As every sneakerhead may have heard at some point in the last 9 months, there is an encyclopedia in development detailing every Air Jordan, in every colorway, that has ever been made. From pictures to behind the scenes stories, this encyclopedia plans to cover the entire history of Michael Jordan’s signature shoe line. It has rare photos of even rarer pairs of Air Jordans. Some of the top sneaker collectors in the country pitched in to help by giving access to their sneaker collections. Even Detroit’s own sneaker legend, Mark “Jumpman” Bostic, gave unlimited access to his collection and was even called upon to write the forward for this book.
Now I don’t know about you but my first thought was, “Wait, you mean to tell me that in its 29 year history no one has thought to make this book before now?” Seems ridiculous when you think about it right? With all of the notoriety that the Air Jordan line has had throughout the world you would think that someone in 1998 let alone 2014 would have executed such an obvious idea. Well count me in that massive group of clueless idiots because no one other than Jay Lawrence has thought to make it happen. No I don’t mean Jay Lawrence the comedian/ actor who’s career spanned throughout 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s (damn you Google search). I mean Jay Lawrence of Polk County, Florida. Some of you may have heard of him and his KickStarter fund (which by the way far exceeded his asking amount of $23K). I was given the opportunity to talk to him and learn more about him and his book. Here’s how the interview went:
Rashone/SBD: Jay, many people know of you and The Encyclopedia of Air Jordans that you are trying to develop but few know anything about you. What’s your background and reason for creating this book?
Jay: I was born and raised in Polk County, in the heart of Florida. My roots are there. I was brought up there. I have been a fan of J’s since middle school, 3rd grade, maybe, but I couldn’t afford them until I started working. The first pair of sneakers that I bought with my own money was the first Penny Hardaway signature sneakers. See, my era didn’t have social media websites or blogs. In fact, the internet was barely up and running…
Rashone/SBD: (laughs) yes who couldn’t forget dial up?
Jay: (laughs) right. We depended on catalogs, magazines, and books for sneaker updates. However, books and catalogs were scarce. Even today there are only so many hardcover sneaker books. A coffee book about J’s would have been great back then.
Rashone/SBD: So what finally made you decide to make this encyclopedia?
Jay: Polk County and central Florida are known as the lightening capital of North America. So we get many storms and hurricanes. A few years back my hometown was hit with 3 hurricanes almost back to back to back over a short period. There was no power for like a week and it left a lot of time to read. This was also a good time to analyze sneaker collections. During those hurricanes magazines flew off of the shelf and I slowly began to develop an idea. An artist by the name of Matt Stevens did a book called “Max 100”. The way he produced the book was amazing. He produced the book by the help of KickStarter and the sneaker community. This is when I knew it was time to get the ball rolling on my project. I actually had the idea for an ‘all Air Jordan’ book 10 years ago after Hurricane ‘Charlie’. However, I became really serious about it 5 years ago. So see this is more than a project, it’s a part of my life.
Rashone/SBD: Wow, talk about necessity being the mother of invention (laughs). Does it surprise you that no one has thought to do this before now?
Jay: Yes its mind boggling considering the popularity of J’s.
Rashone/SBD: This couldn’t have been an easy process for you. What type of road blocks, if any, did you encounter?
Jay: It has been a long process. Where do I begin? I have went through several editors and photographers before finding the best result. There was also the mental stress overload from researching. I researched information on all levels for this book. I eventually decided to take it one day at a time. My main goal was to make a presentation that would get respect. They say opportunity is when luck meets preparation. I feel blessed and lucky that it would be the first hardcover book on J’s.
Rashone/SBD: So with all of that mental stress going on was there ever a point where you almost gave up and called it quits?
Jay: Several times I just tossed this project aside. I do not joke when I say it has been over 5 years in the making.
Rashone/SBD: Exactly how hard was it to gather all of the information together for this book?
Jay: Gathering information for this book has not been easy. Like I mentioned before, this project has been years in the making. Actually I still update information for this book. I will continue to update information until funding ends on my KickStarter.
