Celebrating the arrival of the Air Jordan XX9 today, we bring you a look back at the greatest colorway of each iconic Air Jordan signature model.
While most of them might utilize the ever so classic Chicago Bulls-inspired color scheme, each Air Jordan has very particular and unique reasons as to why they are heavily favored. Whether its an ad campaign with Bugs Bunny, or a memorable shot by MJ, each iconic colorway helps tell the story of MJ’s historic NBA career.
Classics like the Black/Cement Grey Air Jordan III, and the ‘Aqua’ Air Jordan VIII were made memorable during All-Star Games, while other classics such as the ‘Playoff’ Air Jordan XII were made memorable thanks to MJ’s undeniable desire to be a champion.
Find out SC’s picks for the best colorway of each Air Jordan model below:
Air Jordan I – Black/Red
For the Air Jordan that started it all, it’s easy to see why the Black/Red colorway would be at the top of the list. The black/red-covered shoes were banned by the NBA, and marked the arrival of what would become one of the most iconic color schemes of all time.
Air Jordan II – White/Black-Red
The Air Jordan II took a different route than the Air Jordan I with its predominantly white build, bringing to life one of the simplest looking Air Jordan designs ever. While the White/Red colorway is also as simple as it gets, it’s this White/Black-Red original colorway that everyone has always favored
Air Jordan III – Black/Cement Grey
For the Air Jordan III, we could have easily gone with any original colorway and they would have definitely been worthy of the top spot. But it’s hard to argue against a colorway that actually stands as one of the overall greatest Air Jordan styles of all time.
Air Jordan IV – Black/Cement Grey
Just like the Air Jordan III, the Black/Cement Grey Air Jordan IV is another one of the overall greatest Air Jordan styles of all time. While a countless amount of heads might prefer the white-based AJ IV, it’s the Black/Cement Grey pair that everyone really appreciates and remembers seeing on MJ’s feet as he hit ‘The Shot’ to beat the Cavs back in ’89 for one of the most memorable moments of his career.
Air Jordan V – Black/Metallic Silver
While most of the Air Jordan V styles were all leather-based and kept things simple with a white upper, it was the black-based pair that really stood out with their durable nubuck upper, icy sole and metallic silver accents. Grapes could have easily taken the top spot, but it’s hard to argue against a colorway actually worn on court by MJ during the rise of his career.
Air Jordan VI – Black/Infrared
Not only taking the top spot just based on their visual appeal, but the Black / Infrared Air Jordan VI is also most memorable for being worn by MJ as he finally captured his first-career NBA title with the Bulls in 1991. The combination of Black / Infrared still stands as one of the most unique reiterations of the iconic Chicago Bulls color scheme.
Air Jordan VII – Hare
The Air Jordan VII continued to display the brands creativity with the unique combination of colors utilized on the ‘Hare’ Air Jordan VII. Still relative to the signature line’s look, the ‘Hare’ Air Jordan VII featured a unique off-white build with hits of red to create a unique Bulls-inspired color scheme. The ‘Hare’ colorway is also most recognized for its close association with Bugs Bunny.
Air Jordan VIII – Aqua
Worn by Michael in the 1993 NBA All-Star Game, the ‘Aqua’ edition is easily the most unique Air Jordan VIII colorway. Prior to their first retro release back in 2007, the ‘Aqua’ Air Jordan 8 Retro was one of the most coveted original Air Jordans ever. ‘Playoffs’ might be pretty appealing, but there’s really no other colorway like the one seen on the ‘Aqua’ Air Jordan VIII.
Air Jordan IX – Charcoal
Its hard to pick an original Air Jordan IX colorway that easily stands out when the model was never originally worn by Michael in the NBA. While most colorways rocked in the league were player exclusives, it’s this ‘Charcoal’ version that really stood out as the best colorway to actually hit retail shelves.
Air Jordan X – Chicago
Other than just being a perfectly executed Chicago Bulls color scheme, the ‘Chicago’ Air Jordan X is most remembered for being rocked by MJ as he made his return to the NBA following his first retirement back in 1995.
Air Jordan XI – Concord
Worn by MJ almost an entire year prior to when they’d release, the ‘Concord’ Air Jordan XI was like no other colorway on an Air Jordan before it. Not only did they utilize a unique combination of white, black and concord purple, they also were taken to new levels of flashiness with their contrasting patent leather overlays that made the XI visible no matter where on the court.
AJ XII – Playoff
The XII was best remembered for its sharply contrasting overlay colorblocking, and no version looked better than what has long been dubbed the “Playoff” XII. Worn by Michael during Game 1 of the 1997 Finals, the night he sunk a game winner from left wing after “the mailman didn’t deliver on a Sunday,” this colorway has stood the test of time as one of the more classic looks well over fifteen years later.
