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How Jordan Brand & Sony Pictures Animation Brought Sneaker Culture to the Spider-Man ™: Across the Spider-Verse

Marco Negrete

Spoiler Alert: This story contains details from the movie. Across the Spider-Verse is now playing exclusively in theaters.

For as long as sneaker culture has existed, filmmakers have found ways to incorporate it into blockbuster movies. From Do The Right Thing to He Got Game, these scenes have become legendary to generations of sneakerheads. Whether the scenes inspired you to want a shoe or validated your choice for having it, the perfect on-screen product placement is something brands dream of. Doing it right is not easy, and today’s hyperaware audience can sniff out when they’re being sold to. Doing it across different generations, subcultures, and movies is almost impossible. Yet, Spider-Man ™: Across the Spider-Verse has accomplished that and more.

The Air Jordan 1 made its Sony Pictures Animation debut in 2018’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. From the moment the trailer was released in late 2017, sneakerheads were focused on Miles Morales’ “Chicago” Air Jordan 1s. Sony Pictures Animation and Jordan Brand’s Entertainment Marketing team agreed the AJ1 fit what a teenager in Brooklyn would be wearing, but plans for a new physical colorway and retail release didn’t happen before the excitement generated from the trailer. Luckily, Nike was in the early stages of ramping up the Air Jordan 1 franchise with more colorways, collaborations, etc., so tooling for new pairs was readily available. With just a year to make it happen, the “Origin Story” AJ1 was born.

To the non-sneaker obsessed, the December 2018 release looked almost identical to the iconic “Chicago” pair worn by superheroes like Michael Jordan and Miles Morales. But to sneakerheads, the new pair was packed with hidden details that made it as exciting as the film. From the Kirby Dots resembling classic comic book effects to the red and blue Nike Air logo on the tongue and icy blue outsole, Miles’ AJ1 checked all the boxes for sneaker and comic collectors. Spider-Man voice actor Shameik Moore even starred in the brand’s lookbook.

For the sequel, Sony Pictures Animation and Jordan Brand had a lot to live up to. The sneaker and film have both aged into classics in their respective categories. The movie took home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, while the “Origin Story” AJ1 is considered by many to be one of the best comic book-inspired sneakers ever.

Miles’ second act as Spider-Man was preheated by May’s Air Jordan 1 “Next Chapter” drop that sold out. Instead of spoiling the movie, the “Next Chapter” AJ1 previewed the storyline. Sneaker culture shines bright in the sequel with a “Jordans” namedrop and a shoutout to Sneads By Ree, the classic sneaker comic created by Sony Animation Director Tyree Dillihay. Design-wise, the latest AJ1 stays true to the Chicago color blocking but challenges the wearer to imagine what the iconic colorway would look like in various Spider-Verses. That multi-dimensional look and feel come to life through materials like suede, leather, patent leather, and colors resembling the different Spider-People eras featured in the movie.

But even despite the inclusion in several scenes and the “Are those my Jordans?” callout, the conversation about the sequel sneakers, like the film itself, already has competition from the next one. The movie concludes with a “to be continued” message, and Jordan Brand hints at the same with a mysterious pair of the Air Jordan 1 “Utility Stash” worn by another universe’s Miles, aka the Prowler.

According to Jordan Brand Footwear Designer Chris Hill, the materials have been upgraded for tactical use, including a mostly neoprene upper for flexibility, a TPU-coated ripstop for durability and abrasion resistance, dimpled lining to grip the foot securely, and oversized perforations on the tongue for added breathability. Both revelations in the scene are polarizing. Can Miles be a villain, and what happened to his Chicagos? The answer to both of those questions will have to wait until next year’s Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, but whatever universe that takes us to, we know that Air Jordan 1s, and by default, sneaker culture exists.

Limited to 100 pairs, the Air Jordan 1 Utility Stash celebrates the film’s release. Last week, SoleSavy gave away pairs of limited-edition sneakers to fans via a scavenger hunt. If you missed out in NYC, follow @SoleSavy and download the free DROPS app for a chance to win a pair. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is now playing exclusively in theaters.


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