The most coveted Air Jordan sneakers of all time

Basketball legend Michael Jordan signing a five-year deal with Nike back in the 80s was that momentous cynosure that no one imagined would change the dynamics of the sneaker world. Their partnership laid the foundation of the sneaker culture we know today.

The brand enjoys a massive global following, and the cult-like status of Air Jordan sneakers is difficult to match by several shoemakers. And it all began in 1984 when the basketball icon took the first pair of Jordans onto the court and was subsequently fined for wearing them. Later released in 1985, the first drop of Air Jordan 1 sneaker instantly sold out, and the rest is history.

Over the years, the brand has constantly aimed at expanding its collection by redesigning and reimagining its iconic pairs and collaborating with multiple artists, pop culture icons and other influential figures. While this offers us sneakerheads some of the most avant-garde designs and eclectic colourways, the brand makes it a tad difficult for a sneaker novice to pick a few pieces and start building their collection. We, being your saviours, however, have curated a guide that can help you decide.

How to choose the best Air Jordan sneakers

Although the oomph of Jordans is enough to make you buy a pair or more, it is essential to understand the brand’s history and its milestones if you want your collection to be meaningful and distinctive. While many of the recent designs are iterations of the older classics in different colour combinations, most of the OG pairs have a story or significance attached to them. And let’s not forget the various collaborations that Nike keeps coming up with now and then. So, ample knowledge about the brand and its heritage is a must.

While many designs are easily available on Nike’s website, their flagship stores, online and offline multi-designer marketplaces and authorised resellers, most of the limited-edition, original and collector pieces can be bought off platforms like StockX and Stadium Goods at a rather high resale value. This is also a telltale of the fact that most Air Jordans make for great investment pieces, as they tend to hold their value well.

While you can wear your Jordans literally anywhere, figuring out what you need a pair for can make for a great start to short-listing. If you’re looking for a rather dressy pair for upscale social events or formal occasions, opt for understated pieces like the Dior x Nike Air Jordan Low 1.

Similarly, if you’re looking for a pair of kicks to elevate your streetwear style, you can pick a quirky colourway or choose a neutral-toned one if you wish your pair to match most of your outfits. If authentic and vintage shoes are on your wishlist, opt for pairs that represent the brand or MJ’s history like the Nike Air Jordan XX, the upper of which traverses through Michael’s life or any other original staple. If optimum comfort or high performance for athletic purposes is on your checklist, pick a Jordan pair that’s made with advanced cushioning technology or other such features.

Since you’re just starting out, timeless classics like Air Jordan 1 (irrespective of the colourway and silhouette) would make for a great choice. They are easy to style and a must-have. Try choosing different colour combinations in various designs whenever buying a pair of Jordans to increase the versatility of your shoe collection. Once you’ve invested in some basic designs (or their iterations), you can then look to buying collector-worthy pieces or limited-edition collaborations to stay at the top of the game.

Here are some of the best Air Jordan sneakers of all time

Hero Image: Courtesy James Knight/Pexels; Featured Image: Courtesy Superkicks

This is that OG pair that started it all; the Nike basketball shoes that MJ first wore on the hardwood, which earned him a fine of USD 5,000 (INR 4,14,097.50) each time for violating the league’s uniform policy with the red and black colourway. An epitome of performance, style and comfort, the history of these original Air Jordan sneakers makes it all the more special to be owned and added to your personal collection of kicks. It made for a solid foundation for the Jordan line and a canvas for upcoming collaborators and artists to experiment and curate their own iterations of this icon.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

After retiring from the NBA in 1993, MJ made his comeback in 1995 towards the end of the season playoffs in a pair of Air Jordan XI in a white and black, dark concord colourway. And of course, the sneakers became an instant hit. They further gained popularity when he starred in the animated classic Space Jam wearing the same pair. While the design featured a full-length carbon fibre plate for movement and a nylon upper, the shiny patent leather panels were undoubtedly the star of the design. The shoe has been reimagined and redesigned over the years in distinctive colourways which gives sneakerheads multiple options to choose from.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

And one of the most iconic collaborations of recent times was when Air Jordan launched a rather larger collection with Dior. What instantly stood out and became a rage was the Air Jordan 1 Low sneaker fashioned in white Italian leather with grey overlays, blue accents and the showstopper Dior Oblique jacquard Swoosh. Accompanied by the Air Dior wings logo on the heel, the pair is one iconic masterpiece. Released in 2020, this limited-edition pair rolled out in a fixed quantity of only 4,700 pairs (high tops) and 8,500 (low tops), with each of them individually numbered.

