Shelton Jackson Lee, otherwise known as Spike Lee, celebrates his 54th birthday today. While his memorable films and courtside antics at a Knicks game may make him a household name, it’s his iconic pairing with a certain sports star in 1988 that would go on to make him synonymous with the youth and full fledged sneaker culture of today.
Its Gotta Be The Shoes!
In 1986, Spike Lee’s first feature film “She’s Gotta Have It” featured a funny, scrawny and voicetrous lust driven b-boy (played by Lee himself) that proudly wore his Air Jordan I’s… even in the most intimate of moments. Mars Blackmon was his name and his presence, along with a quirky script and well supported cast, would go on to make “She’s Gotta Have It” a huge indie hit. Mars looked like most of the black youth at the time but also became a trend setter. Oversized frames, biker shorts and high-top Nikes became the look for the time. All eyes were on Spike Lee and his blossoming film career. However it was the eyes in Portland, at the advertising agency Weiden + Kennedy, that would really embrace Lee and his alter ego. Meanwhile in the Midwest, a high flying trendsetter in his own right, Michael Jordan was becoming the face of the NBA. With his Air Jordan line generating much publicity, some unknown genius over at W+K decided to pair the Brooklyn born filmmaker with His Airness. And, as they say, the rest is history.
In Februrary of 1988, Lee reprised the role of Blackmon for a series of Air Jordan ads that would go on to create memorable one liners, produce posters, cards, apparel and a worldwide hype for the Air Jordan shoe. The ads made no secret of who they were targeting, and with the popularity of hip-hop steadily rising, Mars addressing the audience with “yo!” (among other things) spoke directly to the very people that would take part in this revolution. The nation laughed at Mars’ pitch, wowed as Jordan soared and then bought the shoes.
The Spike/Mike campaign would continue well into the mid 90s as Mars made fewer appearances; the last being in 1995 after “Money”, as he always called Mike, dropped 55 points or “a double nickel” on his beloved Knicks. In 2003, Spike would don the bicycle cap, Cazals, “Mars” gold chain and his Air Jordans in a bittersweet farewell spot to seal Michael’s last hurrah in the league.
Spike’s work with the brand didn’t end there. As the new millennium panned out, Spike would go on to direct a few ads for Jordan Brand but without the Mars persona. In 2006, to commemorate the iconic ad campaigns (as well as the 20th year anniversary of Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule production company), Jordan Brand put together the Air Jordan Spiz’ike. The Air Jordan Spiz’ike was one of the first hybrid shoes of the brand and contained elements of each shoe that the Spike/Mike ads pushed all in one silhouette. The end result was a very popular shoe that sold out in minutes. One colorway in particular (pictured above) was an I-95 exclusive, and if found deadstocked and with a Spike Lee signature, it can cost you a few months rent. How’s that for a come up on $175?
The Spike/Mike ads would shake up the whole advertising landscape. In previous Jordan ads, he had no voice. It was all about the shoes. Now, Jordan had a persona and had embraced hip-hop culture and made it VERY marketable to say the least. Who’s to thank? Is it Nike and Weiden + Kennedy? What about the name bearer, Michael Jordan? What about our boy Spike? Nah, it’s gotta be the shoes!
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