IT’S GOT TO BE THE SHOES
I’m still relatively new at this whole Dad thing, but with 7 Christmas’s under my belt, I thought I had gotten the hang of things. All that changed when my 8 year old daughter, Layla, asked Santa for a pair of Nike Air Jordans. That’s a $150 pair of basketball shoes for those out of the loop.
Me “Do you even know who Air Jordan is?”
Layla “Yes, you made us watch that TV show about how he won all of the championships.”
Me “How do you even know about these shoes?”
Layla “Gabby Durran wears them. She’s a sneaker head.” (Gabby Durran is a Disney TV character)
It was at that point that the cultural significance of the Jordan brand really sunk in. Nike, via a Disney Channel product placement had managed to convince my 8 year old that something was cool and in doing so, walked me right into a Kobayashi Maru scenario.
Logically, this is an incredibly easy problem to solve. No eight year old NEEDS $150 sneakers, but this isn’t a logical problem.
People have a baggage. I have it, You have it. Your neighbor has it, and their neighbors have it too. Your baggage are those little experiences that live rent free in your head and have influence over all of your illogical decisions. My baggage, as it pertains to this story is that 30+ years ago, I was the young kid asking my parents for Air Jordans.
It was 1989 and at the tender age of ten, I didn’t know much, but I understood the social cred awarded to the kids with the cool kicks. The only kid from my 3rd grade class that I remember by name is Stoker Wallsmith, and it’s because he was the only kid in the class with a pair of Nike Air Jordans. The Air Jordan IV to be exact. It was decades before the word “influencer” would become a household word, and even then I could recognize the concept of something being a status symbol. Air Jordan’s were cool and Stoker Wallsmith had Air Jordans, so via the transitive property, Stoker Wallsmith was a cool kid.
The next year we moved and I had to change schools. Everything was different. New city, new builing, new classmates, but the one thing that remained the same was that you could identify the “cool kids” by the sneakers that they were wearing. I always gravitated towards the kids with the cool shoes. By now, the Jordan 5 had been released and it was Brian Bozeman that had them. Then in 5th grade it was David Zulich with the Jordan 6’s. Seriously… This is what I remember about being a kid.
In the early 90’s, the kids like me, playing basketball in their driveways well after the sun had already gone down, tongues hanging out of their mouths while attempting their own, often pathetic, version of the “Jumpman logo” signature dunk, all wanted to “Be Like Mike”. We wanted the shoes, but it wasn’t just about running faster or jumping higher. It was as much a fashion statement as it was coolness by association. These shoes were everywhere. From the musicians in the MTV music videos to the actors on your favorite television shows, Nike’s Air Jordan brand had successfully transcended the basketball court and cemented itself in history as pillar of popular culture.
Try as I may, and belive me… I tried. I was never able to convince my parents to buy me a pair of those sneakers. I always had cool shoes, but never Air Jordans. To my parents credit, I turned out just fine. They knew I didn’t need a pair shoes to make friends, and I certianly didn’t need them to support my burgeoning basketball career. Buying a young kid a pair of expensive shoes that they’re going to grow out of before they’re worn in, is a losing proposition. It’s completely illogical.
Which brings us back to the point. This was never a logical problem. This was about me making an emotional purchasing decision. It was about me… I mean Santa. wanting Layla to have something that I never had as a kid. Hell, I was almost 40 before I finally treated my self to a pair.
As you’ve probably concluded, Layla got the shoes for Christmas and she loved them. Santa for the win! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cringe a little bit, 6 months later when she said they were getting a little tight, but as a Dad, it can be difficult to find common ground with your kids, especially as they get older. So now this is kind of “Our Thing”. She wears her Jordan’s, and I wear mine.