When thinking about some of the most influential sneaker lines of all time, you won't have to think very long before thinking about Nike's Air Jordan line. In addition to being the signature sneaker of arguably the greatest athlete of the modern era, Michael Jordan, the Air Jordan is widely regarded as the sneaker that saved the Nike brand. Last week was the 30 year anniversary of the inaugural sneaker of the Air Jordan line, the Air Jordan I, and to commemorate the anniversary, let's look at some of the most influential Air Jordans of all time.
Air Jordan IV
The Air Jordan IV featured plastic mesh on the side panel, plastic reinforced eyelets, and a heel tab which was extended in order to help pull the shoes on and off much easier. In addition to its unique design, the shoe was featured in Spike Lee's 1989 classic, 'Do The Right Thing.'
Air Jordan XI
The Air Jordan XI was the first basketball sneaker to feature patent leather. What was initially looked at as a crazy move, ended up paying off. The Gamma, Bred, Concord and Legend Blue colorways of the Air Jordan XI remains some of the most beloved sneakers in the entire Air Jordan line.
Air Jordan V
The Air Jordan line changed the game when it came to breaking the norms of what could and couldn't be on a basketball sneaker, and the Air Jordan V was no different. The fighter jet-inspired Air Jordan V featured a 3M reflective tongue and a clear sole, neither of which had ever been featured on a basketball sneaker. In addition, the sneaker featured lace locks which made it easier for the wearer to strap the sneakers on.
Air Jordan III
The Air Jordan III is widely considered to be the shoe that saved Nike. It was the first Air Jordan designed by Tinker Hatfield, who was brought on after the Air Jordan II sold very poorly in retail. Michael Jordan was rumored to be thinking about leaving Nike in 1988, but the Air Jordan III is what ultimately helped keep him there. With features such as elephant print and a visible air sole, in addition to being the first Air Jordan sneaker to feature the Jumpman logo, the Air Jordan III is undoubtedly one of the most influential sneakers of all time.
Air Jordan I
The sneaker that started it all. The Air Jordan I began with controversy, with the Black/Varsity Red model having been banned by the NBA in 1985 because it didn't adhere to the NBA dress code. The NBA fined Jordan $5,000 for every game that he stepped on the court with the sneakers, and Nike obliged to pick up the tab every time Jordan was fined. The whole situation proved to be a marketing dream for Nike, because sales for the sneakers skyrocketed after the sneaker was banned from the NBA.
Nike continues to release retros of Air Jordans on an almost weekly basis, and though His Airness hasn't played in an NBA game in over a decade, sales of his shoes continue to rise. For example, last year, Nike reported that it sold 480,000 pairs of the Air Jordan XI 'Legend Blue' in a three-hour window, which accounts for a total of about $80 million. As far as yearly sales, Air Jordans net roughly $2.7 billion in annual sales for Nike. For his part, Michael takes home $75 – $90 million every year in Nike royalties. It's safe to say that the Air Jordan brand won't be going anywhere any time soon.