Saturday evening. I was on my way home. Dhaka streets are fashionably busier around this time as office hours just broke. I put my left feet, then right, to cross the road in Bata Signal at Elephant road.
But when I see and smell new shoes, I forget there is a car pressing brakes - lest I would be smacked. I couldn't care less. I pivoted while crossing the road. I just saw the most iconic pair of sneakers in a shoe store!
A pair of Nike Air Jordan One. An Air Jordan One Retro High OG Pine Green Unisex edition to be precise. Google tells me it retails for about $160.
I reached the store. Well lit. Arfin Rumey songs on the speakers. A sixty plus aged salesman. What could go wrong?
I gasped. For a pretentious NBA fan like me, I felt like I am at the crossroads of my life. I knew these shoes were fake. Above average rip-offs. Thanks to the "Made in Vietnam" stickers, probably made somewhere in Guangzhou, China.
My father always tells me: If you really love something while shopping, do not act too eager to buy it. The price jumps two folds as soon as you "Bhai, eta shundor" to the salesman. Words to live by, dad.
I knew I needed a pair. So fake Air Jordans it is. Just like a purist Nike fanboy, I shooed away all the Adidas Yeezy Boosts the salesman tried to show me.
How much for these green shoes? I asked for her hand...I mean the price for the Jordans.
The salesman said a price I would not dare spend for a replica shoe. "Overpriced much," I replied to him.
"Do you even know what kind of shoe this is?" The seller raised his eyebrows. The way he said it can be compared to Jesus not knowing about the Holy Grail.
Then he said the word that will destroy everyone who has idolised Michael Jordan, regardless for his sportsmanship or motivational videos about "Never give up."
"Eita chinen? Eta Air Jordas! (he pronounced Jorr-dass).
What did he just say? Jordas?
The armchair sneaker expert in me died. When Tony Stark snapped the universe back and died, I had a similar breakdown. Excuse me salesman uncle, I need to shove some sneaker history 101 down your brain!
I felt like telling him Michael Jordan initially did not like wearing Jordan One. That he felt Nike soles were too thick - he could not feel the court under his feet. You know which shoe MJ wanted to sign up with? Chuck Taylor. But as MJ's rookie years passed, Jordan One changed the course of sneaker culture forever.
In 1985, Jordan One was banned by the NBA because it violated the league's uniform rules. Legend has it Michael Jordan had to pay $5000 in fine for every match he wore it in. I do not buy this story anway.
As soon as word got out that NBA did not like Jordan One, Nike carved business out of this issue.
An ad appeared on television nationwide: "On October 15, Nike created a revolutionary new basketball shoe," the voiceover dramatised. "On October 18, the NBA threw them out of the game. Fortunately, the NBA cannot stop you from wearing them. Air Jordans. From Nike."
The shoe sold like hot cakes. Nike retailed it for $65 - expensive for its time. Till this day, the shoe is one of the largest selling units, even sold at as much as $5,60,000 in auction.
Scratching my head, I was not sure which monologue to choose for my comeback. Then I did my math. If I am not on good terms with fake sneaker sellers, what is my tradeoff?
I want to buy a pair of Air Jordan One Retro High Royal Toe. A Bangladeshi sneaker shop tells me I have to pay 40,000 Tk for an original pair. It is highly unlikely I will ever be able to afford it.
My only hope is the replica versions allegedly made in Vietnam. So even if the salesman says it is "Air Jordas," I have to calm my nerves.
Who would have thought a sneaker would still be relevant three decades later it first emerged? Michael Jordan would never know a Bangladeshi man called him Jordas. Alas!