AJ XIII – Black/Red
Michael may have worn the XIV during the clinching game of the 1998 Playoffs, but it was this road-based XIII that he did most of his damage in during that legacy-cementing run. The only Bulls colorway to feature a 3M mesh overlay rather than leather, this version’s variety of textures made it truly stand out when it originally released.
AJ XIV – Indiglo
While the “Last Shot” version of the model might’ve had the most historical on-court moment, it was afterall the only color of the XIV that Michael wore on-court, which helps. The “Indiglo” version brought with it an entirely new colorblocking and accent approach that perfectly captured the sleekness and speed of the shoe’s design.
AJ XV – Black/Red
It may not have a large group of fans, but the XV’s Black / Red colorway allowed for the shoe’s many textures and materials to complement eachother nicely in a fighter jet-inspired package. Plus, there was no mistaking the shoe’s Prada-inspired red heel strip.
AJ XVI – Black/Red
Even though MJ appeared to be retired for good when the XVI released in 2000, it was pretty easy to envision Michael stepping out on the United Center floor for a playoff game in this launch colorway. The original featured a great full grain leather throughout, which was then set off by a clean patent leather toe inspired by Michael’s dress shoes.
AJ XVII – White/College Blue
It may have been too tame upon its initial release, but as the years have passed, much like the XVI before it, this Wilson Smith III-crafted game shoe has beautifully lived on as a timeless design. With inspirations including Michael’s love for jazz, golf and quality detailing like rolled edges, the XVII is of course best remembered as the model MJ returned to the game for a second time in as a Washington Wizard.
AJ XVIII – Black/Sport Royal
Released at the start of his second season with the Washington Wizards, the shoe’s rich suede upper oozed quality, and the packaging even included a suede brush and towel to make sure you were taking care of your kicks. After being used to so many Bulls-themed launch colorways, it was refreshing at the time to see the vivid Sport Royal accents throughout the model.
AJ XIX – White/Flint Grey
While it’s sometimes tough to top a classic Bulls-inspired Black / Red colorway, there was just something about how the Flint Grey version of the XIX best showed off the shoe’s woven Tech Flex shroud. Headlined at the time by Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd, this clean home-geared colorway marked a muted new look for the game shoe after Michael was retired for good.
AJ XX – Stealth
It might’ve been harder to make out the shoe’s defining laser pattern, as this colorway opted for a suede strap, but the grey framing of the outsole and heel, combined with an all patent upper, always made this colorway stand out as a bit more aggressive and quick than the others. “Stealth” was also an awesome color name.
AJ XXI – Red Suede
Inspired by the Bentley Continental GT Coupe, this Air Jordan XX1 also picked up a thing or two from Michael’s affinity for Ferraris, as this luxe red suede edition drafted off of commonly found suede driving shoes. Of all the colorways that released, this version also best accented the shoe’s grille-inspired support wrap.
AJ XX2 – Black
One thing is for sure, the best colorway of the XX2 most certainly wasn’t going to be the version with a tacky portrait installation of Michael on the side of the shoe. Sometimes simple is the best way to go, and this road edition, with its hidden 3M detailing and red accents, was classic Bulls.
AJ XX3 – Titanium
With a nod back to his days at the University of North Carolina, the Titanium colorway of Michael’s iconic 23rd model helped to elevate the design and details like no launch colorway since his playing days. There was the sharply sculpted midfoot chassis, the plush “environmentally preferred” mesh collar and the intricate computer-printed stitch pattern. With so much pressure mounting for a number that meant so much to Michael, the brand couldn’t have executed things better.
Air Jordan 2009
The words “best” and “Air Jordan 2009” are rarely used in the same sentence. So, to keep that streak alive, let’s just say that the “least bad” colorway of the Air Jordan 2009 is the Black/Varsity Red/White edition, which was the second general release of the model.
Air Jordan 2010
More than any specific colorway, the Air Jordan 2010 is remembered for its clear midfoot window. But the shoe’s launch edition – the last Air Jordan to launch in a true Bulls colorway – gets our pick as the best of the 2010s.
Air Jordan 2011
There’s no mistaking the black and white launch colorway of the Air Jordan 2011 for the Concord 11, but the formula of a white upper, black rand, and clear outsole proved to be a winner once again – although this version utilized textured and embossed leather rather than patent.
Air Jordan 2012
Similar to the AJ2009, picking the best colorway of a shoe not many people liked, period, is a tough task. But the grey tonal upper on this deluxe System Of Flight colorway helped disguise the wingtip look of the shoe, and was a nice contrast to the neon lining and laces.
Air Jordan xx8
While the silhouette of the Air Jordan XX8 lent itself to loud prints, the launch colorway personified the stealth theme the shoe. Zipped up, it was almost boring in its simplicity. But when undone, it showcased Electric Green insides that hinted to just how exciting the shoe would be on court.
*via Sole Collector
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