Like our Air Jordan 6 [VI] Midnight Navy example, “yellowing” can also be observed on this pair of 2006 Air Jordan 5 [V] “Green Beans.” The purpose here is to also provide an additional example of yellowing in the advanced stages so that a clear understanding of sneaker decay can be obtained. Without any additional information it would be perfectly normal to assume that this particular pair of Air Jordan 5 sneakers like the pair of Air Jordan 6 sneakers discussed in our previous article is still suitable for normal wear. Unfortunately, every step taken in these Air Jordan 5s is also a step towards disaster.
So why bother? Over the years sneaker collecting and trading has exploded from a small community of enthusiasts and local “meetups” into full fledged, multi-billion dollar marketplaces with millions of pair trading hands yearly. We have even witnessed major disruptions in the form of online exchanges powerful enough to antagonize well established, behemoth players like Nike - see StockX vs. Nike 2022. This evolution has multiple roots and finds connections among the Supreme Foampostite and stretches way back to a time when breakdancing dominated pop-culture.
However, for many hardcore sneakerheads, the Air Jordan line sits at the epicenter of this evolved “sneakerverse.” Jordans or simply “Js” as they are affectionately known evoke the same joy, conflict, controversy and value their name sake, Michael Jordan commanded as a player. The resulting marriage of sneakerhead passion and market value turned Air Jordans and other sneakers into tradable commodities. In many cases, Jordan sneakers in particular retain their value and often gain in value. Air Jordan sneakers also offer a fashion sense that seems timeless with retros seamlessly fitting into every modern aesthetic. That said, sneaker lovers, fashion aficionados and newcomers would almost all agree that “icy soles” make the difference on many of the most beloved Air Jordan models.
For our purposes here, the challenge of yellowing is also easily captured in discussing the sole’s transformation from its cool, blue hue to a brittle, dull yellow. Visualizing the degradation of something futuristic and fashionable is worth 10,000 steps or 10,000 words. Beauty does indeed fade but without protection, the very thing that elevated your sneaker - acts in the inverse to diminish both appeal and function. The case is so clear with “icy” Air Jordan models which makes Sole Protector for most Jordan owners a no brainer. But there’s more - much more because “icy soles” or even Air Jordans are not the exception. Yellowing does not care about status or brand or fashion sense - only vulnerability.
The technology in these shoes is also as cool and impactful as just about any other modern innovation. For instance, most people who have been around Air Jordans know the general story of Tinker Hatfield and his journey from student athlete to legendary footwear designer. However, too often his narrative is framed as Tinker Hatfield “artist.” Maybe he prefers to be seen as an artist but in reality, he is a student of architecture and has applied that knowledge to Air Jordan models. As a firm, Nike and other sneaker manufacturers also spends billions of dollars on research of all kinds including performance, materials and environmentally positive practices. Given a solid history of value retention, massive marketplaces, a firm footing in design and a well established place in popular culture, tests the stage for protection and makes it even easier to see that protecting a pair of Jordans or any sneaker you love is indeed protecting a thing of “value.” Please note this is not financial advice but meant to serve as an analogy that many in the community are more than likely already familiar with.
Turning attention back to the Air Jordan 6 [VI], we also see that advanced yellowing and decay is not limited to the sneaker’s sole. Instead, we see that decay tends to spread throughout the shoe. This reality also brings into question the tricky business of buying old but legendary pairs online. Ideally, this guide will at least give you some guidance with respect to key indicators and questions that you could ask a potential seller before purchasing. Also keep in mind that many sellers have good intentions and want a good transaction because reputation in the industry matters. For the most reputable sellers, reselling sneakers is a profitable business so they take it seriously. However, that doesn't mean that they will spot each and every flaw and since your purchase will be most important to you; knowing what to look for can only help with your goal. Needless to say, do your research before you buy.
“So I see yellowing - are the sneakers now useless?” No - not necessarily. We know that “yellowing” can be thought of simply as “decay” but in truth, a color change can also mean a chemical reaction to substances in the environment. Today’s modern sneakers are made primarily from synthetic [man-made] materials which means - material matters. That is to say, the specific properties of the material are a far better measure of durability, texture and appearance as opposed to general variables like Ultra Violet [UV] rays, age or even material names that sound like something familiar but may not be. For example, a pair of sneakers made from the highest-grade leather could last decades but the glue holding that sneaker together will not. Why? Because the properties in the leather and the glue are completely different - allowing the leather to decompose at a significantly slower rate while actually benefiting from heat, imperfections, and even the oils in the environment. In fact, the manufacturer may simply list the sneaker material as “leather” leaving the customer to decide if the price makes sense to them. In the case of modern Air Jordan sneakers, decay can be managed and significantly slowed by applying appropriate care and material handling.
For example, most sneakerheads can easily see the case for Sole Protector Plus+ on “icy soles” but normally don’t make the same connection when it comes to their “non-icy pairs.” The materials used in a non-icy sole almost inevitably share similar properties with “icy soles.” The biggest difference between both rests in how easy or difficult it is to spot damage or decay. We will dive deeper into the various materials currently being used in the production of modern sneakers and the best ways to care for each but before we can explore that topic, let’s take one more look at the advanced stages of “yellowing” as seen in the Air Jordan 5 Green Bean.
Remember that “yellowing” is not limited to soles or “icy soles.” Decay spreads and eventually compromises the entire shoe. With “icy soles,” the process tends to begin with a gradual fading from vivid blue “icy” tint towards undesirable yellow. While material breakdown is natural, without some kind of protection, the process will accelerate depending on environmental factors and compromise the shoe over time. When purchasing, look for detailed photos and even video that gives you a good sense of the shoe’s overall health. With the Air Jordan 5 [V] for example, the mesh vent and icy portions of the sole are good places to begin your inspection.
Humidity and heat are also factors that influence the health of your sneakers. UV rays also serve as triggers for decomposition in many of the materials used in modern speakers today. However, heat and humidity levels can loosen or stress material bonds that give the shoe its overall integrity. For example, after walking on very hot asphalt [Florida in the summer] you may want to let the shoe “air out” a bit before storing. If you have Sole Protector applied, inspect the unit’s condition and if excessive wear and tear is visible, the unit should probably be replaced. At minimum, you should reach out to us and give a chance to help you out.
Damage and Decay Patterns
In many instances decay is hard to spot - the crack captured in the image was invisible before a casual stroll. Difficulty in spotting damage is particularly true for dark, non-icy sneakers where cracks and potential separations may be hidden by paint or dark rubber. A good place to look is along glue lines. Look for exposed glue that appears to have been squeezed from the sole - similar to the image. Glue breakdown can also happen with too much exposure to heat but unlike yellowing - more glue can be applied with a little effort and skill..
Hopefully this provide some additional clarity and a good foundation as we move into materials and show care.