Image: Courtesy StockX

Designed by athlete and architect Tinker Hatfield, Air Jordan III is an eclectic mix of performance and style. It was his first design and was fashioned in a white and cement-grey colourway, and the pair stands out for its iconic elephant print panels on the heel and toe. While the shoe is made sans the Swoosh logo, it introduced the now iconic Jordan’s Jumpman logo. It was every bit fresh and futuristic, with an architectural make laying an important milestone for the Air Jordan line. There are umpteen new iterations of the original in distinctive colour combinations available and easy to get your hands on.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

Worn by MJ for most of the season of 1997 to 1998, the Air Jordan XIII was his last pair as a Chicago Bull. Inspired by a panther and a nod to Michael’s nickname ‘Black Cat’, the design features an outsole resembling its paw with unique holographic eye details at the ankle and on the bottom representing its glinting eyes. The shoe featured in the Netflix documentary The Last Dance, while Denzel Washington also wore a pair in the movie He Got Game (also the name of the original colourway), which added to its popularity. Although the sneaker has been redesigned in distinct colourways, with slight alterations over the years, the iconic white, true red and black combination remains a cult favourite to date.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

Nike Air Jordan VII holds a special place in every collector’s repertoire of sneakers for more than one reason. The first shoe to be released as part of the Jordan brand instead of Nike, this pair took the line to global horizons and was crafted devoid of prominent Nike brandings such as the Swoosh and the Air window. Additionally, the sneaker is also famous, owing to MJ wearing it during his second NBA Championship and the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. The design was launched in five colourways and is an upgraded successor of the Air Jordan VI sneakers.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

Opposing the ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ proverb perfectly is this Air Jordan sneaker that employed the artistry of three creative geniuses to deliver a legendary pair. Released in 2021, the shoe was a collaboration between the iconic Jordan brand, Hiroshi Fujiwara’s Fragment and Travis Scott and a dynamic yet subtle take on the classic Air Jordan 1. The pair quite artistically combines the sail, military blue, white and black hues in a layered manner topped with a backwards Swoosh (which is now a Scott signature). The design also features embossed Cactus Jack and Fragment Design logos on respective left and right heels.

Image: Courtesy Nike

The Air Jordan II was probably the most luxurious article that aimed at straddling both the worlds of red carpet and sportswear. Incorporating details like Italian manufacturing, sleek lines and faux lizard skin, the pair is renowned for its make that’s different from other classic Nike high-tops. Although the shoe wasn’t worn much on the courts, this OG design started gaining popularity after recent iterations of this shoe were launched in different collaborations with J Balvin and Billie Eilish. While these sneakers were originally released in a white and red colourway as both high and low tops, the design has been remade over the years, resulting in some stunning colour combinations.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

Air Jordan XX was launched as the brand’s 20th Anniversary edition to mark the greatness of the basketball legend and his brand’s legacy. Hence, MJ along with Hatfield and Mark Smith ensured to create a piece that’s a telltale of his life and the Air Jordan empire. Over 200 icons and symbols have been etched onto the shoe’s upper that iterate MJ’s biography in the most beautiful way (including his childhood). It includes symbols such as the Jumpman logo, championship rings and trophies, baseball bats, the number 45, his children’s names and a lot more. It is truly a special pair, and if you have a thing for authentic details, then this one should definitely make it to your collection.

Image: Courtesy Jordan.com

Yet another cult Air Jordan collaboration that left the sneaker community in awe was with Virgil Abloh’s brand Off-White. The result was a stunning pair of women’s Air Jordan 4 in a gorgeous Sail colourway. Crafted in full-grain leather, textile and a grid mesh upper, the design also features the patented, bold and all-caps text graphic, adding just the right hints of a popping hue to the subtleness of the shoe. Furthermore, exposed collar foam and the signature Off-White cable tie stitch up the design to perfection.

Image: Courtesy StockX

Boasting a spectacular crimson bliss, sail and leche-blue colourway is this Air Jordan 5 that was curated in collaboration with DJ Khaled. It’s a part of his We The Best collection and stands out for its pretty pastel colours, plush quilted liner and retained original details. While Keep Going labels have been stitched on the inside of the tongue, the heels of the shoes feature We The Best and Nike Air logos, respectively. Created in durable leather, the shoe delivers a premium look while the Air unit in the heel ensures optimum comfort and cushioning.

Image: Courtesy Nike

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: Are Air Jordan 1’s worth buying?

Answer: Yes, Air Jordan 1’s are worth buying, especially the Retro High OGs. Irrespective of the colourway or the silhouette, these classics make for a good investment, as they tend to hold their value well and never really depreciate. They are both stylish and durable and have great quality.

Question: Is Air Jordan a luxury brand?

Answer: Yes, it is a luxury brand since it manufactures designer pieces of premium quality and style. Collaborations with various artists, legends and pop culture icons further add to its luxurious appeal, ensuring that the Air Jordan franchise lives forever.

Question: Which is the most comfortable Air Jordan?

Answer: Some of the most comfortable Nike Jordans include Jordan XIX (that’s made with Tech Flex materials and carbon fibre shank), Air Jordan 12 Retro Flu Game, Air Jordan 2 Retro and Air Jordan 1 Retro High.

Question: Why are Air Jordans costly?

Answer: Jordan is a luxury sneaker label that’s known for producing high-quality pieces and specifically durable shoes crafted with some of the most premium materials. While the shoes define peak luxury, how the brand makes and markets those shoes and the time and money spent on making each pair also affect the price point.

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