The Air Jordan 1 was originally spawned to outfit bona fide superstar Micheal Jordan on the court and transcended into a staple of lifestyle wear.

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The very first attempt by Jordan Brand at appealing to the masses did so and then some, evolving over time into a statement piece utilized by millions. Its silhouette is unique in that it can be viewed on a high fashion runway and conversely seen on your morning commute. The model has spawned countless imitations, including from high end couture houses like Yves Saint Laurent with their “Signature Court Classic.”

With today’s [Monday, November 30] release of the Air Jordan 1 “Cyber Monday” featuring a nod to classic Nike Air tagging and stepped up leather, we’ve taken a retrospective peek at 10 of the most striking and important Air Jordan 1 original and retro release and ranked them. Check out the list and be sure to vocalize your opinion on your personal favorite colorways of the timeless AJ1.


10. Levis x Air Jordan 1

Levis teamed up with Jordan Brand to create a massively hyped version of the first Air Jordan.  Representing the first attempt at a collaborative take on a classic, the Levis x Air Jordan 1 indulged in the lifestyle aspect of the athletic shoe model, fully realizing this aesthetic with the inclusion of a tee and a pair of 501 jeans.

9.  Just Don x Air Jordan 1

Chicago lifestyle provider and owner of boutique store RSVP Gallery Don C was provided the ability to fully realize and release his vision of the Air Jordan 1 for Black History Month. Crafting a J that quietly featured heavy detailing with a dark, thematic print dressing the entire upper (save for the buttery suede heel) and signature Don C python material prominently featured on the Swoosh and ankle strap, Don C snapped. The Don C x AJ1 was limited to an exclusive eBay charity release and part of its special allure is its one of one status.

8.  Air Jordan 1 White/Metallic Purple

The 1985 Metallic series of Air Jordan 1’s embraced and played up the flashy allure the shoe possessed. It was just two years prior to this release the NBA deemed the first presentation of the Air Jordan sneaker illegal, due to its inability to conform to color way rules. Jordan Brand at the point of the Metallic’s release still didn’t comprehend the magnitude of what alternative color ways and lifestyle color ways would go on to do for the culture, but realized there was potential.

7.  Air Jordan 1 EXQ

Before this homage to China-based Jordan heads re-released without prolonged warning in 2013, the Air Jordan 1 EXQ could be defined as one of the rarest and most difficult to obtain sneakers of the entire brand. It was reported the initial 2007 Chinese exclusive drop of the shoe included a meager 240 pairs for the entire world to ogle at. The kicks feature a multitude of factors that separate them from the rest of the 1s, including a red embossed star print, contrasting red stitching and a gold/gum outsole. 

6.  Air Jordan 1 25th Anniversary “Silver”

Provided as a gift from Jordan Brand to its rapidly expanding fanbase,  the Silver Anniversary Air Jordan 1 marked the 25th year of Michael Jordan’s athletic footwear. Featuring a cool grey suede upper and a cracked silver finish on the heel, toe box and Swoosh, the shoes made sure to gain the attention of purveyors. Overseas JB coolly presented the pair with an aluminum silver briefcase and to this day, the resale combination of the case and the sneakers is extremely rare and expensive.

5. UNC Air Jordan 1 

Utilizing the color option Jordan was rocking preceding his entrance into the league, The Air Jordan 1 UNC borrows the official hue of the University of North Carolina. Michael Jordan’s days at the academic institute were addressed just last month when a re-release of the OG Air Jordan 1 UNC occurred. The White/Dark Powder blue kicks possess some of the deepest roots in the Jordan lineage as they were one of the first alternate color makeups of the Air Jordan shoe ever available.

  4.  Air Jordan 1 “Black Toe”

The first series of Air Jordan sneakers polarized and changed basketball foot attire forever. The black toe Air Jordan 1 was just the right amount of edgy in 1985, appearing in promotional imagery and sometimes on the court donned by a rookie Michael. Twenty-two years after its original release, after Jordan Brand had realized its meteoric rise to the top of the sneaker manufacturing world, the sneaker providers decided to revisit the shoe in the Old Love/New Love package of 1s. The shoes appeared on store shelves again in 2013, satiating the now massive and colossal herd of Jordan lovers. The naming of the sneaker comes from the black leather present on the toe of the shoe and it is in this one distinction from the rest of the initial wave of 1s that the black toes differentiate themselves. 

3. Chicago Air Jordan 1 

The Chicago Air Jordan represented the on-court look for the prospect and burgeoning icon Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. In 1984, after winning a national title at the University of North Carolina and a Gold Medal at the Olympic games in Los Angeles, Jordan was selected third overall by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Draft. That year Nike also signed MJ to a five-year endorsement contract worth a reported $2.5 million (plus royalties). The Chicago 1 was the first shoe that came of the deal and began what would soon become the most revered signature athletic shoe series of all time.

2.  Black/Red Air Jordan 1 “Breds”

Upon seeing the Air Jordan 1’s Black/Red color makeup for the first time MJ disclaimed his unwillingness to don the shoe due to its “devil” colors. Thankfully the star athlete decided to eventually brazenly rock the Bred Air Jordan 1 on court, and the rest is history. The shoe evoked a sense of uniqueness as there was previously no option like the Air Jordan 1 available on the market. Influenced by popular kicks of the era such as the Air Force 1, Terminator and Dunk, Nike ventured into unknown territory in their quest to create a new brand complete with a new logo and apparel. The NBA banned the Black/Red kicks from wear on any official hardwood court due to the shoe’s predominantly black makeup. Michael Jordan and Nike are infamous to this day for their decision to stick to their guns, pay the $5,000 fines associated with the Air Jordan’s visual disruption and allow for the millions of loud, eye-catching and unique visions of basketball footwear to exist both on the court and off. 

1. Air Jordan 1 “Royal Blue”

The standout from the Air Jordan 1 group, the royal blue Air Jordan 1 ushered in an era of lifestyle tailored Js and non-team specific hues. The Bulls Red variations of the Jordan 1 cemented the Jordan sneaker as an intriguing option, yet it was the Royal Blue Jordan 1 that opened the floodgates to the possibilities of alternate air Jordan hues. 

Honorable Mention:

10.  A Tribe Called Quest

Hip-Hop aficionados hold innovative rap group A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory LP in a high regard, just as they do the first silhouette of Air Jordan footwear. Jordan Brand took the psychedelic neon red and green art styling and imagery of the iconic albums cover and used it on the detailing and upper of this rare 1. Also featuring a strap and a patent leather swoosh, this particular pair serves as a gift to Jordan sporting fans of one of Hip-Hop’s most seminal works. Dating back six years ago, the pair of kicks demonstrates Jordan Brand was aware of its connection to Hip-Hop and in 2015, it’s OVO and Drake championing this relationship.