Customizing your sneakers comes down to the small details. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the market for swapping out you laces. A pair of premium rope laces, for example, can change up the entire style of sneaker; so the shoelaces themselves are part necessity, part accessory.
It hasn't always just been about the laces though. Accessories used to be a big part of sneaker steeze back in the day. Think back to the OG Reebok Pumps, people went crazy over that pump. It looked like a basketball was coming out of your tongues. For the pre-Internet age, this was madness.
Way back in 1990, Jordan Brand dropped the now legendary Air Jordan 5 in four different colorways. They came in various interpretations of Fire Red, an obvious nod to the Jumpman himself and a Grape colorway. Much like today, the shoe was regarded as another remarkable output from Jordan Brand. An instant classic if you will, but that wasn’t the whole story.
If you take a closer look, you’ll see a translucent “cylinder,” for lack of a better word anchoring the laces at the top of the tongue. For children of the 90s, myself included, this weird plastic thing, whatever it was mind-blowing. Mind you, this was before you could simply go on Instagram, hit the #swapornot tag and see what sneakerheads around the word are doing with their Lace Lab shoelaces. So you would have had to go to FootLocker and ask them, so you wouldn’t get clowned on the blacktop.
This little plastic piece, as simple as it seems now, was a massive hit for the V’s. Basically, this was a lace lock used to keep the tops of your laces in place while you were running, jumping, dunking, what have you in your Jordan's. You would harness your laces through the lock and keep a your ankles secure, so no matter how many times you got crossed over, no broken bones here. But beside the practical function of the lace lock, it was a piece of flair. This is a very early 90’s thing. Everything you owned had little bits and pieces of branding on them, from zipper flairs, to well, lace locks.
Mind you, people didn’t always use the lace lock. Nor was it really that necessary because how many people were actually balling in their Air Jordans beside Michael himself? It became a piece of adornment that made you individual, a little something extra so people could take in an eyeful. People knew what you were about when they saw you with your V’s and the plastic lace lock sitting there. The same idea can be applied to something like metal aglets. Aglets are necessary to laces so they braided materials don’t unwind, while metal aglets are pure style.
Jordan Brand brought back the lace lock a few more times. The Air Jordan VI, released right after the V's had an slightly bigger lace lock with the Jumpman logo on it. Probably no functionality to this adornment, back at the same time, it’s those little things that make a great pair of sneakers.
Most recently, Jordan brought back the lace lock for their most recent collaboration with long time Jordan fan, Knicks side line guy occasionally seen as Mars Blackmon, but better know filmmaker Spike Lee. This builds on the “bigger is better” progression of lace lock from the V to VI. These are literally of Spike Lee’s head within a “40” (referring his 40 Acres & A Mule Productions).
Are they gaudy? Yeah sort of, but that's probably the point. You're not going to actually use the lace lock to keep your ankles in check. You’re definitely not going to miss them, these orange at least, out on the street though. So if you pick up a pair of Jordan’s that come with a lace lock, see what shoelaces you can match them with. Functional, probably not. Individual, most definitely.