It’s happened. In just a few short years, Jordan have climbed the greasy pole and wangled their way to the top of the football shirt pyramid. In truth the pole was not so much greasy but more kept dry by co-conspirators PSG, who are the ‘beneficiaries’ of this most audacious of marketing long cons.
The story of how Jordan managed to get their brand front and centre for one of the biggest clubs in world football is a tale that will be told for many years to come, and in the wake of the release of PSG’s 2021 home kit I wanted to take a look at the various Jordan x PSG shirts we’ve seen since the beginning of the partnership in 2018.
As we’ll see, the presence of the Jumpman logo on the PSG home shirt is the final piece of the puzzle, the final infinity stone to set into the gauntlet.
How did it get to this?
Year 1 – A natural fit?
On September 13th 2018, Nike and PSG announced a pioneering deal with Jordan. The Air Jordan brand were famous for outfitting the legendary Michael Jordan during his near-mythical spell with the Chicago Bulls in the NBA (for anyone unfamiliar with the era, The Last Dance on Netflix has you covered), and the brand logo of a silhouette of MJ himself remains one of the most recognisable in sports.
Jordan are owned by Nike, making the partnership more of a reshuffling of Nike’s assets in relation to their PSG contract than an entirely fresh joining together. Nonetheless, the new deal was a significant moment in the football world coming soon after another era-defining Nigeria’s 2018 collection.
At the time, Michael Jordan was quoted as saying “Jordan Brand and Paris Saint-Germain share a distinct position in sport and style, so to partner with the club is a natural fit,”. He had a point.
Jordan himself had plenty of history with the city of Paris. MJ was a regular visitor to France, initially to get away from the busyness of his rising stardom and later to promote the brand of the Chicago Bulls, when he couldn’t escape the press no matter where he went. His rockstar status in the country continues to reverberate today, and current players like Jimmy Butler have carried on the legacy somewhat with a close affiliation for Paris and PSG that began long before the Jordan announcement of 2018.
As a club, PSG were already well accustomed to leveraging their image as a ‘cool’, ‘desirable’ team whose reach extended beyond football. From the highly collectable Louis Vuitton design of the mid 00s, to the changes made following the takeover of Qatar Sports Investments in 2011, there were few more attractive destinations for a campaign as bold and progressive as Jordan’s.
What about the kits from year 1 of the partnership?
The sleek black and white shirts, effectively used as home and away European shirts for 2018/19, were dripping with sleek, modern style. Though there was something of a basketball feel to the look, and of course the presence of the Jumpman logo in place of the Nike swoosh, the look was largely agreeable with the wider footballing community.
“Jordan Brand and Paris Saint-Germain share a distinct position in sport and style, so to partner with the club is a natural fit”Michael Jordan
Third shirts are afforded a much wider licence to explore new ideas, and in that sense the 2018 Jordan kits fulfilled the brief as an interesting set of designs that combined elements of Jordan and PSG in context with the more expected script of the 2018 home kit.
As popular as the match shirts was the wider collection of jackets, training wear and basketball jerseys. It was in many of these items that the intentions of Jordan were more visible. T-shirts displayed a variation of the PSG crest which featured the Jumpman logo at the centre, special edition boots flashed shades of the famous shade of red utilised by Jordan and Chicago Bulls jerseys. Speaking of red, the goalkeeper kit released as part of the collection shone in the vibrant red (officially dubbed “infrared”), one of Jordan’s Brand’s “heritage colours” as noted by the brand themselves at the time.
Press releases from Nike and PSG were quite honest. “We believe it is a partnership which will excite our fans, help us to reach new audiences and enhance our global reach.” In that sense, year 1 of the deal could only be deemed as a complete success.
Year 2 – One step further
Fast forward to July 2019, and Jordan moved one rung up the PSG ladder. National hero and starlet Kylian Mbappé had formalied his transfer after initially joining on loan in 2017, and the club and Jordan celebrated with a collaborative away kit. The design of the new shirt was very similar to the “infrared” goalkeeper shirt of the previous season, and indeed press releases at the time made no bones about the primary inspiration behind the look.
