Sneaker Museum Logo courtesy of David Bieber Archives


Over 25 Years of Air Jordan History Hidden in Norwood, MA
By Hanna Marchesseault

When we’re young, it’s easy to feel lost in the world. Everyone has their “thing.” Something they’re good at, something they love, something that becomes their whole world. For most people, though, these obsessions usually fade into the background pretty quickly. Clouded by the next interest that has become the norm. For Rick Kosow, Owner and Curator of the Sneaker Museum based out of Norwood, MA, Michael Jordan was and is his life. His love of Jordan never faded away after he hit adulthood, it only pushed him forward and continued to define his career. Kosow’s love of number 23 fueled the Sneaker Museum, which has acted as an ode to not only Michael Jordan, but the culture of that time and how his influence permeated throughout society for the years to come. Kosow describes the museum as, “part-time capsule, part virtual experience, and part teaching museum for fans of sports, fashion, and art. It is a traveling time-warp adventure through the 80s and 90s, but appeals to every generation.” I sat down with Kosow at the Norwood Space Center, where his Air Jordan collection finds a home, to talk about his history with Michael Jordan, and where he hopes to bring the Sneaker Museum moving forward in a post-Covid world. A world in which the love of the classic Air Jordan brand is making a comeback. In a three-room office space, Kosow has curated a floor-to-ceiling organization method that houses everything from his Air Jordans, to original clothing pieces from the 80s and 90s, and every toy you more than likely dreamed of as a kid. All in perfect condition on his shelves. It’s a time machine that has been in the works for over 25 years. Rick states that his, “collection represents [his] unrelenting passion -- or as [he] likes to call it: sneaker vision.”

H: Why is sneaker history, specifically the Air Jordan brand, so important?

R: When I was younger sneakers were only allowed in certain areas. You couldn’t wear them in a lot of places. They were supposed to be meant for athletic use, and on the field or on the court. They really were not allowed in Temple, or even at school. Having gone to private school, we always had to wear penny loafers, and Wallabies and my feet were never comfortable. Over time I gravitated towards wearing sneakers. You know, early, early on, I was involved with other brands before Nike, but eventually, Nike came along, and the Cortez was different because it had color in the solel, right? A little bit of blue in the solel made you start to look different. When Air Jordan came out, they started with that red, white, and black one and it was so strange looking and colorful. Jordan was a little bit of a clown shoe. It just kind of shocked everyone and how different it was, but he was so amazing that it kind of just became great because he was wearing it, right? Sneaker history is so important because so many people are involved in it. Anything that pervades society and becomes such a big industry and is so everywhere, it's just omnipresent. It also rose up with the hip-hop culture, as well. Culturally, it kind of established stakes in the ground in the 80s. Part of it was Jordan, part of it was bands -- hip hop groups like Run DMC. Little by little they became more and more accepted, and colorful and stylish, and then more and more companies were appearing doing the same thing. And then all of a sudden, there was a whole new awakening to the possibilities that sneakers have, and it became kind of like a palette for artists to really become imagined and live.

H: What did Michael Jordan mean to you when you were young?

R: I mean, he was just ferocious in his demeanor. You know, so talented, had so much stealth. He would just do things that no one could and everybody imitated him, maybe before that people would imitate Magic or Larry Bird, but Jordan came and just eclipsed everyone, right? Then the Jordan Brand came, and it had some cachet, and people would notice it. It was like Ralph Lauren, the Jumpman logo, which is kind of like the Mercedes logo if you look at it. So, I also loved when that came out. I was like, “oh, that is the coolest thing ever.”

H: I feel like Air Jordan still represents luxury but in a different way. Maybe in a younger way.

R: It definitely does. It kind of brought, like, urban playground sports into a classy level. It set it apart in an artistic way, in an athletic way, in a beautiful way. [Jordan] crossed a lot of barriers and a lot of lines and he changed the sport kind of single-handedly through the way he played. You know, he wore longer shorts, too. They were short shorts when he started. He changed the dress code. For many years you weren't allowed to have sneakers that didn't have white in them, and he fought that. Eventually, [the NBA] gave in to that fight. You know, he's really one of the greatest icons in sports. I mean, he is the GOAT. The fact that I hitched my wagon to him was some dumb luck. It was just intuition, especially being a Celtics fan, but I guess I could recognize the talent, and the ability, and what was going on artistically with the clothing and the sneakers. No one ever had their own logo or their own brand before. It was just was unheard of.

H: If you were able to have your ideal Sneaker exhibit be brought on the road, how would you like that to look?

R: I would prefer more of a permanent exhibit somewhere. Maybe a long-term, or three-month exhibit. I get nervous with things that move around a lot just because of the wear and tear and everything. If I could have a permanent museum with an exhibit that never moves, that would be my perfect thing. You know, if someone, say, in Chicago wanted to take my sneakers, and keep them preserved forever, I would not be averse to them. Something that future generations would be able to see because it’s been preserved for so long.

H: If this exhibit existed, what else would you want to be a part of it besides your collection?

R: I mean, I have a kind of a cool brand. I think everyone can understand this project because they all have their own now. It all kind of represents the collector. I think we could sell sneaker-related products on a website or in a shop, and feature rotating celebrity guests who have collections. I think it could do well in the right space. If it was part of a permanent collection somewhere, that would mean I can leave it somewhere that I know it will be preserved and kept for generations. I would love people to remember me a little bit, you know. I'm not an egomaniac, but I would like to share it with the people going forward. The worst thing to do would be to break it up and sell it all. I think this collection has a lot to teach people, and make them feel nostalgic.

H: I think it would be so interesting to have an interactive museum that broke the shoes down year by year, and included other memorabilia and history from those specific periods of time.

R: That's really what my original concept was: to have an online sneaker museum and then showcase other people, too. But unfortunately, I just didn't have the right team. You know, I just never found the right pieces, the right sponsor, the right people. Hopefully moving forward I can put those pieces back together.

H: For your ideal museum exhibit to happen, what do you need?

R: I'm not exactly sure what I need. I obviously need a sponsor, someone to connect me to the right people. Someone who shares the vision of doing an all-encompassing exhibit. I need a team to help me.

You can visit The Sneaker Museum at the Norwood Space Center, or check out Kosow’s collection online at www.sneakermuseum.com