There is no signature shoe line that can rival that of Michael Jeffery Jordan. There’s no way that Phil Knight and Nike could have known just how well their gamble to sign a rookie phenom to a $2.5 million endorsement contract would pay off. Even though Jordan wanted to sign with Adidas, the three stripes brand could not match Nike’s offer and the rest is history. So popular were the shoes on Jordan’s feet that Nike would eventually create the Jordan Brand sub-brand.
For many people, whenever examining one of Jordan’s many on-court accomplishments, one of the first things people look at is MJ’s feet. So let’s examine one of the most popular iterations of Jordan’s signature shoe and the moment that launched its popularity into the stratosphere.
Air Jordan 1 “Chicago”
In late 1984, as part of MJ’s initial deal with Nike, the late Peter Moore designed the Nike Air Jordan. Moore had also designed one of the most used on-court shoes of the era in the Nike Dunk and the design influence of the Dunk is very apparent in the Air Jordan.
The sneaker is a high-top design, with some of the best color blocking in footwear history. Much like the Dunk, the Nike swoosh is displayed on both the lateral and medial sides of the shoe. In fact, the real major difference between the two models is the cut of the tongue and the way the medial overlays.
The “Chicago” colorway is done up in Chicago Bulls colors, as to be expected. It is a mostly white shoe, with red paneling surrounding the toebox and side panels, a black swoosh and a red sole. This was the shoe Jordan wore for the majority of his rookie season. It was not the first colorway of the model, however. That belongs to the Black/Red colorway, also known as “Breds” and in the case of the Jordan 1 also known as the “Banned” colorway.
There is a legend about the Jordan 1 being “banned” and Jordan being fined for wearing it because it did not satisfy the NBA’s rule that a shoe had to match the team colors and be at least 51 percent white. (This is in fact not a true legend but that is a story for another day.) The “Chicago” colorway is the answer to that legend as it is certainly at least 51 percent white.
Still, while the Air Jordan 1 Chicago’s maybe be 51 percent white, they are 101 percent iconic.
1986 Eastern Conference Playoffs First Round, Game 2
“I think he’s God disguised as Michael Jordan. He is the most awesome player in the NBA. Today in Boston Garden, on national TV, in the playoffs, he put on one of the greatest shows of all time. I couldn’t believe anybody could do that against the Boston Celtics.”
That was what Larry Bird said following Game 2 of the 1986 Playoffs’ first round, after the Boston Celtics narrowly escaped with a double-overtime win against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. He said this because Jordan dropped a postseason record 63 points on the Celtics, a record that still stands today.
For people who watched “The Last Dance,” you may remember this outburst was sparked in large part because Michael Jordan was beaten pretty badly the day before on the golf course by Danny Ainge. So competitive was Jordan, that he took out the golf course defeat on any and every Celtic who guarded him in one of the most potent offensive displays the game has ever seen. (What isn’t mentioned is that the Celtics also scored more points with Jordan as a defender than any other member of the Bulls, which helped them secure the victory.)
He did this all while wearing his OG signature model. The Air Jordan 2 had already been released but it was rarely played in, mostly due to Jordan’s ankle injury that saw him miss the majority of the 85-86 season. Some people blame the shoe, though Jordan has never been quoted as saying that himself. His choosing to go back to the Air Jordan 1 for the playoffs has only helped that rumor grow in the decades that followed, however.
A Sneaker Icon
If the Chuck Taylor is the best-selling signature sneaker of all time, the Jordan 1 is the most coveted. Especially in the “Chicago” colorway. Also known as “Bred” (a combo of black and red), the Chicago colorway was shown up on several other iconic Jordan models such as the Air Jordan 11. The Air Jordan 3 and the Air Jordan 5 has a few similar colorways like the Black/Cements, the Cardinal Reds and the Fire Reds. But there’s nothing like the originals.
Specifically to the Jordan 1, Jordan Brand has retro’d the shoe multiple times in reimagined colorways and every single version of the model fetches astronomical prices on the secondary market. How astronomical? Resale sites can expect to receive anywhere from 3-10 times the retail price.
Travis Scott turned the sneaker world on its head when he unveiled his backward swoosh-ed Air Jordan 1s. The iconic Off-White Jordan 1, both the UNC and the Chicago colorways, gave deconstruction a new age flair. The Air Jordan 1 lows and the Air Jordan 1 mids have also been done over the years, giving more selections to sneakerheads.
No other shoe (good luck Yeezy Stans) has been able to bridge the gap between vintage look and current streetwear like the Air Jordan 1. For more examples of that, check out the Nike Dunk Low, if you can get your hands on a pair via the SNKRS app.
It is one of this writer’s Holy Grails of sneakers (even if he has a pair that very closely resembles it.) Hell, even the Miles Morales character in Into The Spider-Verse is wearing Chicago 1’s (specifically the 2013 retro with the Jumpman on the tongue).
The Jordan 1 is big on its own, but the fact that it was one the feet of His Airness during one of the first moments that made the entire league stop and take notice only adds to its tremendous appeal. Hey Nike…it’s well past time for another retro. We can’t wait for that release date in the 2022 Holiday Season. Get to it.