By Ben Sin
October 06, 2013


The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is the show that turned Will Smith into a superstar, but when the fish-out-of-water sitcom made its debut on national TV in the fall of 1990, it achieved something bigger and more important (unless you're, like, the world's biggest Will Smith fan): The show helped introduce hip hop culture to mainstream America. Sure, by 1990 rap songs had already begun appearing on Yo! MTV Raps), Spike Lee had already made the seminal Do The Right Thing, and Nike had already released a series of Air Jordan shoes, but Smith's sitcom -- which frequently featured hip hop references, slang, and songs -- was on free TV every week, in prime time.

smithOne sign that the Fresh Prince wasn't like any TV character we had seen before was Smith's wardrobe in the pilot: Vibrant, multi-hued clothes, and a pair of Air Jordans.

The Jordans as a symbol of hip hop -- or, rather, "blackness" -- had already been depicted on screen a year prior in Do The Right Thing, when Buggin' Out famously bugged out over a white man stepping on his Jordans. So it was probably not a coincidence that the opening shot of a pivotal scene in the Fresh Prince pilot was a closeup of Smith's Air Jordans. The camera than pan-up to show the rest of the outfit -- a tuxedo -- as Smith enters a wealthy dinner party.

Those shoes would become pop culture icons, so much so that when Nike announced they were releasing a special edition "Bel Air" edition of the Air Jordan 5s featuring a color scheme similar to Smith's wardrobe in the debut episode, sneakerheads and fans of the show got very excited.

Possibly, too excited.

There were lines outside shoe stores across America early Saturday morning for the release of the $185 Bel Air Jordans—and in Wilmington, Delaware, two men were shot while queued for the shoes. According to CBS news, the pair was camped outside a store when the shooting occurred at 5:30a.m. The two unidentified men were taken to hospital, where one is in critical condition.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. There's an alarming history of shootings over Air Jordans in America. And perhaps the saddest sign that these incidents aren't entirely unexpected: The crowd outside the Wilmington store continued to wait in line for the shoes even after the shooting.


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