15 Ways The Sneaker Game Has Changed Since The ‘Columbia’ AJ4 Release In 1999


With the retro release of the ‘Columbia’ AJ4 finally touching down tomorrow, we take a look at things that have changed in the world of sneakers since the OG drop in 1999.

As you can imagine, a lot has changed in the sneaker game over the last 15 years and as has been the case over the last few years, Jordans are definitely the most popular releases and a big event any time a new retro model becomes available.

For those who are old enough and can remember picking up the ‘Columbia’ Jordan 4s back in 1999, it’s probably tough to imagine 15 years have already passed. With inevitable inflation and the rise of the Internet and social media, the sneaker landscape is certainly a lot different nowadays.

Take a look and let us know in the comments section below what you miss most about how things were back in 1999 or on the flipside, what you are happy about that has changed for the better.

There are far fewer spontaneous purchases.

Don’t get it twisted, it’s great to be able to never miss a release date for that new heat you’ve had your eye on. But, with all the reporting going on in the sneaker world nowadays, we already know what’s dropping months ahead of time. Rarely are we surprised by a sneaker release anymore. Not to get all “get off my yard” on everyone, but sometimes, we miss the good old days.

The prevalence of Jordans releasing in non-Bulls colorways.

When Jordan did finally return to the game in September 2001, he did so by lacing up for the Washington Wizards. And, while that might not be such a big deal to non-Bulls fans, it was a big deal to Jordan heads everywhere. Consequently, Jordan Brand was forced to move away from the predominantly black/white/red color schemes they’d become legendary for. Sure, it’s no thing now that PEs are such a big part of the business. But JB made their bread and butter on black/white/red colorways. So it was important, and probably very beneficial to the company and sneakerworld at large, that JB broke out the additional pigments.

Sneaker packs have frequently pushed the limits of our budgets.

Jordan Brand has historically pushed the limits of how much we’re willing to spend on sneakers. And as a result, they keep finding out that we’re almost always down to spend more than we were the last time around. But someone definitely earned their paycheck back in 2006, when JB decided to double up and package two of their most coveted pairs together. Originally retailing for $310, the Countdown Packages established a market for sneaker packs the likes of which the game had never seen. Think about that; people thought $310 was insane back in ’06. In 2015, it’d be considered a steal if you could get ONE of the pairs from that pack for under $300, and it’s no thing to see JB hit us with that $500 retail tag on a pack. Crazy.

Retail prices are quite astronomical nowadays.

Speaking of wild retail prices, just look at what JB is putting out nowadays! Sure, we all complain about the price of kicks in today’s game, but seeing as how the original ‘Columbia’ IVs cost $100 at retail, it’s crazy to think of how far we’ve come. Seriously, the Air Jordan XX9 retails for $225, a staggering 125% price increase.

The retro game has become an absolute monster.

With very few exceptions, back in 1999, Nike and Jordan were essentially the only brands in the game doing retro releases. Nowadays, just take a look at your sneaker closet and check out the ratio of retros vs. new designs.

If you don't like any of the colorways at retail, you can design your own.

Sure, compared to 1999, there are way more sneakers and colorways getting pumped out every day. But, one of the crazy things we take for granted as a sneakerhead in 2015, is the plethora of options to design our very own pair. Back in 1999, the NIKEiD program was just launching and becoming available. And there was no mi adidas just yet. You were stuck with what the sneaker companies gave you. Kids these days…

Sneakers are bigger business now than they have ever been.

That might seem like a no brainer, but just look at these numbers. According to Business Insider and Forbes, as of 2013, sneakers were a $55 BILLION industry from a global perspective. Yep, that’s billion with a “B”. Even more interesting, Nike’s basketball division (including Jordan Brand) makes up a whopping 96% of the $4.5 BILLION global basketball market alone. While Nike’s closest competition is adidas at just 2.7%. That’s insane.

Sneaker shows/conventions are viable avenue to meet other sneakerheads.

