Do you remember the first time you saw an Air Jordan sneaker? If you were old enough in 1984, your introduction to the Air Jordans brand was a pair of Jordan 1s: a black and red sneaker unlike any other on the market. But the shoe line has matured since then.
Today, Air Jordan sneakers are the epitome of cool. And the Air Jordan history—which includes defining moments for basketball and African-American culture—has much to do with that.
The brand’s eventful past has left behind some telltale signs that can help you determine whether your shoes are authentic. Here’s a quick summary.
1984-1985: The Air Jordan 1
The Nike Air Jordan 1 was the first design to feature the Nike Swoosh. It was also the only Air Jordan design to do so.
It featured a red and black colorway, which has become one of their most infamous styles. The first time Jordan wore these kicks on the court, he was fined $5,000. But that didn’t stop him from flaunting those stylish sneakers at every subsequent game.
Michael Jordan showed viewers that your sneakers can be a statement. And while this may seem like a small thing, it changed the way people thought about sports and footwear. Shoes now played an important role in defining your identity.
1986-1987: Changing Designs for the Air Jordan 2
In 1986, Nike launched the Air Jordan 2, which was made in Italy. It was the first time that the brand had produced a sneaker outside of its American factories. This move showed other brands that there was room for experimentation when it came to designing sneakers.
The first thing you’ll notice about this pair is its lack of a Nike logo on the side. Instead, it has “Nike” embossed on its tongue.
In addition, the sneakers came in a white colorway. Luckily for Jordan, this palette didn’t violate any dress regulations. This was a major distinction from the rebellious Air Jordan 1 shoe, and it made them more attractive to professional athletes.
1988: The Air Jordan 3 by Tinker Hatfield
The third shoe in the series was designed by Tinker Hatfield and released in 1988. It was the first Air Jordan model to feature the now-famous Jumpman logo.
This logo came to represent Michael Jordan’s competitive spirit and tenacity.
1989: Going Global With the Air Jordan 4
The Air Jordan 4 was the first of Michael Jordan’s shoes to appear in stores all over the world. After featuring in Spike Lee’s 1989 movie “Do The Right Thing,” these kicks gained lots of popularity among sneaker fans.
Its White Cement colorway became a staple on courts everywhere.
1990-1991: Air Jordan 5
The Air Jordan 5 was the first shoe to have see-through soles, lace locks, and a neat air pocket. They put Jordan’s “23” on the shoe too, and it became a staple for all the models that came after.
The style is based on a fighter from WWII. Despite the inspiration, however, Hatfield designed the shoes to look like Jordan’s earlier models. This helped create a feeling of nostalgia in consumers.
1992: The Air Jordan 7 With a Twist
The Air Jordan 7 was the first model to feature a colorway inspired by the 1992 Olympics. They switched the “23” on the shoe to a “9” to pay tribute to MJ’s Olympics jersey number.
Jordan retired from basketball shortly after the release of the 7, but his popularity continued to skyrocket. The shoe became a collector’s item and was sold out almost immediately.
1994: Air Jordan X and a Comeback
Nike released the Air Jordan X to honor MJ’s accomplishments. The shoes went on sale shortly before Jordan’s return to the basketball court after a brief retirement.
These sneakers feature a more comfortable foam cushioning than previous models had. You’ll also notice a leather upper and a rubber outsole. This improves traction and flexibility.
The X is also one of the few Air Jordans that doesn’t feature a visible air bubble in the sole. This makes it look more like a shoe and less like a basketball sneaker.
2001: A Big Change in Air Jordan History
In 2001, Nike was looking for a senior designer who could help revitalize its footwear and shift perceptions of how athletes should dress on the court. Wilson Smith took on the challenge and designed some of Nike’s most suave Air Jordan sneakers.
With its sleek lines and high-performance design, this shoe signaled a major shift in Nike’s priorities. The company was going to focus more on athletic performance than fashion trends. And it worked like magic!
The 2021 Retro line brought a breath of fresh air to the collection with its gray colorways. The most notable release of 2001 was the Air Jordan 1 Retro, which is still considered to be one of the most fashionable sneakers ever made.
2003: Jordan’s Last Season
In 2003, Jordan retired from basketball after playing in the NBA for 15 seasons. His last game was with the Washington Wizards against the Miami Heat on April 16. The Air Jordan 18 was released that year to commemorate his career and highlight his accomplishments throughout it.
Tate Kuerbis designed the shoe to be reminiscent of the Lamborghini Murcielago’s elegant symmetry. The result was a basketball shoe that reflected the style of fine Italian dress shoes.
Boost Your Sneaker Game With the Right Info
Nike’s Air Jordan history has been a staple of its sneaker culture. From the brave Air Jordan 1s to the latest release, there’s no shortage of awesome shoes to choose from.
While you wait for your next pair of Jordans to arrive, take advantage of the style tips in our lifestyle section. You’ll be able to coordinate your kicks with your outfit and top off your look with the right accessories.