Nike has officially trademarked the Air Jordan 1 – in three configurations of High, Low and Low SE – thus ending the aggressive spell of bootleg sneakers we’ve seen so many of in the past 24 months. While the trend has been picking up steam in recent years, there are a couple of pairs that laid the foundations for the bootleg game we know today. Let’s examine some of the most important bootlegs ever made, and look through why they’re accepted by a sneaker community that generally hates fakes.
A BATHING APE BAPESTA, 1999
The Bapesta we all know of was released in 2000 as a more colorful alternative to the Air Force 1. Nigo’s legendary directive saw the sneaker take off globally through his friendship with Pharrell and Kanye West, and this is undoubtedly the bootleg that really started it all. Without the Bapesta, none of the sneakers on this list would exist.
ARI MENTHOL 10, 2002
2006 saw Ari Saal Foreman release the Ari Menthol 10. The sneaker arrived as a parody of Nike and big tobacco, both of which are prone to using exploitative marketing targeting their consumer base. We see the recognisable Air Force 1’s silhouette with Newport’s Spinnaker Logo, and packaging reminiscent of a cigarette box. Newport was a mentholated cigarette manufacturer known to be targeting the African American community, and Ari’s bootleg was made to poke fun and provoke some conversation on conscious consumerism, with the inside tag reading “this sneaker is dedicated to the two brands who have taken the most and given the least. Thanks for the motivation… now it’s OUR time!!!”.
As one would expect, neither Nike or Newport were fans of the design which undermined their brand values and exposed them for shady business practices. After 252 pairs were sold at a pop-up shop in New York, Ari received a cease and desist order from Nike as well as a far more complex legal battle with Newport. Newport’s multi-million dollar legal team which saw the sneaker outlawed entirely. If any sneakers went on the market for less than $200 the graphic designer had to buy back the shoes and destroy them himself, and Foreman cannot legally own a pair, talk about them, he simply can’t do anything in relation to his creation. Now, the sneaker exists in an unknown run, with collectors searching up and down for pairs online – this is why the shoe commands a price in the tens of thousands of dollars.
WARREN LOTAS’ DUNK LOWS, 2019
Warren Lotas is this era’s king of replica. A figurehead for the bootleg sneaker trend, Lotas released a number of Dunk bootlegs featuring a Jason Voorhees-esque hockey mask on the Swoosh. Over an 18 month period Warren’s designs were polarising to say the least, but at the climax earlier this year we saw Nike take legal action, and Lotas countersue. It is unknown how far along the legal battle is right now, but it’s a complex process full of yellow tape.
FUGAZI ONE IN THE CHAMBER, 2020
Bootlegs are often released to a mixed bag of opinions; some hateful, some praising. One such bootleg that managed to turn the tide of hate and garner a huge amount of love is Trevor Gorji’s take on the Air Jordan 1 through the Fugazi “One in the Chamber”, which arrives as arguably the most flavorful bootleg on the market through a wild west themed, never-ending set of details. A silhouette so sacred to sneakerheads is turned into a new beast, with a revolver replacing the Swoosh, bandana lining, a completely modified sole unit featuring horseshoes, bullet cases and a firing range target, and so much more. Bullets for aglets, bullet holes for perforations, this shoe is a brilliant work of art as it fundamentally changed the Air Jordan 1 into a new sneaker. After Trev’s work took over the instagram explore page, there has been a ridiculous onslaught of bootlegs from small “designers” who have tried – and failed horribly – to replicate the level of success enjoyed by this sneaker.
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