In 1984, a 20-something-year-old kid from North Carolina signed a multimillion-dollar contract with Nike. And the rest, as they say, is history. After the Air Jordan 1 debuted on Michael Jordan’s feet, fans couldn’t get enough of the groundbreaking sneaker. The shoes elevated basketball sneakers from mere sports equipment to iconic fashion footwear. The first of its kind, the AJ 1 is credited for creating sneaker culture as it exists today.
Now, more than three decades later, the Peter Moore-designed Air Jordan 1 is a mainstay in the sneaker and basketball worlds. The Jordan 1 got its first retro in 1994, following MJ’s initial retirement from the game, and the brand continues to roll out AJ 1 sneakers in a variety of new and heritage colorways. Take a quick look at 10 of the best Jordan 1 designs (in no particular order) throughout the silhouette’s storied history.
Air Jordan 1 “Bred”
No Jordan list is complete without the inclusion of the “Bred” colorway. Each sneaker tells a story, and that first pair of Jordan sneakers (which, pssst, weren’t even actually Jordan but the Nike Air Ships that fooled fans) got MJ chastised by the NBA powers-that-be for the — at the time — rule-breaking colorway.
AJ 1 High “UNC”
If Chicago was his stage, then UNC was his rehearsal space. The University of North Carolina helped Jordan hone his craft, which is why Tar Heels colorways feature prominently throughout the Jumpman brand. With its almost aqua and white scheme, the ’85 version is iconic, sure, but any UNC-inspired Jordan sneaker is a worthy addition to your collection.
Air Jordan 1 High “Shattered Backboard”
Released in 2015, the “Shattered Backboard” Jordan shoes feature a basketball-orange toe box and heel, along with plenty of black and white. The sneakers got their moniker from the ’86 Italian exhibition. Jordan went in for the dunk and shattered the backboard. His uniform at the time was orange with white numbers and black embellishments. While this shoe is hard to find, subsequent “Shattered Backboard” releases are out there, too, so look around for other Jordan silhouettes in the colorway.
Jordan 1 High “Black Toe”
Similar to the OG red, white and black colorway, the AJ 1 Black Toe colorway dropped in 1985 and if you want to add original Black Toe to your collection, you’ll have to shell out big bucks. A Retro of this iconic colorway dropped in 2016 and retails for about $160 now. Still, this Jordan colorway was the one that launched the sneaker culture, so any “Black Toe” sneaker is a must-have for serious Jordan collectors.
Nike x Off-White Air Jordan 1 High “Chicago”
Who is Virgil Abloh? He’s a fashion designer turned artistic director of Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear. But shortly before he joined LV, in 2017, Abloh’s Off-White company teamed up with Nike for a 10-sneaker collaboration. The results? Pure magic and tons of hype. Also referred to as “The Ten” Jordan 1, this sneaker includes a red, white and black color scheme, deconstructed upper and bold fonts featured right on the shoe.
Air Jordan 1 Retro High “Top Three”
“Bred,” “Chicago,” “Royal” — simply the best colorways anywhere, period. These three palettes get rolled into one sneaker for a multicolored red, white, blue and black aesthetic, which debuted in 2016.
Jordan 1 High “Gold Top 3”
These basketball shoes are pure gold with shiny patent leather uppers that blend black, white and gold for a super-slick aesthetic. While the Jordan sneakers dropped in 2017, the similarly themed “Gold Toe” edition rolled out the following year.
Air Jordan 1 “Shadow”
While we tend to think in Bulls and “Bred” colorways when it comes to the debut of the AJ 1, the 1985 rendition of grey and black “Shadow” shoe still gets major play. Looking for a true replica? The 2018 retro “Shadow” release is as close to the OG as you’ll get.
Air Jordan 1 x Fragment “Fragment”
In 2014, Japanese streetwear designer Hiroshi Fujiwara took the “Black Toe” and “Royal” palettes and mashed them into the “Fragment” release. Super-limited in quantity, these shoes remain some of the most coveted for sneaker fans.
AJ 1 High “Royal”
We know, we know. The heritage colorways get plenty of press. For good reason, though. There’s nothing like the stateliness of a bright-blue Royal outlined in black. While the OG court-reigning sneaker is king, sneakerheads can hop on the “Royal” blue bandwagon with retro releases, too.
There’s plenty of history tied up in the Air Jordan 1 line. And now that you’re aware of some of the coolest Air Jordan sneakers of all time, be sure to follow our upcoming launches calendar for killer Retro releases to add to your collection.