The story behind these most legendary of basketball shoes began in 1985, when Nike designer Peter Moore came up with a cutting-edge new shoe inspired by Michael Jordan, one of the greatest players of all time. Available in a range of striking colours, including a black and red combination, these shoes were certainly controversial when they appeared, not least because the National Basketball Association disallowed their use in official games on account of their colour. Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for Air Jordans to become hot property, and the distinctive wing-shaped logo became known the world over. The following year, Bruce Kilgore dreamt up the very popular Air Jordan 2, available in red and black, plain white, and most recently in black leather.
The real turning point came in 1988 with the advent of the Air Jordan 3, designed by Tinker Hatfield. This shoe was full of innovations, from the transparent plastic air ‘window’ in the soles to the new logo featuring a basketball player leaping through the air. Tinker Hatfield went on to design most of the following Air Jordan ranges, and the logo has remained unchanged.
Michael Jordan’s influence on the design of Air Jordan shoes has been considerable, and runs deeper than the mere use of his name. The majority of shoes feature the number 23, his shirt number, although 1991’s Air Jordan 7 carried the number 9, which Michael wore during his Olympic appearance for the United States basketball team. When he announced his retirement from basketball in 1993, it looked like the end of the line for the Air Jordan shoes. Fortunately, Michael made a shock return to the sport the following year, and the new lines of Jordans kept coming until 1998, when he really did retire. Since then, Air Jordans have continued to be designed and made, although they now lack the presence of their star PR man on court.
The most recent model is the Air Jordan 20, designed once more by Tinker Hatfield. These promise to be the most elaborate Jordans yet, featuring miniature designs that chronicle Michael Jordan’s great sporting career.
Air Jordan shoes in all their various incarnations are available in a wide range of colours. Many of the older ranges have been re-released as ‘retro’ items, with varying degrees of commercial success, and it is clear that Air Jordan shoes will go down in the history of basketball with as much notoriety and popularity as their star namesake. The newest varieties are available in all good sports shops, and there is a remarkable online market for retro and older styles.