Buggin’ Out: Air Jordan White/Cement IV Release At Midnight

Perhaps the Jordan Brand has truly bought into the Mayan Calendar hype about the world ending in December. How else to explain the rapid-fire string of incredibly coveted sneakers releasing this year? (If Jordan releases either the Black/Red or Columbia XIs during the holiday season as rumored, the resulting frenzy actually might constitute the end of the world.).

On the heels of the Concord XI and the Chicago X comes tonight’s release of the White/Cement IV, suitably arriving on Michael Jordan‘s 49th birthday. The White Cements first saw the light of day – appropriately – 23 years ago, last hitting shelves in 1999 as one of the first significant retros, and have been in high demand on the secondary market since then.

Aesthetically, the White Cements remain striking and unique with soft-plastic covered mesh and elaborate lace loops. The speckled midsole is a darker shade of grey than the 1999 version, and the IVs are packaged in a retro-style box, always a nice touch. The big difference from 13 years ago is that the Jumpman insignia has replaced the “Nike Air” logo on the rear and sole of the sneaker, which has been the case for some time now.

The IVs debuted during a 1989 season in which Jordan averaged a fairly standard (for him) 32.5 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals. The sixth-seeded Bulls went to the East Finals and lost to the Pistons, two years before Chicago won it all for the first time. (Jordan wore IVs for one of his true signature moments – The Shot over Craig Ehlo – but they were Black/Cements.)

“I wanted the shoe to be lighter, with features no one had done before,” designer Tinker Hatfield said in the book Driven From Within. “It was a little bit more of a technical story, and a little less of a personality story, but that’s where Michael was at that time in his life. … He didn’t want this particular shoe to be too fashionable, because we had come out with the III with all the luxurious leather.

“This shoe was about getting back to work, being a little more utilitarian, while doing a couple things no one had done before. It reflected his state of mind. His mindset was about getting back to the basics.”

More so even than what they meant for Jordan on the court, however, the White Cements signified his (and his sneakers’) growing ubiquity as a cultural icon. This was in large part due to Spike Lee coming to view Jordan as his basketball muse, starting with his use of the original Air Jordans to great effect while playing Mars Blackmon in his first film, She’s Gotta Have It.

As Mars became synonymous with Jordan through Nike’s ad campaigns, Lee directed several memorable ads specifically for the IVs. He rapped in one – “Yo Holmes, these sneakers be housing!” – and explained what you can and can’t do in another. In a third, Mars’ love interest from SGHI, Nola Darling, took a liking to MJ…

“Word filtered back that Michael’s lovely wife, Juanita, was not enchanted by that particular spot,” Lee wrote in his book, Best Seat in the House. “She didn’t like it too tough, and it was quickly pulled.”

But in what they’re most known for, the White/Cement IVs themselves took on a whole new meaning in Lee’s controversial (and brilliant) film, Do The Right Thing.

When Buggin’ Out flips on a biker who accidentally smudges his White Cements – “$108 WITH TAX!” – it was a light moment with dark undertones, portending the film’s climactic boiling over of racial tensions. With their involvement, Jordans continued to grow into a status symbol that would arguably supersede the man they were designed for, who happened to be the greatest player of all time.

(Sidebar: “[The biker] wore a Celtic jersey,” Lee wrote. “Number 33, Bird‘s number, but of course.” Also a verbal foil in She’s Gotta Have It, Lee viewed Bird as an obvious flip side for Jordan geographically and culturally. For his part, Bird would traditionally greet Spike with – in Spike’s words – a “mean assed look.”)

The White/Cement IVs are visually clean and Jordan played brilliantly in them, but their role in demonstrating Jordan’s influence in the neighborhoods is where their true essence lies. A lot went into Jordan’s sneakers becoming a cultural phenomenon, and the White Cements played as big a role as any with their notoriety from Do The Right Thing.

After all, though they were important on Jordan’s feet, the sneakers signified an entirely different world when depicted through Spike Lee’s camera on the scuffed-up feet of a would-be revolutionary. As such, the White/Cement IVs are not just a hot sneaker; they’re a period piece that showed that Air Jordans belonged just as much – if not more – on the steamy streets of Bed-Stuy as they did on the hardwood.

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The hype around the Concords has filtered to subsequent retro releases; both the Chicago and Royal Blue X sold out on Nikestore.com in less than 10 minutes. This hasn’t made it impossible to get the sneakers you want, but you don’t want to sleep on them either, literally or figuratively.

For people who want to grab a pair of White Cements tonight or tomorrow, here are (in my opinion) the best ways to do it:

1. The usual advice holds: Follow the @Nikestore Twitter account, which will tweet out the purchase link at midnight ET sharp, barring technical difficulties. My advice would be to buy them immediately, and PayPal is probably your quickest way to check out. Eastbay and Foot Locker, among others, will also have the White/Cement IVs, but Nike’s web site traditionally is the most reliable and least likely to crash.

2. You can also head out early to your local Foot Locker or Finish Line. For midnight releases, people are reportedly already lining up in certain areas. NikeTowns will have the White Cements, and some are handing out wristbands to reserve a pair, so call around.

3. Overseas sites often get these, and for not that much more than what they retail for in America. Your best bet is probably to follow KicksDeals on Twitter, as they’ll likely tweet out whatever they turn up tonight and tomorrow.

Will you be getting a pair?

Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle.

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