By JUSTIN PAPP
The key to securing the newest pair of Air Jordans on release day was getting to the mall early, according to Rep. Jared Moskowitz.
Moskowitz, 42, grew up in the late 1980s and 1990s, when the fervor around Michael Jordan and his basketball sneakers was at its peak.
“If you weren’t lucky enough to get your pair, you were done,” says the Florida freshman, recalling the days when he would arrive with his father before stores opened to wait in line. “There was no internet, no secondary marketplace. But there was no better feeling than going to school the next day with a pair of Jordans that nobody else had.”
Moskowitz’s passion for basketball sneakers is still on display as he wears his Jordans around Capitol Hill, alongside a growing number of lawmakers who similarly don athletic shoes as attitudes about footwear shift. Moskowitz, a Democrat, launched the Congressional Sneaker Caucus last week in partnership with fellow freshman Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore. They hope to find common ground with members and staff who share their predilection, regardless of party affiliation.
In addition to starting bipartisan conversations, Moskowitz said he also expects to host caucus meetings and events (sneakers will be required, obviously) and partner with manufacturers on philanthropic endeavors.
“It’s a bridge back to people my age who grew up in the 1990s and also a way to connect to young people,” Moskowitz said. “It’s a great bipartisan way to talk to people.”
The group of lawmakers and staff who wear sneakers on the Hill is still relatively small. The caucus began soliciting members last week, reaching out to roughly 50 offices, Moskowitz said.
“I’ll probably join, but I’ve got to step my game up because he’s definitely on a whole other level,” said occasional sneaker-wearer Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., who’s rocked a pair of Jordan 11s on more casual days in D.C.
As for potential membership, Chavez-DeRemer said she’s got her eye on Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who is often spotted in sneakers. Another possible recruit is Rep. Rob Menendez, D-N.J., who was recently seen outside the chamber with customized black Nike Air Force 1s, with his state’s initials and district number embroidered on the heel.
“Always rep’ing the 8th,” Menendez tweeted about his footwear at the time.
As of Monday, caucus leaders were still awaiting responses from prospective members.
Moskowitz said he felt emboldened to start wearing sneakers on the Hill when now-Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., showed up in sneakers to a campaign lunch.
That prompted questions from Moskowitz about the congressional dress code, to which Jeffries responded that House rules didn’t apply to footwear, he said.
“So I just started wearing sneakers up here,” Moskowitz said. “At first people didn’t understand what I was doing. And of course there’s decorum, though based on the stuff that comes out of people’s mouths up here, I don’t think decorum is an issue. And then it got fully embraced.”
According to Chavez-DeRemer, women on the Hill have long worn tennis shoes — or tennies, as she grew up calling them — but typically changed into heels for votes or official business. Shifting norms have allowed for greater comfort and flashes of style even in the House chamber.
“I like the comfort in what we can do with them,” Chavez-DeRemer told Heard on the Hill. “It’s pretty formal here in Congress, and I like the formality, but this just adds a little flair to it.”
Chavez-DeRemer is less the connoisseur than Moskowitz. She’ll often sport Nikes — the company’s headquarters sits just outside her district — or Adidas sneakers but doesn’t consider herself a major collector. On the day she spoke to Heard on the Hill, she wore a pair of black Cole Haans.
Her pairings of casual footwear and slacks have attracted some notice: On one occasion, she said she was stopped by a Capitol Visitor Center employee who said Chavez-DeRemer’s outfits gave her confidence to start wearing sneakers with suits.
Moskowitz, on the other hand, has roughly 150 pairs in his collection. They’re mostly Jordans, mixed in with some old-school Nike Dunks and Reebok Pumps. One of his favorites is the Jordan Legacy 312. Released in 2018, the sneaker combines design elements of earlier iterations of Jordans that the Hall of Famer wore early in his career with the Chicago Bulls.
Moskowitz believes his collection is second to none on the Hill. Asked who has the best shoe game in Congress, he responded without hesitation:
“You’re talking to him. It’s not even close.”