Air Jordan 1: The One That Started It All.
The Air Jordan 1 has a storied history. The Jordan 1 silhouette is arguably one of the most recognisable and influential sneakers ever created - it is considered a 'grail' for many serious sneakerheads.
Accurately described as 'the one that started it all', timeless and iconic colourways of this immortal silhouette on initial release included Black Toe, Bred, UNC, Metallic Red, and of course, Chicago.
The Jordan 1 is identified by many as being the first shoe that was viewed as not only a sports shoe, but also as a shoe for regular wear.
As the name suggests, the Jordan 1 was the first in arguably the most successful and transcendent signature sneaker line of - not only the greatest and most marketable basketballer of all time - but one of the most decorated athletes in all of sports.
The Jordan 1 and all that followed changed the direction of not only an up-and-coming Nike company, but sneaker culture forever.
The Starting Partnership
In 1984, a letter written by creator and then CEO of Nike, Phil Knight, read the words “We are not satisfied with our 1984 results. We believe we can and will do better”.
Nike at the time was an upstart, dwarfed by bigger companies such as Converse.
Enter Michael Jordan.
Converse was at the time the official shoe of the NBA, with hall of famers and all-time greats wearing their shoes every game. Names like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Dr. J., Bernard King.
Nike was more of a track shoe company, and it took convincing from his parents to even get MJ to attend their pitch.
That summer, Nike signed Michael Jordan to what was the most lucrative sneaker deal in history at the time. Nike signed MJ with the expectation that at the end of the 4th year of the deal, they hoped to have sold $3 million worth of Air Jordans.
In the very first year, Nike sold $126 million, thanks to the Jordan 1.
Air Jordan 1 Banned
The sneaker arrived on the NBA scene with a bang, just as its namesake was busy doing as a baby-faced rookie.
Not only was the Jordan 1 the first ever pair of what would become the most profitable and well-known signature series of all time, but the Bred colourway was rumoured to be Banned (albeit unsuccessfully) by the NBA and then first-year commissioner David Stern.
It was however later discovered that the actual shoe that was banned was in fact the Bred colourway of the Nike “Airship”, but the hype had already been created. The black and red colourway supposedly violated the league’s uniform policy, earning both Michael Jordan and Nike a stern letter from officials, stating that “A player must wear shoes that not only matched their uniforms, but matched the shoes worn by their teammates”.
The NBA even went so far as to fine Michael Jordan $5,000 per game if he wore the shoes in an NBA game.
However, Nike happily covered the bill each game, and thus Air Jordan hype was born.
Nike would quickly realise the marketing potential the NBA notoriety had just given them.
The company debuted a national ad ahead of the shoes release.
MJ would rock his already iconic sneaker all the way to his Rookie of the Year award, in a season where he averaged 28.2ppg, 6.5rpg, 5.9apg, 2.4spg and 0.8bpg.
The Jordan 1s were so sought after upon release, that early resellers began flipping the Jordan 1s almost instantly.
As it was sold cheap at $65 USD, it was often flipped for around $100 USD. However, to combat its popularity and to prevent people from reselling the kicks to make a profit, Nike flooded the market with the model. Due to the wide availability, the original models appeared on clearance shelves at one stage for as little as $20 USD per pair.
In 1994, Nike attempted to re-release the Jordan 1, but the launch was surprisingly a dud. Then they tried again in 2001, following MJs second return to the game of basketball.
They released the original 'Chicago' and 'Bred' colourways, as well as some new flavours.
When MJ retired for good in 2003, Nike followed by retiring the Jordan 1 in 2004. That is, until it came back for good in the 2007 “Old Love, New Love” pack.
It is rumoured also that MJ himself didn’t welcome the proposed colourways at first because of its similarity to his college rivals: North Carolina State University.
Partly due to the rebellious reputation the Jordan 1s received after the commotion of the NBA imposed ban, and partly because of the performance benefits, the shoe gained immense popularity amongst the skateboarding population.
At the time, skateboarders mostly wore canvas built skate shoes, while the Jordan 1s offered more durable leather panels, ankle support, sole cushioning and new traction technology developed by Nike.
The Jordan 1 Today
The Jordan 1 continues to be a grail among sneakerheads today, for both personal use and resale.
A pair of re-released OG Jordan 1s from the past 10 years will still net you a cool $1,000-$1,500.
Jordan 1s have been released time and again in what must be in the thousands of colourways by now, especially considering that over 60 colourways were already created upon release.
Some of the most notable recent Jordan 1 releases include the Off-White series, Homage to Home, Shattered Backboards, Obsidians, Travis Scotts, Rookie of the Year, Unions, Diors, and Spider-Man Origins.
Recently, Nike has found success in flooding the market with hundreds of colourways of Mid and Low Jordan 1s. But sneakerheads will always hold a special place for the retro highs.
The Jordan 1s have been featured in various media outlets in recent times as well, including the highly anticipated 'The Last Dance' documentary, 'Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1', and 'Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse'.
The Future Of The Air Jordan 1
The Jordan 1 has cemented itself in sneaker history. No matter what happens from here on, its crown as the best sneaker of all time cannot be taken from it.
The Michael Jordan obsession doesn’t look like cooling off any time soon, something clearly evidenced by the fact that in May 2020, a pair of his game-worn autographed Nike Air Jordan 1s from 1985 sold at auction for $560,000.
Then in August 2020, that record was beaten by ANOTHER pair of Jordan 1s. This pair was worn by Jordan during an exhibition game in Italy in 1985, a game where he broke the backboard during a slam dunk, leaving a piece of glass in the left shoe sole. The pair were sold for a whopping $615,000.
If recent Nike behaviour suggests anything, it's that the Jordan 1 will continue to be released in OG and new colourways. It remains difficult to track down any Jordan 1 that was released before 2001.
The shoe has continually gained notoriety as the years have gone on since its release, and Nike’s marketing is too savvy to ignore the financial opportunities for ongoing Jordan 1 releases.
A trip back to 1985 doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Written by Jakk Walsh.