Michael Jordan debuted his first signature sneaker ever sneaker back in 1985, the Nike Air Jordan One. Like the airness himself, the Air Jordan One became an instant hit. Nowadays, Jordan’s first signature sneaker is probably the most popular and most recognizable sneakers on the planet. But its 37-year reign as the most beloved sneaker isn’t just about the nostalgia. It’s also about the stories that come with every pair.
From being just a basketball shoe to a lifestyle sneaker, the Air Jordan One revolutionized the sneaker game forever.
Michael Jordan came into the league in 1984. After being turned down by Adidas and Converse, Jordan decided to sign with Nike. Nike, back then, is a brand known for its running and training sneakers. Jordan signed with Nike in hopes that he will be able to help the brand and put its name on the basketball sneaker scene. After a few years, he eventually did.
In 1985, Nike released the first-ever signature sneaker of Michael Jordan, the Air Jordan One. The design came from the Nike Air Ship. It is the first pair of sneakers that Jordan wear when he came into the league.
The first colorway of The Nike Air Jordan One is the “Bred”. It is dominantly black and red with a white midsole and red outsole. After Jordan debuted the pair on the court, the NBA was quick to ban the said pair. The league said that it violates the league’s uniform rules. But Nike and Jordan wouldn’t budge.
Even if the league banned and fined Nike and Jordan $5000, Jordan insists on wearing the sneaker. It became the reason why the Bred colorway of Air Jordan One brought in over $55 million for Nike, and the brand sold between 3 and 4 million pairs in the first year of the shoes’ release. The story behind the sneaker made people curious and purchase the “banned” sneaker of Jordan.
The success of the Air Jordan One Bred catapults Nike into the basketball scene. Every colorway that Nike and Jordan released became much-anticipated. During that first season and that first go-around with the sneaker, Nike released 13 colorways of the shoe. The famous “Banned,” “Chicago,” “Royals,” “Black Toe,” “Shadow,” and “Carolina Blue” colorways. It also has Black & White, Blue & White, Metallic Red, Metallic Purple, Metallic Blue, Metallic Green, and Natural Grey.
As the technology of basketball sneakers evolved, the Air Jordan One went from being a hoop shoe to lifestyle sneaker. Nowadays, every colorway that is released has a story that every sneaker enthusiast also looks out for. You have the Air Jordan One “Shattered Backboard” which is a combination of Orange, White, and Black leather uppers. It resembles Jordan’s uniform in a game he played in Italy where he eventually shattered the backboard after his dunk attempt.
The shift to the lifestyle sneaker completely started in 2008. Nike and the denim brand Levi’s collaborated for the first time in the Levi’s x Air Jordan 1 Retro. The partnership with Levi’s piloted the era of Air Jordan One collaborations.
One of the most notable collab of the Nike Air Jordan One is when they partnered with Japanese Artist Hiro Jujiwara. Jordan and Jujiwara’s brand collaborated for the Fragment x Air Jordan 1 High, which immediately became popular within the center of Streetwear Culture.
Together with the color blocking which is the same as the black toes and the rarity of the pair, the Fragment was hunted down ruthlessly and immediately became the hottest sneaker in town.
In 2017, perhaps the most highly anticipated sneaker collaboration, Virgil Abloh and his brand, Off-White did their thing with the Air Jordan One. Nike and Virgil released one of the most coveted sneakers of all time. As part of his “The Ten” collaboration with Nike, Abloh completely deconstructed the classic Air Jordan One and put his own touch on it.
The pair looks just like the Chicago Air Jordan 1s with all the essential pieces, but Abloh’s touch completely changed the classic look of the Jordan One. The pair comes with an exposed tongue, oversized swoosh, and mismatching laces. Abloh has put the pieces and flipped our expectations of what the shoe should, and could, mean.
Over the past 30 years, the Air Jordan One has been so iconic not just in the basketball scene, but also in the sneaker and streetwear culture. Most of the sneaker enthusiasts started their journey in the sneaker culture the same way that Jordan started his legacy in the NBA, through the Air Jordan One. And that’s what makes it timeless. It’s not just about the greatness behind it, it’s also about the stories that came with every pair.