They are now called the “He Got Game,” but, again, colorways didn’t have nicknames back then. Oh, these were a must. That was it. I decided I would do anything in my power to get those. This was my freshman year in high school, and I had to have them for my inaugural high school season. I needed some basketball shoes. I ran through my FILA Muscle Balls through the summer, and I couldn’t step on the court in busted kicks. I had a rep to uphold. The ladies were watching; high school ladies. This is different.
After begging and pleading, my mom finally agreed to get me the shoes. There was a kicker, though. She wasn’t waking up early to go to a mall. Just wasn’t going to happen. Excitement had me up at 7 AM that Saturday morning. My mom woke up, described my Saturday chores, and proceeded to carry on as if this were a regular Saturday. It was not! This was the Saturday I was to get my very first pair of Jordans. What in the world are we doing washing dishes? Finally, she utters the words I had been waiting for as she yelled for me to get ready to go. Little did she know, I had my clothes ready the night before. Couldn’t waste time.
It was 11:45 AM, and the mall was about 10 minutes away from where I lived. But that short drive was excruciating. My thoughts ran from the excitement of me getting the new kicks and which outfit I would wear with them to the disappointment I would feel if they had been sold out. I was already getting ticked at my mom for making me miss out, and we hadn’t even pulled into the parking lot.
We got to the mall around noon, and I nearly sprinted to Footlocker to get my size 11. They didn’t have it. My heart sank as I watched the employee just go on about his day like he didn’t just crush my whole life. My mom nonchalantly suggested trying another store, but it was pretty clear she did not understand the gravity of this moment or the significance of me having these shoes right now. I ignored her and asked what they had. I glared a hole in the employee that reluctantly looked behind him to find the sole pair they had left.
In his thick Texas accent, he said “all we have is this 12, man (pronounced main).” I’ll take it. My roller coaster of emotion changed to a smooth airplane ride at the highest altitude. The Jordans had reached $150 now, so it was even more of a reach. $162.38. That’s how much my 14-year old joy would cost my mother. As I floated out of the mall, I saw another teen holding their black and white striped back, and a smile plastered on their face. I knew this stranger and I shared the common bond of happiness that only a fresh pair of kicks could provide. We met with a nod of approval, and kept it moving. I did not hear my mom’s list of rules for the shoes, nor had I noticed the shade my sister had thrown my way because my feet were now too big for her to wear my shoes. I didn’t need to hear any of that. Pop had already instilled in me that hoopers don’t wear their shoes into the gym so that wasn’t an issue. However, I was most definitely going to wear them on Monday. No. Doubt. About. It. I would just convince my mom that I needed to break them in before playing in them. Needless to say, I turned heads when I strutted into school on that glorious Monday. My day was filled with a few daps of approval and a few haters throughout its duration. That’s an effective debut. It was a must to count how many people had them. Back then, anything over 10 were way too many. Seven people had them. I was straight. After that, the Jordans were put up and only came out on game day. No other time. Not even practice. They were eventually stolen due to my teenage carelessness, but that 1997-98 school and basketball year was one for the books because of those shoes.
Everybody who loves sneakers has a story similar to this one.
For those of us that have been labeled sneakerheads, those who really appreciate sneakers for the sneaker and not the Instagram photo op, it’s much more than just hoarding kicks. These shoes usually mean something. Our favorite models come with a story of why. They speak to a joyous time in our lives that are tied to some memory that has depth beyond the leather and rubber. As a young boy, the smell of a new pair of kicks to start school or a new basketball season was like new money. I have bought, sold, received, and donated countless sneakers since 1997, but that Air Jordan 13 in the silver box was the manifestation of my sneaker obsession. I kept that box until I graduated from high school. I couldn’t afford Jordans until that pair. Honestly speaking, my parents probably stretched too far to even get those, so I appreciated them. To this day, I buy those 13s every time they come out. That colorway of those shoes represent more than just another pair for me, and I’m sure you have a similar story.
**Note** Read the five steps we implemented in creating this article here.