The Complete History of

The Air Jordan Retro (Past, Present, and Future)

Air Jordans have been a go-to for the athletic-conscious that would soon become woven into the very fabric of our clothing culture. Whether we wear Air Jordans for sports or outright streetwear, the sneaker has also become a core of our self-expression and an accessory of style.

Jordans’ shoes have had an impressive run since many were first introduced. While some have sported some less than gotta have them debuts. These kicks have transformed an entire generation of shoe design into an immediate brand that’s virtually impossible not to recognize.

If you weren’t in the know before the phenomenon of Michael, no worries—we’ve got you covered.

The Air Jordan I

Year Debut: 1985.

Who would have imagined Michael Jordan’s foray into sportswear might have never taken off. Not when MJ had his eye on partnering with Adidas, first. While Jordan’s agent may have dropped the ball, Nike didn’t. When Nike took charge and sweetened its deal by courting Michael like a superstar. Soon, the shoes’ would feature the memorable “Swoosh” that’s now a mainstay of the brand’s unforgettable design.

How the Air Jordan I got off the ground:

  • Mighty Nike scooped up Jordan’s shoe while the endorser then was at the top of its game.
  • The AJ I had a memorable silhouette of a man in flight, the “Jump Man”, and complemented with fetching color combinations, coined as “colorways”.

The Air Jordan II

Year Debut: 1986.

You’d image Nike’s and Michael’s next shoe wear would mirror its inaugural mainstay. Not so much with the Air Jordan II and a design that shocked shoe buyers. When the latest model took the sneakers’ look and construction in a completely different style and direction.

The second iteration of the Air Jordan II was also the first and only time the shoe brand did not feature the now infamous, “Swoosh”.

The upper section of the shoe was fitted with a lizard-styled, but imitation skin, from a woman’s boot. While the design’s inspiration focused on quality over brand—an important signature of the design’s era.

Not to mention it allowed Nike to command a top of the line price at one-hundred macaronis. The AJ II would soon solidify its place in pop culture, with its debut on “A Different World”.

The Air Jordan III

Year Debut: 1988.

AJ collaborators Rob Strasser and shoe designer Peter Moore were largely responsible for bringing Michael Jordan into the Nike culture. Although Michael wanted to leave Nike. The shoe wear’s next designer, Tinker Hatfield was brought on, but it was Michael’s father who convinced him that Nike had his six.

Jordan stayed, while Nike commissioned Spike Lee to direct Jordan and to act alongside the athlete as ‘Mars Blackmon’. As the trio-combo teamed up in a series of commercials geared at scaling up the Air Jordans’ silo.

The third Air Jordans shoes were first coined the “Air Jordan Revolution”. And Nike played its marketing closer to the vest, by pairing each shoes’ release with a numbering system to keep them easier to Brand-identify.

The Air Jordan IV

Year Debut: 1989.

Michael scored beaucoup in a mega game in the 1989 playoffs against the Cavs. His jump mid-air was fierce as it was a clutch play in the fifth round for the history books. (It was the ‘best’ of five games, back in the day, little Padawans.) Designer Tinker Hatfield captured the vibe of the shoe’s fourth creation. When Hatfield incorporated a dome with air into the midsole of his craftwork.

The Air Jordan V

Year Debut: 1990.

A World War II Mustang Fighter Plane gave Hatfield the muse to craft the Air Jordan V. The bite of the teeth on the plane reminded Hatfield of “floating” undetected before making a stealth “attack”. Oh, and Jordan proved true to the BB-game with a tooth-rattling, count ‘em, 69 points in yet another Cavaliers blitz.

Hatfield added striping across the toe to enhance the Jordan V’s signature appeal. The Jordan Brand kept to its colorways by introducing its fourth shoe with an off the court in a grape shade. Ones Michael never wore in play but that got their starring role on—you guessed it, TV.

Where the Air Jordan Vs shined star-bright:

  • Actor, singer, and entrepreneur Will Smith sported AJ Vs on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.

The Air Jordan VI

Year Debut: 1990.

The Air Jordan I was a first, best intro to the Jordan Brand but the Air Jordan VI fused the higher elements of opulence to a shoe world hankering for something new and iconic. AJ designer Tinker Hatfield was up for the history of Air Jordans challenge.

Hatfield’s handiwork combined a pull on the tongue that was accessible with pulls on two holes on either side. A style giving a wider berth for the foot and then the heel. While he created a soul that was pretty much luminous and possibly the one contender able to hold up under Michael’s spotlight.

Other than Jordan’s 1991 feud with Magic Johnson that continued to steal attention…Until MJ helped the Bulls to take the Lakers in a five- rounder to prove he was still a player supreme.

