J Balvin’s rejuvenation of the Air Jordan 1’s iconic silhouette vibrantly illustrates Latin culture’s takeover of the mainstream. Entitled ‘Colores y Vibras’, this collaboration between Balvin and Nike is a culturally significant statement that la cultura isn’t going anywhere. Latin America’s distinctive culture radiates boldly throughout the sneaker’s design. The Jordan 1 Retro High J Balvin features an intense dispersion of neon greens, blues, and reds transitioning across the jaggedly-cut canvas. These sneakers emit an energy indicative of the music that fueled the collaboration.
Though brilliant, the cut and colors of Balvin’s sneaker are not the source of this drops significance. This collaboration is unforgettable as it is the first between Jordan Brand and a Latin-American artist. For decades, Nike has partnered with hip-hop artists, translating their aesthetics from the studio to the sole. From Wu-Tang in 1999 to Travis Scott thirty years later, it was inevitable that Latin culture would manifest itself in American fashion by way of the sneaker.
This convergence of Latin influence and fashion with the American mainstream became apparent when J Balvin debuted the sneakers during an appearance in the Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show. Commanding the biggest stage on the planet alongside J-Lo, Balvin performed his chart-topping reggaetón hit “Mi Gente” in his native language. This electric, yet controversial performance spotlighted Latin culture, expressing reggaeton's distinct energy to an audience of 103 million people.
Reggaetón and Latin trap’s popularity in the United States continues to surge in the months following the Halftime Show. This unprecedented eruption in popularity is clearly demonstrated by Balvin and his reggaetón counterpart Bad Bunny’s meteoric rise to the top of charts globally. Spotify's "2020 Wrapped" list of the worlds most popular artists crowned Bad Bunny as the platform's most-streamed artist, amassing over 8.3 billion streams. The next artist on this list was Drake, while J Balvin rounded out the top three. The prevalence of not one, but two Latin artists on this list signifies that when Latin American culture speaks, the world listens.
Representative of their debut, the J Balvin x Air Jordan 1’s elaborate colorway and unconventional design is both polarizing and controversial. Balvin’s adventurous interpretation will prove to be the first of many youthful, Latin-inspired variants of the classic Air Jordan silhouettes. This collaboration delivers an energetic message of cultural diffusion and global solidarity after a year of isolation and turbulence.
Although J Balvin’s eccentric approach to this sneaker might not be for everybody, the message that inspired the pair certainly is.