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Florida Gators Countdown to Kickoff 2021: No. 21 is Jordan Brand’s cultural cachet

Young Gators, why you snappin’ so hard?

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Are the Florida Gators cool?

I don’t know that I’m the authority on this, to be honest. I’m in my 30s now, and a white dude who works from home and lives in t-shirts and shorts; I wear the clothes I don for comfort first on about 364 days of the year, with the styling on the other one — or two, if it’s a leap year — probably heavily consulted on by women I know.

But I do think that people who do consider themselves arbiters of cool think the Gators are.

When rapper 21 Savage somehow obtains a players’ edition version of the Air Jordan IV sneaker and posts a picture of himself in them for Instagram, it’s news.

When Florida drops a football cleat version of the Air Jordan Vs, it ends up on Hypebeast.

And if you go looking for “Florida Gators PE” — the last letters are the sneakerhead’s shorthand for player(s’) edition — on eBay, you find a that the few pairs available are going for hundreds of dollars, if not thousands.

This was what was expected when it came to Florida shifting from Nike to Jordan Brand for its football (and basketball) programs: Access to exclusive styles from the Air Jordan line and others that have cultural cachet surpassing that of the swoosh itself. And I would say that is working in Florida’s favor, even if there’s nothing to suggest any specific recruit is choosing Florida over, like, Georgia or Miami because of the opportunity to wear Michael Jordan’s silhouette on jerseys and Air Jordans on Saturdays.

Florida leaning into what’s cool among the constituency that matters most — its athletes and the prospective athlete pool — is important and welcome, and I can recognize that even though I’ve aged out of that same range. I hope you can, too.

And I also hope you realize — as I’m sure some players do — that Florida giving players shoes worth thousands of dollars in resale value is effectively giving them a substantial and hidden benefit to coming to Gainesville, even though they (currently) have to wait until after their playing days to realize those gains by selling the kicks without jeopardizing their “amateur” status.

You can’t spend cool. You can always spend cash.