“Jordan Brand influence on the new design runs deep”. Though the black and white alternate kits of 2018/19 were relatively subtle in their connection to basketball and Jordan (Jumpman logo aside), the 2018 away shirt was PSG and Jordan changing their relationship status and making things Facebook official.
Again though, you only needed to look away from the match shirts to understand more of what was going on. Just days before the announcement of the 2019 away shirt, Mbappé was photographed playing pickup football at Venice Beach, California. The location was the perfect spot for Mbappé to touch down and share some candid moments with kids from the local area, and what was he wearing the whole time? The latest PSG x Jordan basketball jersey, complete with a geometric, retro pattern consisting of greys, whites and infrared, and “Jordan 23” on the back.
This was as important as the 2018 away shirt that would drop shortly after. If PSG x Jordan was going to be successful, it needed to tell a story beyond what was happening on the Parc des Princes pitch on any given match day. In many ways the 2018 Jordan basketball jersey was a Jordan product which happened to carry a couple of nods to PSG, rather than the other way round. Even the “PARIS” wordmark on the front included a Jumpman logo in place of the A; there was much to appreciate from an aesthetic point of view, but this was more than a hint of what was to come.
Later in the 2019/20 season, PSG dipped their hand back into the Jordan pot in a big way with a full collection release that included a 4th kit (essentially the black 2018 alternate with the French flag through the centre) and the usual apparel collateral. Though not exclusive to PSG, it said a lot about the team that they were able to essentially release a full range of gear so soon after the new releases at the start of 2019/20.
This model is something we can only expect to see more of; with 4th shirts now the norm and a greater emphasis on merchandise outside of football shirts, there’s no time to waste for brands who would otherwise be running out of steam by January. With barely enough time to get to know home and away shirts, it’s an understandable source of frustration for many fans and the wider community. You probably won’t even remember this 2019/20 fourth shirt, such is the high turnover of new designs, but the bottom line was the shirt was “the best-selling product on the global site of its supplier, Nike.com, in all categories, the week following its release.”, according to L’Equipe.
Year 3 – The calm before the storm
In 2020, PSG released a home and away shirt tandem which struck a wonderful balance. Alongside Inter’s magnificent 2020 collection, this season’s efforts were at the very top of the shirt pyramid in my eyes. The away shirt especially made beautiful use of the more vibrant shades of blue and red as seen on many of PSG’s 90s garments, and if anything it made me long for a return of the brighter colours for PSG shirts.
What about Jordan’s footprint in 2020/21? The partnership cleverly made a two-pronged attack across both the 2020 third and 4th kits, demonstrating differing approaches to reach even further into some of the different markets referenced earlier.
For the third kit, Jordan dug further into their own archives with a ‘bordeaux’ colour scheme as seen on the Air Jordans Michael Jordan wore for the 1992 NBA All-Star game. This more niche reference was one for the basketball/trainer geeks, but even those unaccustomed to both worlds were able to appreciate the pleasing aesthetics of the finished product.
Though the various gold details were supposedly in reference to PSG’s 50th anniversary, the shirt again looked more like a Jordan shirt first and a PSG shirt second. I don’t need to tell you by now that much of the wider collection garnered more attention than the shirt, including a fantastic retro pre-match jacket which displayed buckets of 90s style to help tell the story of the bordeaux colour scheme and MJ in the 90s.
In January of this year, Jordan and PSG repeated the trick of a mid-season 4th kit, only this time the menu consisted not of bordeaux and gold, but “hyper pink” and “psychic purple”. You already know what I’m talking about; the 2020 PSG 4th kit was tailor-made to appeal to younger audiences and collectors who would usually turn a blind eye to PSG shirts.
You only have to look at what’s happened over the past few weeks to understand what PSG and Jordan were trying to achieve. As the end of season sales rolled in, one shirt in particular struck a chord with shirt collectors. The 4th shirt has been a popular pickup, and pictures of the vibrant design have been all over social media in recent days.