Rashone/SBD: Sneaker collectors can be fickle at times. What was it like trying to contact all of the different sneaker collectors and gaining access to their collections?
Jay: This also was not easy. I have been reaching out for years to different collectors to get photos of different sneakers. Finding a photographer was part of the solution.
Rashone/SBD: Solution? I’m guessing finding a photographer became a bigger problem than contacting collectors?
Jay: Yeah. I eventually decided it was best to work with a specific, limited group of photographers. This helped in keeping the process as smooth as possible. There are still some individuals who assist with some possible photos but I prefer to work with professional or free-lance photographers. I did not want to be overwhelmed by too many people. Also working with professional photographers makes things easy in terms of doing business. I did the best research in finding the best photos and content for this book. I will continue to travel and add additional content either from sneaker boutiques or annual sneaker events. All photographers will be credited in the book.
Rashone/SBD: Ok so you have your photographers. You’re contacting all of these collectors, one of which was Detroit’s own ‘JumpmanBostic’. What was it like to finally meet him?
Jay: I have met many celebrities and professional athletes. My godfather was a MLB pitcher for the Red Sox and several other teams. Growing up in Polk County I have had the chance to meet people like the Pouncey twins, Tracy McGrady, and Amare’ Stoudemire. All of these players are from my same county. They are all cool down to earth people. I felt the same about JumpmanBostic. He was cool and respectful since day one. Jumpman’s personality is like a friend who played pickup ball with you.
Rashone/SBD: I know exactly what you mean having known him myself. But out of all of the people you encountered in making this book why did you choose him to write the forward?
Jay: Honestly when I reached out to him I didn’t know what to expect. Some sneakerheads get caught up in the social media fame and are too ‘Hollywood’. Many sneakerheads get contributions from industry reps and never have to wait in line again. I don’t knock anyone for receiving free gifts. You never look a ‘gift horse’ in the mouth. You simply acknowledge the gift and be grateful. However, some get so connected that they stop doing the very things that made them noticeable. This is not the case with JumpmanBostic. This guy is still out there at sneaker events. He still travels like a hungry sneakerhead fresh in the game. Also he comes from an era before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram so he is not in it for the fame or notoriety. He did not do this to break a world record only to sell the collection later. This guy has been doing this for years. He still takes personal time out to do YouTube videos on his own. He does not have to do this. This is coming from his own pocket.
Rashone/SBD: It’s funny you mention all of that. I try to tell him all the time that his impact runs deep in the sneaker community. So out of everyone you’ve met during the course of making this book he stood out to you?
Jay: Like I said before, I have a few connections and could have begged a professional athlete or celebrity to do it. However, who better than an everyday, hardworking sneaker collector? A collector who accessible and humble. I felt like he deserved more recognition and respect. Most of his collection consists of his own money. How many famous sneakerheads can say that their sneakers are not sponsored gifts? Again, not knocking anyone for receiving free sneakers but this is what makes JumpmanBostic unique in the sneaker community.
Rashone/SBD: Ok now that we’ve established that JumpmanBostic is the coolest sneakerhead ever was there any collector who was the polar opposite? Anyone give you a hard time?
Jay: I would say no. I say that because I approach everyone as a professional and directly. I try to be as straight forward as possible. So if someone says no, I don’t bother them again. There were many who did not believe in this project. Honestly it’s funny how some of those same people want to assist now.
Rashone/SBD: Yeah it’s funny how that works out. Must be a good feeling to see them try to switch sides now that they realize this book is a big deal. But when did you realize that this book was something big?
Jay: I always knew it would be big. However, life humbles you. One should always have a passion in their goals. The problem is that ideas and goals do not always equate to what you envision. But I knew this book would be different.
Rashone/SBD: What made you feel like this book would be different?
Jay: The first thing I did when making this book was research for hardcover books dedicated to Air Jordan sneakers. I didn’t find any but I did find many websites that did on the internet. There were many great magazines but no hardcover books. Magazines are usually tossed and replaced for newer magazines. It’s just the nature of most annual or monthly prints. But most coffee table books have a special feel and significance to them.
