There are a lot of words to describe this afternoon’s inauguration: powerful, cathartic, and purifying all come to mind. But the one that stands out above almost all others, at least for us here at GQ, is fly.
While nearly all the other outfits at the inauguration attempted to rise to the historical nature of the occasion—Vice-President Kamala Harris’s purple suit a nod to Shirley Chisholm; Joe Biden, in a departure from his predecessor, wearing an American designer—one man was content to simply outflex everyone in attendance. During the ceremony, a video started swirling around social media of a man walking down the steps in what appeared to be…could they? Really? Air Jordan 1s made in collaboration with Dior? The man was quickly identified as Nikolas Ajagu, the husband of Kamala’s very cool niece Meena Harris. Meena, in turn, confirmed to Bobby Hundreds that Nik was indeed wearing Air Jordan 1 Diors: “Yes smh,” she wrote on Twitter. We don’t blame her for grumbling: the shoes, made in Italy using luxury leather, originally retailed for $2,000, but are now going closer to $10,000 on resale sites like StockX.
These sneakers may not carry the same historical heft as, say, Amanda Gorman wearing a ring with a caged bird for Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But they do signal a different kind of sea change. A pair of sneakers turning up at the inauguration would have been almost unfathomable as recently as four years ago. The inauguration, like much that happens in and around the government, is a formal, sober event—one to which most men wear hard-soled shoes. But if the event simply calls for the absolute nicest pair of shoes a person owns? Well, Nik Ajagu met that call.
In 2021, Inauguration Sneakers are completely acceptable because of how far sneakers have come. Sneakers, just the same as brogues, boots, and loafers, are now a high-fashion concern. Nik’s Dior Jordan’s put as much a premium on materials—and cost just as much, if not more—than any other designer shoe. These sneakers and their appearance today were the logical conclusion of the streetwear-takes-the-runway movement that began nearly a decade ago. When Frank Ocean wore Vans at the White House state dinner in 2016, we applauded him for the gutsy, mildly regressive act. Today’s sneakers inspire a much different feeling: admiration. And maybe a little bit of jealousy.