Back in 1999, if you liked sneakers, you likely only knew other sneakerheads through school, sports or hanging around the local sneaker spot. Nowadays sneaker conventions are not only a thing, but there are multiple shows every weekend in different cities all across the country. Sure, they might be fraught with tons of resellers. But let’s face it, this is an option that wasn’t available to us 16 years ago. And it’s always nice to have the option, right?

Production quality has been sacrificed for higher quantities.

An unfortunate result of the popularity of sneakers nowadays is of course that as the brands try to capitalize on the demand, cranking out release after release, inevitably, build integrity and material quality have declined. But, the glass-is-half-full view of that is, look at the release calendar today vs. 1999. It’s insane to see how many options sneakerheads have available to them in 2015. And the quality is definitely not all bad across the board.

Blogs and forums have created an entire news cycle, all based around sneakers.

Say want you want about sneaker blogs, but their presence and popularity has been a game-changer. Back in the late ’90s, you only had forums like NT (Nike Talk) and ISS. Whether it be putting you on to brands you’d never hear about or hyping some of your favorites to the point where you never have a chance at copping, blogs and forums have definitely shifted the culture of sneakers. Plus, it’s always nice to know about sales, or when that new hotness is dropping.

Social media has helped the sneaker industry grow exponentially.

Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with the rise of Internet use. But back in 1999, social media was really just an idea (well, outside of AIM chat rooms). Naturally, social media is a double-edged sword. But, every time you see another reseller pop up in your feed, just think of how nice it is to actually be able to communicate with the brands themselves in basically real time. To be able to hit up Nike and ask them if they cancelled your order, or moved a release date is a luxury that those dudes partying like it’s 1999 didn’t have.

The Sneaker Community is acutally a community.

Speaking of those dubious resellers in your feeds nowadays, if you pay attention, you just might learn the difference between reputable and disreputable sellers. See, the advancement of technology has allowed sneakerheads to actually build a community. Of course, there are always two sides to a coin, but that’s a luxury sneakerheads in 1999 didn’t have. Heck, just the ability to try and track down a pair of kicks that sold out is a blessing.

Sneaker designers are celebrities in their own right.

Back in 1999, sneaker designers weren’t held in nearly as high regard as they are nowadays. Think about 1999 for a second and try and think about which sneaker designers you even knew about. Maybe Tinker Hatfield. If you were really into it, perhaps Peter Moore or Bruce Kilgore. But in 2015, one only needs to look at the $10 million lawsuit filed against adidas for allegedy stealing designers away from Nike and all the press it has received to see how much things have changed. Look at the empires Ronnie Feig or Jeff Staple or Hiroshi Fujiwara have built. It’s crazy how things have changed so drastically in that regard.

Top-tier shoes almost never go on sale nowadays.

Sure, you can keep that closet looking fresh while never paying retail by following sites like ours, but let’s be real here: top-tier sneakers almost never go on sale in 2015. Back in 1999, if people weren’t feeling it, shoes just sat. Even the newest Jordans sometimes hit the sale rack. In 2015, resellers swoop up almost everything to keep on ice. It’s crazy what sells out nowadays vs. 1999.

Trying on shoes before you buy them is a rarity.

Yes, we’ve come a long way, and today’s sneaker game has many benefits that it didn’t have in 1999. But, we’ve also lost a few things too. Like actually trying on your shoes before buying them. In fact, the Internet has made releases so frantic that many people buy the shoes without ever touching them. Sure, there were line-ups and sellouts plenty back in the day. But not even being able to try on a pair of kicks before buying them? That would have been crazy talk back in ’99.

International releases are now within reach.

For years prior to 1999, international-only sneaker releases meant nothing but heartache for stateside sneakerheads. But, along with the majesty of the Internet comes the wondrous online drop. Sure, copping those Solebox or 24 Kilates joints are far from a lock. But, long gone are the days of having to actually know someone in that country to get the oop.


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