There have been a few sneaker documentaries produced over the past couple of decades that try to fully encapsulate the sneakerhead mentality, but Unbanned: The Legend of the AJ1 might very well do it the best. This documentary was recently released on Hulu to stream and I think it’s a must watch for anybody who considers themself a sneakerhead or a fan of streetwear culture. This documentary shows how this single shoe changed how people perceived shoes and how the Air Jordan 1 would go on to influence culture from its inception to today.
A great aspect of the documentary is the host of people that they interview. You can hear stories directly from Michael Jordan himself and people directly involved with its creation, such as Peter Moore (designer), Phil Knight (owner of Nike), Tinker Hatfield (Legendary Jordan designer). We also get to hear the real story behind the “Banned” Jordan from NBA commissioner David Stern himself. He finally gets to set the story straight and tell his side of the story. There are also a number of influential designers and entertainers like Anthony Anderson, Kenya Barris, Michael B. Jordan, Vashtie, Lena Waithe, Ronnie Fieg…you get the idea.
Unbanned: The Legend of the AJ 1, is by first time director, Dexton Deboree. It’s a successful and seemingly unbiased look at a subject, which is more than I can say about a lot of documentaries released the past fifteen years. The movie effortlessly weaves all the interviews into straight forward digestible narrative that can make any viewer understand the importance of the AJ1 and maybe convince any naysayers to buy a pair.
What really makes this documentary succeed is that Deboree takes the time to first establish the the sneaker world pre-1984, how the social dynamic of the country was different, as well as give an accurate portrayal of Michael Jordan before he became a legend. Most people don’t remember, or know what the world was like. It’s because the viewer sees that, that we can truly see the revolution this sneaker caused. You’ll see some interesting facts like Jordan initially didn’t want to go to Nike or that once he was signed, Wall street thought that it would be the death of the company, to make the face of Nike a black athlete. So many things about this partnership could’ve gone wrong.
From there, Unbanned, explores the problems Nike and Jordan ran into with the NBA, and how the sneakers were banned, but Stern is also able to give his version of the “Banned” legend and how Nike took that and used it in the marketing of the shoe which made it explode in popularity. This was the first time a sneaker company sold the public a story to make their shoe a must have.
Unbanned tells the story of how one shoe man’s shoe became a shoe for everyone and how everyone who wears them has their own unique connection and reason for what makes it so beloved to them. I don’t want to tell you everything because you should watch the movie and learn some sneaker history. Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1 can be found streaming now on Hulu.
Here’s the trailer: