Marvin Barias takes MJ fandom to a whole new level
When it comes to kicks, real recognize real right off the bat ― that’s why professional Air Jordan collector Marvin Barias has been hooked on AJs since the XI Concord debuted in 1995, in all its patent leather glory.
Despite Barias’s affinity for collecting having started with basketball cards in 1991, he found his true calling with Air Jordans and has been building his collection for 25 years now ― and he doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Today, MJO23DAN is a full-time content creator, producing everything from informative blogs to detailed product guides to culture-themed podcasts ― all relating to his love for Jordans and for basketball as a whole.
We chatted with Barias about his ever-growing collection, connection to basketball, the changing landscape of modern collecting and more. Scroll down.
You have a great collection. What drove you into collecting Jordan's gems at first?
My love of collecting started with basketball cards in 1991. My father used to get lotto tickets at a local liquor store and I'd accompany him whenever he'd go. Right by the cash registers were basketball packs of 1991-92 Fleer. They were about 50 cents each at the time and I asked my father if I could have a few. Michael Jordan was, and still is, my favorite basketball player of all time and when we got home, the first pack I opened, I happened to pull his card.
I got deeper and deeper into the hobby of sports cards as the years went by and somehow, I ended up gravitating toward Air Jordans. The Chicago Bulls were playing the Orlando Magic in the 1995 NBA Playoffs when I saw the Air Jordan XI Concord on Jordan's feet. I was instantly hooked and made a point to save up my money to buy them whenever they were released.
The shoes ended up releasing that fall and I must've called every sporting goods store in the area to finally find a pair in my size. I ended up purchasing the pair with the money I had saved up that summer and slept with them at my bedside to wear to school the next day. I have been into Air Jordans for about 25 years now and there's no end in sight.
Do you think that the resale market somehow killed the art of collecting? In what way?
I wouldn't say it killed the art of collecting, rather it has elevated it. I've built my collection through resold sneakers by means of eBay, online forums or social media. Especially for pairs that have been released in exclusive areas that I can’t get locally. Or, pairs that were exclusive collaborations. However, there are definitely times where resale prices have become painstakingly ridiculous. It's part of the game though, and it's been that way for some time. There was a point where I redirected my focus to older sneakers, or sneakers people have not paid attention to as much, so there are times where I'd score a sneaker I'd missed on a previous release. For me, it's more of a marathon than it is a sprint to be happy with a complete collection.
And after so many years, what is it about Michael Jordan & his legacy that continues to be so relevant not only in basketball culture but also in design?
Michael Jordan, in my opinion, is the level everyone wants to achieve. He is the ultimate success story when it comes to his game, whether that'd be in his NBA championships, his drive, his skills or his business ventures. When people say, "he's the Michael Jordan of..." people understand the moniker and what that statement entails.
From a design perspective, I think his game (signature) shoe, which releases every year, is the industry standard on how a basketball shoe should perform. They have only gotten better over the years and by infusing storytelling aspects along with design, it's the perfect storm for any athlete and fan of the brand.
Sneaker culture keeps its fire on from within, from reconstructing classic pairs — like the story you told about a reconstructed Nike Air Ship — to customizations into new fresh designs. Why do you think this culture of taking already established designs and creating something new is so strong?
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. I'm 40 years old and I have great memories as a kid that still interest me as an adult today. Whether that be playing basketball, playing video games, or riding my bike, some things just never get old. The familiarity of classic designs with a modern twist definitely excites me. I'm a big fan of the classics, don't get me wrong ― but if you can take that classic and improve how it was designed many many years ago with today's technology in place, it has potential to be a winner. There should be fresh takes on sneakers every once in a while. That's what keeps things interesting.
When you first got your hands on an Air Jordan XI Concord, you went to bed wearing them. What separates this particular design from the rest?
When I first saw that shoe on TV in 1995, it was just a shoe that you'd never seen before. It was clean! A simple white and black colorway with a shiny leather rand that wrapped around the shoe just pulled me in. I thought he was wearing dress shoes on court but it was a performance basketball shoe. The fact that it was the first shoe of it's kind to feature patent leather and to incorporate a carbon fiber plate was enough for me to choose the Concord XI as my first Air Jordan purchase.
Like we said, real recognize real.
Find more full-time curators of good designs at our [metcha originals] chats.