More Than Sneakers: J23 App
The creator of J23 App reflects on how his love for Air Jordans led him to create one of the most popular sneaker mobile apps.
The “More Than Sneakers” series highlights community members and cultural leaders. Each story includes unique and inspiring reflections about the impact of their favorite Air Jordans.
Any sneakerhead will tell you that when it comes to sneakers, especially Air Jordans, their favorite pairs represent much more than just footwear. For every #InMyJs and #MJMondays post, there’s an infinite amount of history behind the sneaker you’re double tapping. From what MJ did in them, to their cultural impact, to how they represent an individual’s journey, the stories are endless.
Today’s sneakerheads are familiar with the ritual of staring at a screen to check out announcements or strategize for upcoming drops. Matt, the founder of J23 app, grew up staring at a screen and taking notes for a different sneaker ritual — watching MJ play on TV. In between ‘80s and ‘90s basketball highlights, Matt kept track of the sneaker show.
That early passion for basketball, sneakers and all things Jordan followed Matt into adulthood. The idea of J23 app was born once he saw the need for an all-in-one release date and brand news destination. Eight years later, and J23 app has over 650K social media followers and is currently ranked #1 in the paid sports category in Apple’s App store.
These days, Matt often misses out on personal purchases while he focuses on getting the word out. The same passion that inspired him to build J23 app almost a decade ago fuels his motivation for continuing to grow it. For him, you could say, it’s definitely about more than sneakers.
We caught up with Matt to discuss the origins of the J23 app, connecting others in the sneaker community and his favorite pairs of Jordans.
Do you remember the pair of Air Jordans that made you fall in love with sneakers?
It was probably the Air Jordan V Fire Red, when I was a kid. I still have the box, but I don’t have the shoes, unfortunately. Back then, I’d get one basketball shoe a year, and beat them up, so they weren’t really wearable after that time. Every year after that, the one shoe I’d always beg my mom for was the new Air Jordan. I remember specifically, that when I was really young, it was one shoe every year. It was expensive, but luckily my mom was able to do that for me.
What is the most special pair of Air Jordans in your collection, and why?
That’s a tough one. I’d say the Friends and Family PSG AJV. I still remember unboxing those and being shocked. I didn’t even know that colorway was out there. That one sticks out.
I also have a pair Nikes that are the first pair my wife got me a long time ago. Those are pretty special.
Then, probably the 2009 Space Jam AJXI, because they were difficult to get. It was the last time before the big online releases, where you were actually camping out to get shoes. I think I got to the place at 1 a.m., and they opened at 6 a.m., and I got a pair. Then, I drove 30 minutes away to another mall and got another pair. I ended up getting three pairs total, and I gave two away to friends for Christmas. I wouldn’t say that I regret it, but I’m still like, “Man, I just gave away those two shoes.” I hope they enjoyed them.
The Air Jordan V “Fire Red” (via Jordan Collection)
Why do you think that sneakers, and in particular Jordans, mean so much to people from all over the world? Why are they more than sneakers, in your opinion?
I think it’s because MJ is such a global icon. Isn’t he known as the most popular athlete of all time? One of the most popular people of all time? When you watched him play, you just grew so attached. Even when you get older, you still have a big nostalgia for it. Now that I’m able to get some of these shoes, it’s fun to relive those moments, relive sitting on the floor and watching MJ play basketball on TV.
You’ve been able to build a massive following, largely due to your love for the sneaker community. How did J23 app come about?
It started in late 2011. I was always on NikeTalk. I wanted to build something, because there wasn’t anything out there that would keep track of what’s coming out. I built this app to save myself time, to know what’s coming out, and have a categorized list of everything.
Obviously, I spent way more time on this than I ever thought I would. I actually just mocked up a couple screens and posted them on NikeTalk. I said, “Hey, guys. What do you think of an app like this?” The feedback was very positive. So, one day I was like, “Let’s do it.” I spent probably a month on the first version of the app. Now, it’s been over eight years.
Were you a developer before that?
I do web development, so it wasn’t a difficult transition at the time. It was my first mobile app, so there was a little bit of a learning curve.
“It's fun to relive those moments, relive sitting on the floor and watching MJ play basketball on TV.”
How have sneakers helped you connect with other people who are passionate about sneakers?
There have been a lot of examples. When I went to my first Jordan Brand event, it was the Air Jordan XXIX launch. I knew a few people there, but no one knew who I was. It was cool to meet people who I’m friends with to this day. I’ve met some store owners who have so much passion and are just really good people.
What’s been the most rewarding part of the J23 app journey for you?
It transformed from just being release dates and stuff to, “Hey, how can I get shoes?” There have been some pretty memorable drops, when I was able to help a lot of people get shoes. So, that’s been cool to see. My priority is getting the information out to people, and there are definitely times when I don’t win. But when I see hundreds of mentions saying they got through, it’s a pretty good feeling.
Is there a particular release that stands out?
To me, there are two. The earliest one is the Doernbecher AJV. They restocked, and I was able to get that notification out. It was a surprise, and lots of people got it. I definitely remember where I was and how it happened. I think a lot of other people still remember. The other one is probably the UNC Off-White AJI. That one was also a surprise, and I was able to get that information out quickly. I get that a lot — “Hey, I remember you helped me get the UNC Off-White.”
The Air Jordan I x Off-White (via Jordan Collection)
You mentioned the AJXXIX launch earlier. What’s the coolest Jordan Brand event that you’ve been to?
The All-Star events are my personal favorite, always. I would say that New Orleans in 2017 was pretty memorable. I remember being in the store, and it was just crazy to see. There weren’t too many people in there, and the shoes literally just came out, almost like table service. That was a pretty cool moment. Jordan Brand does it big for All-Star, and every year that I’ve been is just amazing.
You get excited about all Jordan Brand products, not just the hype stuff — new models, performance shoes and of course, the classics. What is it about Jordan Brand that makes you such a big fan?
Some of it is just nostalgia. He’s in my top two favorite athletes. I was a kid wearing Jordan clothes as much as I could. It just stuck with me. To be honest, I don’t allow my kids to wear other brands. It’s definitely that extreme. [Laughs]
You seem to love buying sneakers for your family, as well. How cool is it to be able to share a part of your childhood and passion with them?
I love it. I have two girls. I went overboard with the first one. Before she was born, she probably had 10 pairs. And then you realize that they don’t wear them as much. So my second one didn’t get quite as many, but they both definitely love sneakers. They like to participate when I’m taking photos and stuff. They like to help with that. My youngest daughter recognized the Nike and the Jordan symbols early on.
What is your advice to somebody who wants to take their passions and build something like you have?
It’s never too late to do anything. You could start something now as long as you have the passion for it. Passion and consistency are the two big things. If you’re passionate about it, I think the consistency just comes with it. Obviously, my passion is Jordan. That’s what I do. If you have that same passion with whatever you like, people are going to respond to it.
What are your favorite Jordan Brand releases for Summer ‘20?
The Flint AJXIII is a big one for me. There’s just something about that shoe. I think I have every retro pair. Then, all of the AJIV Metallic Pack colorways. Personally, the AJIV is a shoe that I wear a lot. So, that’s going to be one of my go-tos this summer.