Across all teams, I can’t think of a shirt I’ve seen more, and though many people lament the existence of 4th kits, the popularity of the shirt only highlights the very reason the design was created in the first place. Even though the aesthetic of the shirt has very little connection to PSG and even Jordan, more eyeballs are on the logos of both parties than if there wasn’t a 4th shirt on the scene.
Despite the ‘loudness’ of the 2020 4th kit, and the Jordan-first approach of the 2020 3rd kit, both releases were the calm before the storm. Let’s jump forward to today, and finish by discussing the events of the past few hours.
Year 4 – Bringing the Jumpman home
How about them shorts!
PSG’s new 2021 home kit is hot off the press, and at the time of writing we’re all still digesting the design in front of us.
Through all the Jordan x PSG away, third and 4th kits of the past few years, we’ve been able to consider them alongside PSG home kits which have been unmistakably PSG. The central “Hechter” stripe, conceived by Daniel Hechter in the 70s, has been a staple of PSG kits and a comforting design element even during the most experimental phases of the team’s home kit history.
In 2021, the Hechter has been upstaged. If you squint it’s sort of there, as a plain panel in between two sides of Nike’s new fabric construction, but it’s essentially been pushed aside by Jordan. The effective submission of the central stripe is far from the only notable feature on the shirt, though.
More than any other Jordan x PSG shirt, the 2021 home shouts Chicago Bulls. Look at any pictures of Michael Jordan with the Bulls and you’ll notice the shared elements with PSG’s new shirt, with the cuff and collar design and name and number typography standing out like a basketball crossover concept kit of the kind we often talk about here at FSC.
And then there’s the shorts. I can’t remember a pair of shorts with as many talking points as these, and the design couldn’t look much more like a tribute to the shorts of the Chicago Bulls. From an aesthetic point of view there is so much to like, the diamond cut-out framing the Jordan logo on one side and the PSG logo on the other is lovely to look at, and topping things off is the fact the line that forms the diamond is stitched on rather than simply printed. Though it’s hard not to be stunned by the price tag, the player issue texture is also a delight to look at up close.
You could put any crest on the shirts and shorts of the PSG home kit and it wouldn’t change the narrative; Jordan have successfully managed to infiltrate the world of football and position their brand front and centre in the beautiful game. To repeat a concept I’ve shared more than once in this piece, this is a Jordan shirt first and a PSG shirt second, and though the dust is still settling there will be a large contingent of PSG fans who will wonder why their club sold their soul to the devil, abandoning all forms of club identity in order to make a quick buck.
It’s easy to look back in hindsight and say that the warning signs were there, but the acceleration from interesting, creative 3rd or 4th kit capsules to the takeover of a home shirt seems to have happened in the blink of an eye.
Whilst other clubs have been dipping their toe into the collaboration pool, PSG have filled the pool and jumped in head-first. Whether Jordan pushed them into the pool or the two parties jumped in hand-in-hand, we are witnessing a splash the likes of which will help to shape the future of football shirts.
Is this the beginning of a football shirt crisis which will shake the game more than any Super League could? Is this a movement others will fight against and reject, rather than embrace? We’ll save that discussion for another day, but there is a simply a lot to take in at the moment, and given how quickly Jordan rose to the top, any number of scenarios are on the cards.
Prepare for everything, be surprised by nothing.
I wanted to briefly revisit this piece to talk about a certain human being (alien), Lionel Messi.
The GOAT’s arrival in Paris was like a bolt of lightning to a situation which was already gathering pace. Messi will simply elevate every single thing that Jordan were already trying to achieve; an ironic twist given the fact that the Argentinian is a long-time partner with adidas…
What can we expect moving forward? I guarantee we will see a shirt inspired by Messi either next season or the season following. Something Argentina-inspired perhaps, or maybe even something goat-themed. It’s happening. Of course there’ll be all manner of capsules and merch in the coming months, with all parties looking to cash in.
So I say it again. Prepare for everything. Be surprised by nothing.