The Air Jordan VII

Year Debut: 1991.

You might image tribal art from West Africa, Huarache, and Afro Pop wouldn’t have anything in common. Still, we’re sharing about sportswear designer Tinker Hatfield. Whose designs can cross a fashion plate from vanilla skin, heel, and laces to over the top collaborations. The blend from the art-inspired African and Huarache emerged as Hatfield’s next MJ shoe edition, the Air Jordan VII.

The shoes’ weightless design was anything but the limit, and $1 million price MJ’s Hare Jordan ad campaign commanded alongside the shoes’ launch— through 1992—was risky, yet, a calculated play.

And with everything solidified in video for featuring Jordan and none other than Michael Jackson, himself.

See Michael in a with the wabbit Bugs in their hare-raising flare in a slick 60 seconds.

The Air Jordan VIII

Year Debut: 1993.

A studied change happened with the release of the Air Jordan VIII. Gone was the effortlessness feel that sneaker adorers found in the AJ VII. Another Aesthetic emerged after the Huarache style with a greater cushion and cross-straps. The two redesigns complemented a higher shoe cut and their combined fusion appeared to give Michael an edge in his game plays.

Especially, when Jordan and Bulls tore through the Suns in a rousing six games. While the Basketball Hall of Famer earned his third MVP Finals kudos of “three” in a row. The Jordan Aqua VIII edition was am All-Star gamer feature and to us, really was reminiscent of Bugs’ ears, sans the pelt, of course!

The Air Jordan IX

Year Debut: 1993.

Michael Jordan’s growing star-power could gain him entry into virtually any athletic niche. He’d get his chance, after the tragic loss of his father who was slain. When Jordan said his farewell to the history of the Air Jordans and basketball.

Then he rocked the world of sports by inking a minor league contract with the Chicago White Sox. Before he played with a White Sox baseball affiliate, the Birmingham Barons.

Tinker Hatfield was told by the powers to be to stop designing shoe wear for Jordan. Though Hatfield believed otherwise, kept right on designing, and was responsible for creating the Air Jordan IX in the memorable blue and white colorway for Jordan’s team, The Bulls.

The Air Jordan X

Year Debut: 1994.

Jordan had announced his retirement from basketball in ‘93 and he never wore the Air Jordan IX shoes on any court of B-Ball. The Designer Hatfield continued making the next Jordans but when he came up with a clean toe and solid colorways, Michael had a smile turned upside-down.

MJ told Hatfield he hadn’t been part of the collab and Hatfield got right on the ball. When the designer fused a leather striping across the toe. Similar to the aesthetic he crafted in the Air Jordan V.

The Air Jordan XI

Year Debut: 1995.

The AJ X came in a cleats creation for baseball adorers. Even though Jordan’s time in the sport was affected by a strike and by March of 1985 he was back on the court of B-Ball. While virtually every publication with a front page read, “I back,” in celebration of Michael’s reemergence to the game.

Michael dived back into the ball game but when he saw Tinker Hatfield’s newest Air Jordans, he wore the sleek B-shoes without Nike’s official green light, and in the midst of a 1995 playoff, beaming with pride. The shoes’ patented leather and lawnmower-inspired structure (kid you not), made them as memorable as MJ’s cameo in the 1995 movie, “Space Jam”.

The Air Jordan XII

Year Debut: 1996.

The 1996-97 season saw Jordan rockin’ the twelfth innovation of the Air Jordans. The Jordan XXIIs’ resilience to on-court wear was only their first attraction. Sprinkle in the Zoom Air and a honey of colorways and the AJ XIIs proved they were a sturdy answer to functional design. They became a winning combination that saw Jordan through some of his toughest games. Including the Flu Game where he led the Bulls to a 90-88 win over the Jazz.

The Air Jordan XIII

Year Debut: 1997.

Tinker Hatfield went back to basics in pulling from his stylized couture with his Air Jordan XIIs weaving inspiration women’s boot wear—and the Rising Sun icon from the flag of Japan. Though his thirteenth-edition took the Jordan name to another level.

The AJ Jordan XIII shoes debuted alongside Mike’s Air Jordan Trainers. While Tinker represented the baller by harkening his design to one of a sleek cat. The sneakers were touted as the lightest of the Jordan shoes when they launched under the official Jordan Brand in 1987.

Soon, the sports shoe would feature with the Hollywood treatment, When the AJ XIIIs would feature in their own starring role—and with Denzel Washington, in Spike Lee’s 1988 Spike Lee film, “He Got Game”.