My Grail: Air Jordan 1 “Black/Red”

My Grail: Air Jordan I “Black/Red”


In 1985 Nike debuted the first signature sneaker for Chicago Bulls rookie Michael Jordan, a red and black high top which was nothing like anything seen before. In that same year NBA Commissioner David Stern banned the shoe for not properly matching the Bulls’ uniforms. Thanks to the attention the sneakers received on the court, they flew off the shelves off of the court as well, paving the way for the Air Jordan to become a cultural icon.


Fast forward to the early millennium, probably 2007 or so, and a 17 year old me looking through an issue of Transworld Skateboarding. For a while TWS had a section called “Home Page” where a different pro skater would showcase a few items from their home which they had gathered throughout the years and tell a little story about the importance of each piece. While I can’t find the exact issue for the exact month or year, I can tell you that that month focused on Chad Muska and some of his interesting possessions. Among The Muska’s possessions were a beat up pair of OG Air Jordan 1’s. Recalling from memory, The Muska stated that the shoes were in fact an OG pair from 1985 and that he had kept them in decent condition since then. He had worn the sneakers out and the sneakers had even “participated in a few skate sessions”. After I had examined the sneakers carefully, staring at the Nike Dunk-like shoe with great interest, I decided I must have a pair.

Until this point in my life I had looked on people like my friends from high school who collected sneakers (Mr. Midwestsole himself included) as strange; a waste of money even. Why would these guys spend so much money on basketball shoes and not even wear them? What was so cool about these shoes anyway? The black and red 1 changed all of that.

After reading the segment in Transworld I began to notice the Jordan 1 in old skate photos from the late 1980’s, most notably on the feet of members from the iconic Bones Brigade team members like Steve Caballero, Tommy Guererro and Lance Mountain. As my desire for the shoe grew, so did my respect for its history. At this point I knew nothing about release dates, retros, or any sort of value outside of MSRP. All I knew was the Jordan 1 was awesome, and I needed it.

Steve Caballero (upper) in Air Jordan 1

Steve Caballero (upper) in Air Jordan 1

Years later, on a lazy day in my dorm room at Augustana College in the fall of 2009; while looking on the Finishline web site I noticed on the sidebar a pair of Jordans for sale. Upon following the link I found myself staring at the Jordan 1 DMP pack, on sale! I couldn’t believe my eyes; my grail, in a pack, on sale. At this point even I knew how hard it was to find shoes of this caliber on sale. Being a poor college student, my only hope of acquiring the sneakers would be to ask for them for Christmas. After a carefully worded email to my mother I forwarded the link and quickly forgot about the incident. A few months later they were there, under my family’s tree, waiting for me. It was a dream come true; well, sort of.

My first attempt at hypebeasting

My first attempt at hypebeasting

The leather on the left toe box was scarred, giving them the impression that a predatory bird had attempted to pick up the left shoe with its talons and failed. In reality the pair was probably on sale because they had been returned for that very issue. I, however, didn’t really care. I had my shoes, and they were as awesome as I imagined. That first pair was my gateway pair; the pair that helped to grow  my love of sneakers to what it is today. I still consider the red/black 1 my grail because I still want a perfect pair. That DMP has become beat over the past five years but still finds its way into rotation on rainy days and whenever I want to feel nostalgic. With the black/red 1 set to be retro-ed with the Nike Air this coming December, it is almost a given that I plan to double up.


About bgatesslab

Shoes, skateboarding, and Blackhawks.

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