Michael Jordan Inspired These Running Brands for the 2023 Chicago Marathon

How Bandit and Heartbreak bring Bulls’ nostalgia to the start line.

Michael Jordan and Chicago are synonymous.

The NBA legend is not only responsible for bringing six NBA titles to Chicago as well as  many other accolades in basketball, but he’s also part of the reason sneaker culture even exists.

Beyond the hardwood and the footwear world, Michael Jordan’s influence is evident in pop culture, music, and other sports, including running.

While running hasn’t been at the forefront of culture and fashion in decades, the last few years have seen a runner’s Renaissance, with brands incorporating elements of streetwear, high fashion, and even sneaker culture. Brands like Aimé Leon Dore, On, and Stone Island have pushed the pace in running fashion.

The 2023 Chicago Marathon was the perfect moment to showcase how far the sport has come with Bulls-inspired collections from independent running brands.

Bandit began its rollout nearly a week before race day with a video that opens with the iconic Alan Parsons Project “Sirius” song that the ‘90s Bulls popularized and continues to be used by the Bulls but has been remixed by local musicians. 

The models showcased the black and red singlets, socks, hoodies, and crewnecks with “Chicago” lettering and Bandit’s signature logos in a recreated ‘90s locker room. Paired with “Bred” Air Jordan 1s, Bandit tied the moment to the Air Jordan legacy and the campaign also included a chair that West bought on eBay and was in the old Chicago Bulls’ stadium.

“It feels really fresh and different for us — almost jersey-inspired,” Singh said of their collection, which usually has a clean, one dimensional look. “I love the pop of red, [and] I’m very excited to see that on the course and really be able to spot that a mile away.”

Bandit’s “City of Champions” collection is the latest example in the brand’s storytelling. The presentation is more of a talking point than the product itself.

The Brooklyn-based running brand began during the pandemic with co-founders Tim West and Ardith Singh, who also serves as its Chief Design Officer. A graduate of the London College of Fashion and a Chicago marathon finisher, she has brought her expertise in materials and colors to elevate Bandit Running’s offerings beyond performance with a lifestyle-infused look with apparel that can be worn casually and doesn’t compromise function. 

While the “City of Champions” collection is important for Bandit, its pop-up location on Michigan Avenue is what, according to Singh, sets the company apart from others.

Bandit’s pop-up features lighting and graphics that one would expect at a Bulls game with “Chicago” front and center. 

With the Chicago Marathon being one of the six world majors, Bandit capitalized on the story around the Windy City.

For Heartbreak, its “Chicago Celebration” collection is more explicit on the Bulls inspiration with the black and red pinstripe jerseys from the ‘90s serving as the muse for the company’s racing singlets.  

The Bulls’ memorable pinstripes merged perfectly with Heartbreak’s newly introduced “Flying H” monogram created by Lucas Larson who oversees all of the designs for the brand. 

The Bulls-themed collection was another moment in co-founder Dan Fitzgerald’s sneaker journey, more than 30 years after buying his first pair of Jordans – the Air Jordan 7 “Bordeaux” from 1992.

“I designed that probably like two or three years ago,” Larson said. “We just sat on it because it was never really the right time. This season ended up being the perfect storm of looking at the Chicago collection and wanting to reference the Bulls.”

“I always loved sneakers,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know if I liked basketball, Michael Jordan, or sneakers first. The commerce and culture all came together.”

From his own sneaker collection and the heavy influence of Nike marketing from the Air Jordan days during the 1990s, Fitzgerald’s passion for running has led to the Heartbreakers community. 

Heartbreak offers a retail experience with locations in Boston and Chicago. Its Heartbreakers NIL program for college athletes includes students at Harvard, University of Texas, South Carolina, and others. Heartbreak hosted a panel with marathon legend Eliud Kipchoge to discuss running for a better future.

Its Chicago location also includes a Nike Sports Research Lab to give the everyday runner a professional athlete-like experience by analyzing their running motion and delivering a personalized running profile with training tips, workouts, and more. 

Additionally, its cut-and-sew collections expand the brand’s storytelling. Previously, it dropped its collaborative collection with Jake Gyllenhaal and Olympics ring colors-themed “Internationalist” kits, inspired by Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 Mondrian dress. 

The company began with screen-printed t-shirts in 2009 and it wasn’t until 2020 that the company scaled its cut-and-sew department with the help of Larson.

The Denver native who moved to Chicago and helped open Heartbreak’s Windy City location in 2019, has designed Heartbreak’s recent collections, including the Chicago Bulls-themed singlet, jacket, and “Chicago” script hat with 23 on a back panel, which the company launched ahead of the Chicago Marathon.

“As a brand, there are different things that brands choose to celebrate,” Fitzgerald said. “At Heartbreak, we always try to go as big as we can, and [we’re always thinking] what cultural moment can we express in a fun way through clothing that will resonate with people whether they run or not? If you’re into sneakers and culture, Michael Jordan matters.”

As the energy in Chicago begins to grow ahead of race day, Larson reflects on what it’s going to be like seeing the collection on the ground.

“I’m going to get a little emotional just because you put so much energy into it and then to see it out there,” Larson said. “People have trained for 16, 18, 20 weeks to get to race day, and what they choose to wear says a lot because it’s a big moment for them.”

Related Posts: