Air Jordans, or simply just J's, first released for public consumption in 1985 by Nike, after Michael Jordan wore them during his rookie season in 1984, have been bestsellers ever since their launch, with almost all incarnations from Air Jordan I's through XXII's have been retroed. The instant success of the Air Jordans demonstrates the economic boom America was experiencing in the 1980s, after all these are a premium pair of trainers (or kicks as my friends in America call them), costing well over $100 and therefore the American economy must have been doing exceptionally well for people to have the extra cash to be able to afford to spend that kind of money on a pair of shoes, whether for themselves or for their kids, seeing as how they are undeniably a luxury, one that would be cut back quickly during hard times. People now had the capital to spend on luxury items such as a new pair of shoes.
The "must-have" nature of the Air Jordans, people line up every year outside Nike stores all over America waiting for the release of that years newly designed pair, and the fact that coolness has become intertwined with owning and wearing J's, demonstrate the rise of materialism and the consumer culture during the 1980s, people were beginning to blindly consume in the belief that it would bring them so form of happiness, making them willing to buy a new pair of luxury trainers every year. Which most likely came as a product of the economic boom of the 1980s, seeing as how people could now afford to participate in consuming.
So popular are these shoes that people who couldn't afford J's would resort to "shoe-jacking," robbing people at gun-point and even murdering people just to get their hands on a pair, which still happens right now, my roommate in Eau Claire told me that every year someone is killed after buying the latest pair. There is also a line the the Macklemore song "Wing$" which goes "my friend Carlos's older brother got murdered for his fours," referring to the Air Jordan IV's. The song also discusses the cult built around shoes just as Air Jordan's, and how through branding and marketing they have managed to convince people that they are so much more than shoes, that they will improve your life, created a dream people have bought into, like how they make you cool, make you a better player.
Michael Jordan was one of the first heavily marketed athletes not just having a line of shoes based on his name, but becoming the major spokesman for major brands like Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Chevrolet and McDonalds amongst others, which is perhaps why their was such demand for Air Jordan's because MJ was so visible beyond basketball, his name known around the globe, much like David Beckham and Lebron James, as a result of this marketing, resulted in the huge cultural impact of the Air Jordan shoes.
Because of their huge popularity J's have been absorbed into American culture, from being featured in the film Like Mike, in which the main character finds a pair of J's and becomes a great basketball player overnight, one of the marketing ploys used with Air Jordan's was that they would make you a better player, give you some form of advantage, to being referenced in songs, especially hip-hop songs, from the 80s till now, a recent example being "23" by Mike Will Made It which features the hook "J's on my feet."