I wrote a little piece for my friends at Complex on the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It and its subsequent influence on sports footwear and the Air Jordan line. You can read it HERE or by clicking on the image above. A couple of bits that never made the final edit are below, because this place is a good place to dump unwanted paragraphs.
[ON THE TOPIC OF THE JORDAN 1 FALTERING]
Production on She’s Gotta Have It took place in the summer of 1985, when the Air Jordan 1 had reached fever pitch. Despite the shoe selling huge numbers, Jordan’s broken foot on October 29th cost him 64 games. Not ideal. While the model is considered a classic now, it’s worth noting that a post-release lull and sheer volume of colourways ended up steering Nike into risky waters, particularly with Reebok’s aerobic releases on their tale, with 1987’s Nike Air pack ultimately offering some stability.
Clark was there at the time, a paid DJ already picking up doubles, and he conceded on the Rap Radar show that, “Before, Jordan 1’s sat on the wall.” In connoisseur’s connoisseur Bobbito Garcia 2003 shoe bible ‘Where’d You get Those?’, the first Jordan is confined to a chapter dedicated to bad shoes, with Bobbito commenting, “The worst thing about the Jordan was the wing logo on the high top. Neither fresh nor subtle. Magnify that by every herb in the world who wore these, and you have one of the worst signature shoes from the glory period of sneaker design.”
[ON THE TOPIC OF DO THE RIGHT THING & SAMPLES]
That product placement relationship between Nike and Spike blossomed in the summer of 1989. Ask most people what the definitive Spike Lee sneaker moment onscreen is and they’ll bypass Mars’ attire and forget Denzil Washington’s Jake Shuttlesworth being sold Air Jordan XIIIs in 1998’s He Got Game in favour of Do the Right Thing. Giancarlo Esposito’s firebrand character Buggin’ Out famously lives up to his nickname when he accosts a white resident of the neighbourhood (a Celtics fan, naturally) for scuffing his Air Jordan IVs.
Even after his misfortune, the $108 with tax that Buggin’ Out is alleged to have spent on his sneakers was a good investment, seeing as the damaged white and cement pair we see a closeup of are samples with a half perforated toe box and less of the tongue mesh than the version that was actually released. Spike Lee evidently had the juice to be able to call in unreleased designs, seeing as the film was shot over eight weeks in Bed-Stuy during the summer of 1988 — almost half a year before the IV was released.
For all the quotable moments, Do the Right Thing is a fearless, furious piece of filmmaking that ultimately charges into its topics of race relations, gentrification in a memorably incendiary finale. Even beyond Air Jordan, the Nike project placement in the film is extensive and it remains a mystery whether the brand had examined the script closely before supplying shoes or simply whether they were savvy enough to understand that affiliating themselves with unsanitised realness would afford them an unparalleled authenticity with young consumers.