War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

Everyone likes to say that there is nothing more valuable than a human life. But this commonplace truth, known to absolutely everyone, does not prevent some people from killing for the sake of the most ordinary items of clothing and shoes. 

In the 80s, America was swept by a wave of robberies, accompanied by murders. The killers and victims were teenagers, and the loot was branded sportswear.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

13-year-old Michael Thomas was a passionate fan of basketball player Michael Jordan. That is why the Air Jordan IV sneakers presented by his parents were the most valuable thing for the boy. Michael kept his shoes in a box next to his bed and cleaned them carefully every day before going to bed.

Later, the boy's grandmother said that she asked not to wear sneakers to school, as they can be taken away by local hooligans. One day Michael replied: "Grandma, if anyone wants to take my sneakers, they'll have to kill me."

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

Unfortunately, so it turned out – the body of Michael Thomas was found in a wooded area near the school two weeks later. All the boy's belongings were with him, and only his sneakers were missing. 17-year-old James Martin strangled a boy for a pair of iconic Air Jordan IVs.

Until the early 80s, sportswear was the preserve of professional athletes and advanced amateurs. For the first time, the idea of releasing sports-type items for everyday use was visited by Nike marketers. It was this brand that released the first collection of semi-sports clothing.

The idea was fully justified – sales shot up, and competitors feverishly began to develop their own models of sportswear for every day. Almost immediately, the advertising of things of this plan began to attract sports stars with a world name.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

Nike has created sneakers with the image of Michael Jordan, which every American boy and half of the girls dreamed of. The advertising campaign pressed and forced to buy-the video for television with the basketball star was directed by Spike Lee, and the streets of the cities were decorated with posters and banners with the famous Jordan throw.

Other companies did not lag behind-Adidas ordered the mega-popular group Run DMC banger My Adidas, which was played on television day and night.

The efforts of the brands were not in vain, and every cent invested in the promotion of sports collections returned a multiple profit. By 1989, only the turnover of the sneakers market in the United States reached $ 2.5 billion!

It was the golden age of Fila, Adidas, Nike, Converse, in which millions of teenagers raced around the world. But the most cherished shoes were the red and black Air Jordan 1 sneakers, which appeared in 1985. This shoe was absolutely groundbreaking for its time.

First, the sneakers had a unique, one-of-a-kind silhouette. Secondly – for the first time in sports shoes, such a spectacular combination of colors was used. And third – the most famous basketball player on the planet played in Air Jordan 1.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

In addition, a clever advertising trick invented by Nike also played a role. A rumor was spread that Jordan was allegedly banned from playing in these sneakers, but the athlete continues to do this, although the NBA fines him $ 5,000 every game.

According to legend, the rules of the association stated that players ' sneakers must be at least 51% white or black, and in the Air Jordan 1 red was much more than the allowed half. The aura of mystery and rebellion further spurred interest in sports shoes of this model and sales increased even more.

Approximately at the same time as the iconic sports shoes appeared on the market, the first references to attacks with the aim of taking possession of them began to appear in police reports. At the same time, the purpose of the robberies was not only the coveted "Jordans", but also much more prosaic things of a sporty style. Jeans and jackets decorated with labels of famous brands were often taken away.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

Unfortunately, teenagers not only took away things and beat obstinate owners, but also often killed them. The death of Michael Thomas was the most resonant, but not the only one. In 1990, the Atlanta police department recorded 50 cases of robbery for branded items in just one month, each of which was accompanied by violence and even murder.

In American youth slang, a new phrase has appeared-check in. It meant giving up your clothes at gunpoint. The scenario in all cases is similar – several guys approach a teenager who is younger than them and, threatening with a knife or even a gun, demand to give them the thing they like.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

If the victim meekly gives up sneakers, a jacket or jeans, then he is released. If he objects or actively resists – he is beaten or killed. The statistics of such cases are frightening even now, decades later. Here are just a few of the worst cases from the 80's:

The killer in this case was a guy from the same school, a student in high school.

The murder took place in broad daylight in the area where Jones lived, and his killers were minors.

