This past May, the G.O.A.T., David Letterman hung up his microphone after 33 years and 2 networks in late night. No question that Dave revolutionized the industry once he took the baton from Johnny Carson. His subtle and dry sense of humor and delivery had his audiences constantly wanting more.
From Larry “Bud” Melman/Calvert DeForest, Top Ten Lists, Stupid Pet & Human Tricks to his relationships with Rupert Jee of the “Hello Deli” or Sirajul Islam and Mujibur Rahman of “K & L’s Rock America”, Letterman definitely put his stamp on popular culture of the time.
One thing you may not know about are the times “Late Night” and subsequently “Late Show” had an impact on sneaker culture.
We can start all the way at the beginning. The early days of “Late Night with David Letterman”. In order to differentiate himself from virtually anyone else in television, Dave took to wearing sneakers with suits and not traditional dress shoes. A trend that, for the time was bizarre, yet now, seems all so ok.
But it wasn’t just sneakers, it was the same pair of sneakers every night. A pair of white Adidas Hercules wrestling shoes.
Dave’s sense of fashion was certainly interesting and really, chose perhaps the least flattering type of sneaker to wear. Adidas had any number of silhouettes that would have been suited to achieve his objective. We know that because many of them are out now under the “Originals” label.
After completing his second season and fresh off of an NBA Playoffs record 63 point performance against the Celtics, Michael Jordan made his “Late Night” debut. Stunting in the now famous red jumpsuit, MJ and Dave chatted it up about each of their kicks. Jordan giving Dave the business about his, and Dave giving Jordan the business about his.
In one of the better exchanges of the interview Dave and Jordan get into the Air Jordan 1, which in a crazy coincidence will get a tribute colorway based on the outfit MJ wore, and in one of the most sacrilegious comments ever made in sneaker history, both Dave AND Jordan agree that it’s “ugly”. SMH, Mike, SMH…
A lost footnote in this interview is not necessarily the discussion about the Air Jordan 1, but in fact what Jordan was wearing for the interview. In my best estimation, Jordan wore the 1986 release, Nike Rake, in a white colorway. A shoe I still think was underrated for its time with a one piece toe and elements from the Dunk.
The Rake is probably most famously known for its print ad mimicking Hercules and the famous pillars.Let’s jump ahead now to 2011 when Dave hosted Michael J. Fox, who, among other things, wanted to promote the word for Parkinson’s Disease research and the now famous eBay auctions of the Nike Mag from “Back to the Future II”. The auctions raised $11.4 million dollars including a matched auction amount from Google founder Sergey Brin.
While Dave’s legacy will be as a giant in the broadcasting industry, and, in my opinion, the greatest late night host ever, it is without question that part of that legacy will be forever linked to the kick game.