Those of you too young to remember, sit down for a lesson. Back in the days when Ewing and Oakley made visiting teams at the Garden tremble, back when Jordan and the Bulls were the team to beat, back when Charles Barkley was fat fit, and not just fat. A pair of Nike Air Jordans ran around $120, which was absurd, given that minimum wage was less than $4 an hour.
At the time, Hakeem Olajuwon was a star with the Houston Rockets, and a marketer’s dream. He was an American success story, having come from Nigeria to become an All-Star in the NBA. And he had just signed an exclusive shoe deal. What was interesting about this deal though, was that it wasn’t sign Nike, Adidas, Converse or Reebok, the biggest names in the sneaker game at the time. It was an exclusive with Spalding, who had agreed to create a sneaker that would be sold through stores like Payless. It would have Hakeem’s name on them, and cost $34.99.
“How can a poor working mother with three boys buy Nikes or Reeboks that cost $120?” Hakeem said when he was asked about the deal. The idea of making shoes for the community, instead of for a cheque, was something that would go on to influence future NBA stars like Stephon Marbury who would release his own Starbury line of budget shoes, meant to help the working poor.
With those lofty ideals in mind, Hakeem’s Dr34m line of clothes is even harder to explain. Olajuwon seems to be skewing towards a luxury line. The video on the landing page seems to be saying the same things, showing Hakeem attending a high class event, where we’re sure there’s nobody wearing $35 shoes from Spalding.
And this isn’t some kind of social commentary like Kanye’s $120 t-shirts. At least those have a layer of audacity, and Kanye has a history of critiques of consumerism. Hakeem’s Dr34m line is presented with an almost alarmingly degree of earnestness, and sincerity. They write with straight faces about dead sea salts for your bath at $28 a bottle, and don’t see a problem with selling you $500 dress shirts.
We’re at as big a loss as you are to explain the line. We don’t know why, and we don’t know who it’s for. The link’s here if you want to see this confusion for yourself.