Rashone/SBD: So what has the response been like to your book?
Jay: The response has been amazing. Many people are shocked and surprised at the book. Even the naysayers are in awe. The support has been worldwide. So many people have reached out to contribute to the book so I have to filter and sort through over thousands of new photos. The movement and support has been great.
Rashone/SBD: What was your reaction to the response you received? In particular to your KickStarter account?
Jay: When I first launched the campaign I was depressed and upset at the press coverage. The project was at a stable amount and level for about a week. I knew the project was amazing but it just needed to be seen. At times I was up for days hitting up forums and blogs contacting moderators with no feedback from them. There were even sites that wanted to charge a price to do a press release on the project. I contacted Matt Stevens who did an art book on the Air Max I’s. He gave me some encouraging words and told me to hang in there. JumpmanBostic also assisted with getting the word out on the project. So finally I receive feedback from ‘Sole Collector’ about posting the book. The Sole Collector post was like wildfire. This single post alone boosted my funding significantly. I was told that the ‘Sole Collector’ post was one of the most shared posts of the year for their site. After that it was like a domino effect. Nearly every top sneaker website/ blog did a post on my book. I woke up the next day flooded with press, messages, and funding from backers. You and Sneaker Bar Detroit gave me what I felt was personal and genuine support. I think what you guys are doing is amazing.
Rashone/SBD: I appreciate that and we mutually feel the same way about you and your book. Did anyone from Nike or Jordan Brand reach out to you?
Jay: There has been outreach from the [Jordan] brand and from other industry execs. I will have some new amazing surprises and stories to tell in the book. The new stories tied directly with the [Jordan] brand will be a great read for this book.
Rashone/SBD: So with all of the positive reaction, press, feedback, and cooperation how does it feel to have made some type of significant contribution to sneaker culture.
Jay: This book started out with a simple goal and it has now turned into a movement. You can imagine success in your head but it’s another thing to experience it. This book is for anyone who appreciates J’s. Some people are not fortunate enough to buy every Air Jordan that is released. This book will allow people to come in contact with the most beautiful Air Jordan content. This book is for both the novice sneakerhead and the expert collector.
Rashone/SBD: OK so let’s talk about the actual book. It is an encyclopedia chronicling the entire history of the Air Jordan sneaker. How many pages and pictures are in this book?
Jay: The book will be at least 502 pages with even more pictures. I want to fulfill everyone’s ‘Air Jordan’ appetite with this book. I will even experiment with 3D photos and vellum (translucent) pages in the book. I want to push the envelope in terms of creativity with this book.
Rashone/SBD: How many books will be made?
Jay: The first edition will be limited to no more than 5,000 copies. Many people tell me I could make so much more with this book. However, my main goal is to make this book limited and special at first, just like an actual Air Jordan sneaker.
Rashone/SBD: How much will your book retail for?
Jay: The ‘KickStarter’ hardcover book can be backed at $60. I will even add backer’s names to the book who purchase the book at that amount. There is even a ‘KickStarter’ limited edition reward for backers to have pictures added in a collage for the book. I feel this ‘KickStarter’ edition connects directly with the backers.
Rashone/SBD: When can we expect to see this book on the market?
Jay: I plan for a shipment of books at the end of November. This is another reason why I made it limited for now. I hope to have all books shipped to backers by Christmas. I did not want to get overwhelmed with too many orders.
SBD: So we’re getting close to crunch time, are you finding yourself overcome with nerves? What exactly are your emotions now as we approach November?
Jay: I get excited everyday. This has been a long time coming.
Rashone/SBD: That’s what’s up. So where do you go from here?
Jay: Honestly I have so many ideas and concepts beyond this book. This book was conceived in my head over 9 years ago. This book is a blessing and hopefully an opportunity for other cool ideas. I appreciate you guys at Sneaker Bar Detroit and I will keep you informed of any new projects. Thank you for this interview and support. God Bless.