Kevin Walsh died in hospital without regaining consciousness, and his killers, members of a local youth gang, were arrested the next day.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

After the sentencing of Walker, prosecutor Mark Vinson, in an interview with reporters, said that he was horrified by the idea that a human life could be exchanged not even for luxury goods, but for sportswear.

Psychologists still can not come to a common opinion – what makes people kill each other because of such nonsense as sneakers or a jacket. Whether aggressive advertising, racial segregation or drug dealers are to blame, they have been arguing for more than 30 years.

In the 80s, it was not customary to talk about this type of case out loud. It was believed that this is not a mass phenomenon, but isolated cases among disadvantaged young people. For the first time, the issue was put on the agenda by Sport Illustrated magazine. 20 days after Michael Thomas 'death, an issue with a screaming cover headline came out:" Your Sneakers or Life?»

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

The author of the article, journalist Rick Talendar, devoted a lot of time and effort to studying the issue. He talked to psychologists, sociologists, teachers, police officers, representatives of the Nike company. Rick even managed to talk about it with Michael Jordan himself. Despite the fact that 30 years have passed since the publication of the article, it is still the most complete and up-to-date study on the topic of teenage murders due to sports branded items.

Aggressive advertising of sports brands is considered to be one of the most important factors influencing the picture of such crimes. In this industry, huge amounts of money have been spent and continue to be spent on advertising. In 1990 alone, Nike spent over $ 60 million on promotions. The main money from this amount was invested in visual advertising on television.

In an interview with the press, Professor of sociology Mervyn Daniel said:

A pair of Air Jordan sneakers in 1990 cost $ 110. For the US, this is quite a bit, but there is one important nuance. Almost all advertising materials representing sportswear were aimed at a black audience. The faces of the brands were basketball players, such as Michael Jordan, rappers, black film actors.

For African-American teenagers, the things that their idols represent seemed incredibly attractive and very important. But the fact is that neither in the 80s, nor even in the 90s, black people, with rare exceptions, lived quite poorly. In 1988, 66% of African Americans lived below the poverty line and many of them were unemployed.

War under the banner of Nike: why in the 80s in the United States killed for fashionable sneakers and jackets

But even those who had jobs were not spoilt for money. In the late ' 80s, an employee with a dark skin color received an average of 10-17% less white while doing the same job. As a result, the desired fashion items were wanted by tens of thousands of black guys who do not have the money to buy them. For them, violence is the only available way to get branded sneakers or jeans.

So wrote Rick Talendar in his famous longrid, who spent months studying the topic and is the most authoritative expert in the United States on issues of violence related to things.

Only drug dealers liked branded sportswear more than teenagers. But, unlike the young people, they did not rob anyone – the income allowed these people to change the next pair of sneakers at the appearance of the slightest scuffs. But they are often associated with outbreaks of violence over wardrobe items.

African-American youth aspired to be like drug dealers, but, lacking the appropriate income, obtained the desired things in the ways that were available to them. The owner of a sports shoe store, Udi Avshalom, told Complex magazine in an interview:

And such a picture could be observed all over the country. Of course, where the density of the colored population was higher, similar crimes occurred more often.

It is known that the news that Michael Thomas was killed because of the Air Jordan IV sneakers upset the great basketball player almost to tears. The athlete learned about the tragedy from Rick Talendar, who worked for Sports Illustrated, and his reaction, the journalist later described as follows:

A little later, after gathering his thoughts, Michael expressed his opinion about such murders:

At the same time, another party, Nike, got off with a few dry comments. The authorities did no better – the reaction to the situation was noted only in a few cities in the United States, where they simply banned the wearing of sportswear in some schools. By 1995, under public pressure, the ban was introduced everywhere.

At the end of the 90s, almost all educational institutions of the country adopted the dress code with grief in half. Most of the students were dissatisfied with the new rules requiring them to show up to class in a strict suit and shoes, but at the same time, the teenage crime curve went down sharply. But, unfortunately, the problem is not completely solved and the sneakers continue to be killed even in 2019.

Keywords: Sports | North america | Basketball | Murder | Celebrities | Fashion | World | Brand | Society | Robber | Sneakers | Street fashion | Nike | African americans | Longrides

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