The Air Jordan 1
Michael Jordan’s rookie NBA year not only earned him a position on the Chicago Bulls, but also landed him an endorsement contract with Nike. Unsure of moving his loyalties from Converse (as the Chuck Taylor was Jordan’s favourite sneaker to play in during college) to Nike, Jordan would need to be convinced … and in 1985 the creation of the Air Jordan 1 blew all his concerns out of the water.
It was Nike’s former Creative Designer, Peter C. Moore, who designed Michael Jordan’s first sneaker. Jordan had complained of Nike’s thick soles and that he couldn’t feel the court through them, so this was one of the first changes made. The Air Jordan 1, or just the ‘Air Jordan’ as it was then known, also debuted many of Nike’s signature features. These included a compressed air pocket in the heel, an overlay on the toe and additional ankle support. Its logo, the wings on the side of the shoe, set a high bar for future designs to follow.
Ironically, Jordan hated the design at first, saying it would make him look like ‘a clown’, but luckily he quickly warmed to it and so did sneaker fans.
The story goes that on 18 October 1984, Jordan wore a red and black Air Jordan 1 colorway on the court, but this broke several rules (shoes needed to match those of teammates and contain 51% white) and so the sneaker was banned from play. Nike jumped on the controversy and an ad campaign for the Air Jordan 1 ‘Banned’ colorway was soon in full swing, launching the model into the spotlight and changing the sneaker world forever.
But in fact, the sneakers that Jordan wore on the court that day were the Air Jordan 1’s predecessor, the Nike Air Ship, which had a strikingly similar silhouette to the AJ1.
The Air Jordan 1 made its actual debut in the basketball world in 1985 and became a trailblazer for many more to follow. Thirteen colorways were released in its first appearance, including the famous ‘Banned’, and the ‘Chicago’, ‘Royal’, ‘Black Toe’ and ‘Carolina Blue’.
Though eventually overshadowed by later models, especially the Air Jordan 3, the AJ1 still enjoyed relative popularity among the skater scene as both hype and prices went down for the model. It stayed this way for over two decades, until suddenly in 2007, the drop of a pack called ‘Old Love, New Love’ saw the turn of the tide that the AJ1 model needed.
The ‘Old Love’ half of the pair of releases was a retro of the original ‘Black Toe’ colorway, but it was the ‘New Love’ pair with its completely new black and yellow look that paved the way for the deluge of new colorways. Very few new additions had been made to the model’s colour history since its launch, but now the silhouette was open to all kinds of changes. Tweaks were made to the design that mirrored trending styles, such as additional straps and more padding.
In the late 2010s collaborations on the AJ1 with Fragment Design and Virgil Abloh of Off-White regained the model huge attention in the sneaker scene, and more colorways followed such as the Shattered Backboards that proved incredibly popular. And now, over 35 years since the model was first seen, the Air Jordan 1 remains one of the most popular and influential sneaker silhouettes of all time.
Upon release, Air Jordan 1 lows retail between €110-130, mids between €130-150 and highs around €170.
Generally, Air Jordan 1s fit true to size. The sneaker can feel snug initially as the upper is made from leather.