The History of Air Jordan Part II
Find out the story behind some of Air Jordan's most famous releases and the meaning of their designs.
Read Part One Here
Expansive is the word that best describes the Air Jordan shoe line. Since its inception in 1984, there have been 31 original Air Jordan versions released. However, there have also been special editions released. Some of these were partnerships with other brands such as Levi's, and others were special packages that Nike released. And then there are the retro versions of Air Jordans that have become popularly received every few years. But a good place to start is at the beginning.
Air Jordan I: The very first Air Jordan was released in 1984 and was priced at $65. The Air Jordan I came out before the infamous Jumpman silhouette was captured, so it is the only Air Jordan with the Nike Swoosh emblazoned across it. It also introduced the world to the Wings logo—a basketball with wings on it, making it a massive retro hit.
Air Jordan II: The second version of Air Jordan was released in 1986 and had a hiked price of $100. This shoe was the first Nike shoe that did not feature the Nike Swoosh, however, it did keep the Wings logo. The other notable features of this shoe were the fact that it had sports car-esque swooping lines and an air-sole, which provided Jordan, and other wearers of the shoe, with extra cushioning.
Air Jordan III: In 1988, another $100 Air Jordan was released. This shoe introduced new styles and construction that remained with the Air Jordan into the following decades. The first of these was luxury, and the designer worked with Jordan to find the best leather to use. They also introduced the elephant print and a visible air-sole, but the most famous part of this shoe is the TV commercials that it inspired: A Michael Jordan-Spike Lee collaboration that created the infamous phrase; "It's gotta be da shoes."
Air Jordan IV: At a slight increase of $110, the Air Jordan IV was released in 1989. This Air Jordan, more so than many of the others in the series, was dedicated to comfort. It features several aspects that the Air Jordan III had introduced, such as the Jumpman logo and the visible air unit. This shoe, however, introduced a few new characteristics, including plastic and mesh.
Air Jordan V: For $125, the 1990 Air Jordan V was inspired by a World War II P-51 Mustang fighter plane. It had many new features, including lace-lock toggles, translucent rubber, enhanced support and flexibility, and added traction. The cut of the shoe was also higher than any in the series before it. It still had the mesh and visible air-sole unit from previous versions, but arguably the biggest attention-getter on this shoe was the colour choice of grape purple and emerald, which were colours that had never been seen before on an NBA court.
Air Jordan VI: The 1991, $125 Air Jordan VI is one of the more historical Air Jordans, and Michael Jordan wore them to the Bulls' first championship. While many of the shoe's attributes were carried over from previous versions, this one also had suede, finger loops, a clean toe cap, a molded heel tab, comfort-oriented inner bootie sleeves, and the numbers "2" and "3" to honour Jordan's famous jersey number.
Air Jordan VII: For $125, consumers quickly bought up the 1992 Air Jordan VII. This version was inspired by West African tribal art, but it was more technologically advanced than any of the shoes that came before it. It was the lightest basketball shoe on the market, due to its neoprene inner bootie. This did, however, leave behind a few of the trademarks of previous shoes in the series, including the visible air-sole and the Nike Air Logo.
Air Jordan VIII: The 1993 Air Jordan VIII went for $125 when it hit the shelves. This shoe was the heaviest shoe that was ever featured in the series. It also moved back to several features it had before the previous Air Jordan, such as the inner bootie sleeve and the padded collar. One of the unique aspects of this shoe, that was never featured on another, was the carpeted Jumpman logo.
Air Jordan IX: In 1993, the price of the Air Jordan remained unchanged at $125. It is this shoe that was reproduced on the statue of Michael Jordan outside of Chicago's United Center. Ironically, this shoe was the first in the series that Jordan would never wear in competition, as he had retired to pursue a career in baseball.
Air Jordan X-XX: Over the next ten years, the 11 shoes that came out in the Air Jordan series jumped in price from $125 to $175. Each version introduced something new and interesting. The Air Jordan X was Michael Jordan's comeback shoe, which he wore when he returned to the sport of basketball, and the XI was voted the best shoe of all time by Sole Collector magazine.
The AJ XII is the famous "Flu Game" shoe, and is the most comfortable shoe in the series, thanks to podular tooling, a heal and forefoot that featured Zoom Air, and a midsole made from phylon lightweight foam. The XIV was the last Air Jordan that Michael Jordan wore while playing for the Bulls, and was also the shoe he wore when he shot his famous "Last Shot" against the Utah Jazz.
The Air Jordan XV is the start of two Air Jordans that Michael Jordan never wore on the court, as he re-retired before the shoe was released, and the AJ XVI was built for a Michael Jordan that was transitioning to the boardroom of the Washington Wizards with its patent leather and sleek design. The Air Jordan XVII was the shoe that Jordan wore when he came back from retirement for the second time, while the Air Jordan XVIII was the truly the last of the Air Jordans that Michael Jordan ever wore.
AJ XIX was the most breathable and the lightest shoe that had been in the series thus far, and The Air Jordan XX was known both for introducing free-moving targeted cushioning technology to the basketball shoe, as well as commemorating Jordan's career and 20 years of the Air Jordan line.
Following the Air Jordan XX, another 12 Air Jordans were released. Each of these improved on quality, technology, and design, and added functionality, beauty, and performance. Beyond these annual models were the collaborations with Sole Collector, Eminem, Don C, Dave White, TEDx, and more.
Each and every shoe that has the Air Jordan name attached to it holds a special place in history. Some provide memories of a great athlete on the court, while others were collaborations that gave significant funding to well-deserving charities. It is a testament, both to Nike and to Michael Jordan, that the brand lives on to this day.
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