In what will go down as perhaps the most controversial release in Jordan brands recent times, the Jordan 1 Retro Trophy Room has been making rounds on social media – for all the wrong reasons. Out of an estimated 12,000 total pairs, including the pairs Jordan brand has distributed to brand partners, hundreds of pairs have already been released and shared across social media bringing up the discussions of backdooring, fakes, and the state of the sneaker landscape.
The pair itself draws its inspiration from the 1985 All-Star Game – telling the story of how Michael Jordan was supposed to be humiliated by his more senior rivals in his first appearance at an all-star match. The Freeze Out as it has become known, has been a hot topic in basketball with various conflicting accounts of what truly happened. The frosty external coating is in reference to this and matches the icy sole. To add to the backstory, there is a printed Michael Jordan signature on the heel of each pair as well as a ticket for each box.
Another important point in regards to the Trophy Room 1’s, is that it is planned to release at Trophy Room – the sneaker store belonging to Marcus Jordan, Michael Jordan’s son. The store Trophy Room describes itself as “an elevated boutique” and “inspired by the trophy room within the Jordan family residence.”
The special Jordan 1 release has been discussed by the sneaker community since late 2020. Marcus Jordan himself responded to talk about the pairs by claiming that Trophy Room themselves had not paid or ordered the Trophy Room Jordan 1’s, and that there was foul play on behalf of Nike’s Memphis distribution centre – the largest of its kind. This response drew criticism from the industry both for the fact that Nike retailers often take stock on credit, and for the fact that it is true that pairs have been released and entered the real market. Some have claimed that the addition of blue laces came extremely late in the production process and as such, many “early pairs” did not come with the additional blue laces.
More importantly however is the discussion this has raised about backdooring entirely. HypePlug’s segmentation of the supply chain starts at the factory where they are manufactures, then to distribution centres owned by Nike and their subsidiaries across the world, the retail stores which sell the products, and then the distribution facilities which receive returned or undelivered orders. Across these four stages, there is profit to be made, and in recent times it has become more and more lucrative to sell these high valued products as an insider to a waiting consumer. The main discussion surrounding this however is not regarding the nature of backdoors but mainly surrounding the huge financial benefits.
What has however been debated in public is whether or not Trophy Room should even be backdooring pairs. The owner is a member of the Jordan family and the fact that his store has been offered multiple signature pairs across various iconic silhouettes does leave a sour taste in the mouth of some, and the fact that the owner and store stood to benefit from cutting out the everyday consumer has become a major talking point. Many have quoted the backdoor price at US$1,000 (nearly 10x suggested retail price) which people have used to extrapolate huge income figures from Trophy Rooms backdoor channel. Obviously the numbers have not been made public, nor has there been an announcement from Marcus Jordan, Trophy Room, Jordan brand, or Nike regarding the release of this sneaker.
A second theory is that the market has been flooded by fakes. Since Q3 2020 there have been replica pairs surfacing on social media and online forums. In a day and age where replica sneakers are manufactured in factories identical too, and often made from the original specifications based from authentic Nike products, it is becoming increasingly challenging to ensure that fake sneakers do not enter the sneaker market as authentic. In addition, this release was of course limited and all pairs are numbered which have come from the Nike factory. Despite this there have been some big giveaways such as the use of a UV light to expose stitching lines on templates as shown below. Below are two fake pairs. Many consumers also anticipate there being an announcement made by Marcus Jordan or Trophy Room exposing an intricacy of the real pairs which are not featured on the early replicas.
In a similar way to the Diors, time will help expose the pairs which are inauthentic as matching numbers start to arise, however we will still need to wait in regards to the Trophy Room 1’s – which are set to be released on the 10th February 2021.
All said, many of those in the industry have compared this release to the Travis Scott Jordan 1 collaboration, which was aggressively backdoored on a highly anticipated shoe which prompted public discussion on sneakers supply channels and the state of the sneaker world. It became radically clear that the earlier in the supply chain you buy the shoes, and the earlier the pairs you have in hand, the more online clout you receive – and is far less technically intrusive than using bots.
HypePlug is of the opinion that as backdoors become more visible and even more demanding for quick cash in hand, there will be more grassroots resellers aiming to connect with sneaker businesses specialising in early pairs or backdoor plugs. Already in recent years there have been a suspicious rise in the amount of “factory” plugs and even more so on the sell side where there are countless sneaker accounts selling early pairs, many of which cannot be independently verified for authenticity. This will inevitably lead to an increase in fake and replica pairs entering the authentic market and will temporarily propel various sellers into the mainstream.
Despite the antics which take place on the consumer facing side, there is much to be said about the organisations organising the release, and their responsibility to ensure that the pairs make it into the hands of passional sneaker heads who want the sneaker themselves versus the sneaker resell clans. To further add to the dialogue, Nike suggested a retail price of $170, but have listed the sneakers for sale at $190.
Sneakers are obviously at a high mainstream point and this sneaker release may epitomise what the landscape has become, and why there may need to be more aggressive policing by Nike to ensure that their products are still being sold to their core clientele. However with that said, the Jordan brand is incredibly lucrative but the organisation are not making the bulk of their income through the sale of exclusive and limited Jordans, but through the hundreds and thousands of general release sneakers which the average consumer buys. All the exclusivity and hype is pushing a marketing and positioning campaign putting their products in front of the camera being worn by relevant individuals – and maybe the sneaker resellers are relevant individuals in todays day and age for pushing the product and brand into the hands of the next generation.