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While the world battles COVID-19, is hype culture already making a return? 

By Cyrus Jarvis.

Hype culture has made its return, this time in the form of the Air Jordan 1 OG Dior, a collaboration sneaker between Dior and Air Jordan.  

A staggering 5 million have signed up for the raffle (as is now the norm for hyped sneakers), hoping to be selected as one of the lucky winners awarded with draining $2,000 out of their bank accounts. Only 8,000 of these Air Jordans were produced for sale, with the rest of the stock going to Dior’s top clients. They were finally released for collection on July 8th, along with Dior’s capsule collection of other Air Jordan ready-to-wear clothing and accessories. The accompanying capsule collection wasn’t immune to the hype either, as hundreds of young men queued as early as 4 a.m. outside Dior’s London flagship store. 

Since the beginning of March – sooner in some places – a global pandemic has turned society upside down, forcing people to change their day-to-day lives, leaving a heavy sense of uncertainty in its wake. Many hoped that we would break free from the endless spinning of consumerism that has played a part in enabling human rights abuses and ecological breakdown. However, the pandemic has not yet gone away, and it already appears as though some things have gone back to the way they used to be. Hype culture has created a relentless cycle of drops, collabs, and pop-ups, almost like a high-end version of fast fashion specifically geared towards men, that makes higher-end fashion disposable.  

It’s ‘fire’ until the hype dies down and it isn’t anymore– these Dior x Air Jordan sneakers may have quickly gained virality, but will likely be breaking down in landfills for the next 1,000 years. 

Amid predictions of an existential reckoning for the fashion industry and a looming recession, it’s hard to conceive of sneakers creating this level of demand and going for such high prices. The sneakers are currently going for an average of $13,000 on the resell market, with a buzz so unprecedented it even breaks pre-pandemic levels. Sneakerheads and hypebeasts alike see the collaboration almost as a royal wedding: Air Jordans were the first sneakers to become a part of pop culture, popularized by the gravity-defying Michael Jordan who wore them on the basketball court, and this is the first luxury crossover in the shoe’s 35-year history. Dior swaps out the classic bright colors of the Air Jordan, replacing them with their signature grey, while also overlaying the distinctive Nike swoosh with their oblique Dior logo. 

Despite the queues of young men returning to stores, there may still be a chance that hype culture will become less of an obsession in menswear. Fashion has largely stayed at a significantly slower pace through the easing of lockdown in multiple countries, so it’s difficult to say what the future holds for our habits of overconsumption.