Nike, named for the Greek goddess of victory, has become not the most valuable apparel brand in the world [worth more than twice as much as Adidas, its closest sportswear rival, and ahead of Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Chanel].

It is part of the movies we watch, the songs we hear, the museums we frequent, the business we do; part of how we think about who we are and how we got to here.

It is, said Robert Goldman, the co-author of ''Nike Culture : The Sign of the Swoosh'' and professor emeritus at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon, ''an emblem of individuality, in an age where individuality has become rampant,'' that also happens to be an emblem that can be read by the masses.

Forget Niketown. To a certain extent we are all citizens of Nikeland now.

NIKE at 50 : 'Not items but ideas'. For its 50th anniversary this year, Nike could have done a lot of things.

It could have done what many fashions brands do and had a series of enormous parties in multiple capitals around the world with special guests like LeBron James and Billie Eilish and Naomi Osaka and Travis Scott, all of whom work with the brand.

It could have issued a limited-edition coffee-table tome full of glossy photos of sneakers treated like art.It could have created ''50 and fabulous'' merch [or something].

But Nike has done none of that. In fact, the only sort of anniversary thing it has done thus far is to roll out the Spike Lee character Mars Blackmon, the better to illustrate a new ''anthem'' called ''Seen It All,'' and suggest that actually, we haven't.

Which may be something of the truth - if there's one thing you learn in both sports and fashion, it's that there is always someone coming up behind you - and also something of a humble brag.

Because after half a century there is no escaping the fact that if Goldman Sachs was once described as the ''vampire squid'' on the face of humanity, Nike has become part of the root system that uderlies the culture. And not just sneaker culture.

It has founding fathers : Phil Knight, a former University of Oregon runner, and Bill Boweman, his college coach, who famously poured rubber onto his wife's waffle iron to make a new running sole.

It has an anthem : ''Just Do It,'' introduced in 1988. Most of all, maybe it has an emblem.

That puts it closer in history to such a brands as Coke, IBM, Disney and McDonald's than any athletic or even fashion name. The only other brand to make the leap so effectively and completely from commodity to identity in the last half-century is Apple.

Which is why, as Nike reaches its golden anniversary, it's worth considering how the swoosh became the branding earwig of the millennium, tunneling into our brains to colonize our imaginations.

It's a story about sports, sure, and marketing, and the luck of being a sports company when the rise of Casual Fridays and a global pandemic drove the world into sneakers and Lycra.

But even more, it's a story about how we construct the myths of ourselves.

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Vanessa Friedman.


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