Classic or Trash: Union x Jordan IV
Classic or Trash: Union x Jordan IV
- Words Asaf Rotman
- Date August 19, 2020
”Classic or Trash” is a recurring franchise highlighting a specific item and asking exactly that question: is it classic or trash? Granted, each member of the Grailed community is entitled to their own opinion, and while the Grailed editorial staff does its best to judge items objectively, we more than encourage you to disagree and sound off in the comments below.
After a championship season, there’s always a lingering thought: What comes next? Having won the title, a team is suddenly at the mercy of opposing forces, the duality of future expectations versus the reality that next season very well may be worse than the last. Bear with us, but we're wondering if a similar chase for a "back to back" victory is central to this Jordan IV release.
After officially announcing his second Jordan Brand collaboration, Union’s Chris Gibbs was caught exactly in those crosshairs. After releasing a grail-level sneaker, what happens if your next at bat is a disaster? And, given his illustrious history, how could we accurately judge it?
Clothing criticism—or any criticism, as a matter of fact—is entirely subjective. Judging whether or not a release is “classic” or “trash,” as we do here, is simply a representation of both Grailed and this writer’s stance. That is not to say our opinion is not valid, but rather that it is just that—an opinion. No matter how firmly we stand behind it, there will inevitably be those who disagree (often with good reason).
And yet, there are a number of universally accepted truths in our menswear universe. Among them is that Jordan IV is a near perfect sneaker. Originally released in 1989, Tinker Hatfield’s second Air Jordan model (after the III) debuted in a number of colorways with an accompanying advertisement campaign designed by renowned director and sneaker enthusiast Spike Lee. Featuring his Mars Blackmon character from the 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It, the ad campaign was one of the most era’s most inventive, fitting for a shoe that was both aesthetically and technologically miles ahead of the competition. While the four original colorways—Black/Cement, White/Black, Fire Red and Military Blue—all stood out, it was the black pair that were etched into the annals of sneaker history, when Michael Jordan made “The Shot”. Though the combination of straps, lace crowns, plastic, leather and mesh was certainly a departure from the previous three models, they immediately developed a cult following, and Hatfield’s legacy was, for lack of a better word, cemented.
Yet, even though the silhouette is near universally praised and often listed amongst the brand’s greatest, a poor colorway can ruin it. Hence our dilemma. While we love the Jordan IV, we are not particularly fond of most non-OG colorways—the “Laser” and “Tour Yellow” come to mind. This is where the new Union x Jordan IV comes in. Initially teased via a number of leakers, the shoe was then properly revealed by notable New York hip-hop personality and respected sneaker authority DJ Clark Kent. Eventually Union owner Chris Gibbs took to Instagram and uploaded Hatfield’s original sketch for the IV, all but confirming an impending release. Suddenly, sneakerheads were suddenly at war.
The Los Angeles based boutique’s last Jordan Brand collaboration, the Union x Nike Jordan I, was—by many accounts—2018’s sneaker of the year. Combining his passion for vintage Jordan merchandise with his four all time favorite colorways—Black/Red, White/Storm Blue, “Black Toes” and White/Grey—Gibs created two stitched together sneakers featuring a Frankenstein silhouette merging the head of one colorway with the body of another. Combined with a washed out color palette mimicking a vintage patina and a subtle “UN/LA” tags on the collar, they brought out all the best aspects of 1985’s greatest shoe.
These new IVs however...not so much. Though the reference is clearly Hatfield’s original Jordan IV sketch—which features a number of design differences including a full mesh tongue for added breathability—beyond that, the colors, which range classic black on one model to “Guava” suede on another, are a mystery. There is no hint of 1989 anywhere. The patinated exterior makes a welcome return, however lacking any clear references the colorways are more reminiscent of lego blocks than any memorable Jordan IVs. Still, despite these garish colorways and lack of any discernible design direction, we can’t help but find ourselves defending the sneaker.
The first Jordan to ever receive a collaboration, the Jordan IV collab history is rich, ranging from the original Undefeated olive pair to Eminem’s incredibly rare “Encore” IVs, both of which are amongst the most expensive sneakers ever sold. The IV is notorious, it’s on-court history well-documented and cultural relevance just as much so.
Granting Gibbs the opportunity to work on a pair is no laughing matter. Coming off the heels of one of the best non-OG Jordan 1 colorways ever, the release is certainly monumental. But that does not mean the sneakers themselves are necessarily good. Available in two colorways, a more widely available black pair and the Union store exclusive guava, the shoes will certainly sell out instantly and resell for several times over their $200-plus retail price.
But, sometimes you simply must call a spade a spade. This colorway is just not very good. To be sure, releasing a dud neither discredits the sneaker itself or Gibbs previous endeavours. Still, after such a celebrated release and working with such a storied canvas, we expected more.
Now, we ask you, classic or trash? Let us know in the comments below.
Follow Asaf Rotman on Instagram here.