Early Air Jordans: What You May Not Know About Them

Everybody has at least heard of Air Jordans. They are one of the most legendary names in the scene. Given their everlasting popularity, we figured it’d be nice to talk a little about their early history.

Air Jordan 1 – The Banned Sneakers. Or were they?

Air Jordan 1 Commercial
(Credit: Nike)

Whenever the first generation of Air Jordans is brought up, we instantly think of the black and red colorway.

Designed by Peter Moore and released in 1985, the now iconic black and red AJ1s had already caused quite a stir. The NBA allegedly banned the sneakers because they violated the league’s uniform policy:

“A player must wear shoes that not only matched their uniforms, but also matched the shoes worn by their teammates.”

Each time Michael Jordan wore the AJ1s on court, it came with a $5,000 fine. Of course Nike had no problem with the extra cost, they even played off the NBA rules to create a marketing campaign censoring the “banned” black and red sneakers.

It was a wide success. Nike and Michael Jordan earned the rebellious and charismatic reputation, and the world wanted their hands on a pair of AJ1s.

The real banned black and red Nike Air Ship
(Credit: Goodwin Sports Management)

But now comes the question: was the Air Jordan 1 really banned?

Sneakerheads have been speculating online that maybe the Nike Air Ship was the actual basketball court outcast. Earlier this year, Goodwin Sports Management backed up this speculation by releasing pictures of the signed Air Ships worn by Jordan himself as early as in 1984.

These are extremely rare, acting as placeholder for the Air Jordan 1 before they even debuted. We’re lead to believe that only 25 pairs were made for Jordan in the entire history of Nike.

It wouldn’t make much sense to obsess over the real “banned” sneakers today, as Nike sold the unapologetically rebellious narrative and the whole world bought it.

Air Jordan 2 – No More Swoosh

Air Jordan 2 OG
(Credit: Nike)

Before the second generation was released, Nike experimented with a hybrid between 1 and 2. Their initial idea was to merge the upper from the first generation to a new sole. And that would be the sneakers Jordan rocked in 1985-86 when he returned from a foot injury.

Then came a switch in design. Debuted in 1986, AJ2 was the first to not feature the signature swoosh. Compared to its previous release, AJ2 definitely had a more understated and sophisticated silhouette.

Nike marketed the AJ2 as premium elegant sneakers, featuring fine white leather and faux iguana skin for a luxurious look. Don’t gasp, as their price tag jumped from $65 to an unexpected $100.

Yes, they were a controversial pair. And yes, they marked the direction of change for future Air Jordans and accompanied Jordan as his career flourished.

Air Jordan 3 – New Look, New Design

Air Jordan 3 "White Cement"
(Credit: Nike)

AJ3 is the brainchild of designer Tinker Hatfield. This generation introduced the iconic Jumpman logo which is here to stay. Upon Jordan’s request, elephant print graced the entirety of the AJ3 line.

A lot of firsts took place while the AJ3 reigned. Most notably, Jordan earned his first MVP in AJ3s.

Michael Jordan made history in the Air Jordan 3

Today, we can relive the glory of the OG Air Jordans through retro releases. The history behind each generation is what made the line so successful and legendary. And we hope this post gave you a glimpse of how big of a deal it was (and still is).

We know you’re here because you love AJs. We’ve got you. Pay our online shop a visit, you won’t be let down.