In the summer of 1985, Spike Lee was an 28-year-old filmmaker from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in the process of shooting his first feature-length film. She’s Gotta Have It was a black-and-white romantic comedy—a “seriously sexy comedy” according to the posters—that told the story of three suitors, one played by Lee, vying for the hand of one woman, Nola Darling. There was a secondary romance, however, one that was truer than the other. That was the relationship that Lee’s character, Mars Blackmon, had with his shoes—a pair of Air Jordan 1s that he never, ever took off. Not even for, well, you know.
Let’s make this as clear as possible: The character “Mars Blackmon” was a Spike Lee creation from the top of his Brooklyn cycling cap to the soles of his Jordans. Everything that we’d see later on in the famous Air Jordan commercials was there already—the Cazal frames, the giant nameplate chain, right down to his distinct manner of speaking. When a couple of creatives from Portland-based ad agency Wieden & Kennedy saw the movie, they excitedly brought the idea of using the character in commercials to Nike.
"I'd like to give a shout out to Jim Riswold and Bill Davenport," Lee told Sole Collector. "These are two individuals at Wieden & Kennedy who one night decided to go see She's Gotta Have It, and for some reason they came up with the idea of pairing the character I created and played, Mars Blackmon, with Michael Jordan. The rest is history."
History will be honored this weekend, with an exclusive release of a black-and-navy Air Jordan 1 with Mars’s visage on the heel and 40 Acres branding on the tongue, available only at Lee’s 40 Acres and a Mule in Fort Greene. It won’t be the first Jordan to feature Mars’s face, but it will be the most appropriate. Because it’s where it all began.
And while Mars Blackmon doesn’t become as globally well known without Air Jordan—no doubt plenty of people who met Mars through commercials went back and watched the film—maybe Air Jordan doesn’t become the global phenomenon it became without Mars Blackmon either. Look back at those early commercials they did for the Air Jordan III and IV and count the number of words Jordan himself speaks in all of them combined. Maybe it’s III or IV. Tops.
In the 30 years since She’s Gotta Have It dropped, the Air Jordan 1 has returned countless times in countless iterations, including faithfully remastered reproductions of the originals that Mars himself would have approved of. These though, these are different from any that came before. At $300, they’re a bit more expensive, too. But if you happen to get a pair, just do what Mars would do: Don’t take them off for anything. Not even for, well, you know.