The shoe industry would be significantly different without the Air Jordan 1, even though there is no way to truly verify that it is true. Consider this and you will have to agree. After all, it was the start of the Air Jordan brand, the most well-known line of sneakers ever produced and the catalyst for many people’s initial forays into the world of sneaker collecting.

Obviously, sneaker collectors existed before the 1985 release of the Air Jordan 1, and they do so even now. But would the shoe business be as large as we know it to be now, with the number of models launched, the innumerable sneaker shops, the multitude of sneaker blogs, and everything in between? Virtually probably not. The most significant model in our whole sneaker culture is the Air Jordan 1. In all actuality, the renowned shoe was created in 1984 when the stars of Michael Jordan and Nike aligned, launching the sneaker business.

The Air Jordan 1 is still very popular thirty years after its initial widespread release in 1985–1986 and the practically infinite amount of retro versions and hues that have followed. With a look back at everything that makes the Air Jordan 1 the most important sneaker of all time, we honor the Air Jordan 1 in this most recent episode of Jordan 101.

Starting The Legend

For the Air Jordan 1 to materialize, everything had to go perfectly as planned. Sonny Vaccaro, an insider in the shoe business, had to convince the upstart sports shoe company Nike to invest money in the freshly graduated Michael Jordan (Vaccaro has lately made headlines due to the Sole Man documentary). 

The Beginning of the 1

Peter Moore, a Nike designer, was tasked with creating the first pair of trademark shoes for the man who would go on to become the greatest player in the history of the sport once the alliance between Michael and the Swoosh was established. We can all agree that Mr. Moore achieved success, I believe. Believe it or not, that was a lot of money for a pair of sneakers back then, and as a result, the Air Jordan brand was quickly elevated to greater status.

The majority of Air Jordan’s original colorways

The Air Jordan 1 continues to have the most unique colors of any Air Jordan model. There were many additional styles created, including the Black/Royal, “Carolina,” and several “Metallic” hues, but only the three Chicago Bulls-friendly designs—”Chicago,” “Bred,” and “Black Toes”—were ever seen on the court by Michael Jordan.

Michael Jordan wore it for two seasons

Michael only ever wore the Air Jordan 1 for longer than a single season. He wore the same shoes during his sophomore season after finishing his rookie season in them. But not for long, as Michael injured his foot early in the 1985–86 season and missed 64 games as a result. He returned in time for the playoffs that year, where he defeated the Boston Celtics in the opening round while sporting the “Chicago” colorway, scoring 63 points (still an NBA Playoffs record) and dropping 49 points in Game 1. That series ended with the Bulls and MJ being swept by the Celtics, but not before MJ added to the legend of the Air Jordan 1.

Jordan 1 Retro KO

The biggest enigma of the whole Air Jordan collection may be the canvas-built Air Jordan 1 KO from 1986. Although nobody can even prove that “KO” stands for “knockout,” most people are in agreement that it does, and the shoe was created as a tribute to the sport of boxing. Whatever the case, what we do know is that in addition to the canvas construction, additional changes included the usage of the Nike Vandal’s sole in place of the standard AJ1 tooling and the substitution of “AJKO” for “Air Jordan” on the wings logo. We’re not sure why no one appears to be able to explain the history of the Air Jordan 1 KO, but we are certainly happy that it does.

1994 Retros

The Air Jordan 1 wasn’t reintroduced after 1986 until 1994, along with the Air Jordan 2 and Air Jordan 3. In 1994, only the original “Chicago” and “Bred” colors were reissued; however, since its reissue in 2001, the Air Jordan 1 has been reissued practically year in a variety of hues and styles.


Jordan When it comes to collaborations, the brand tightly defends its model lineup; over the years, only a small number of Air Jordans have been lent to outside parties. The Air Jordan 1 has received more collaboration iterations than any other game sneaker, including the Nike SB x Lance Mountain, Dover Street Market, Public School (unreleased), and fragment design editions. This suggests that they are especially kind to this model.

Beyond 30 Years

Since the Air Jordan 1 has been around for thirty years, it has left behind a legacy that is unequaled by any other shoe in the world. As a result of Nike being in the right location at the right time, the company was able to grow into the dominant force it is today, and Michael Jordan’s daring black and red sneakers helped the sector achieve new heights.