Sneaker News Top 30 Sneakers of 2011

December 29th, 2011 by

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While most brands would celebrate the 25th anniversary of a shoe, for Jordan Brand, the 23 year milestone holds a special significance. The year was 1988 and with only a few pro years under his belt, Michael Jordan had quickly become the most exciting player in the NBA in an era filled with exciting players. Nike was patting themselves on the back for hitting the jackpot and landing Mike as an endorser. His first two signature models had been a big hit with consumers, but it wasn’t until his third shoe that we all got our first glimpse of a sneaker revolution in the making. Soon, a combination of three powerful elements would change the game forever. Elephant print. Jumpman logo. Tinker.

Nike made a bold decision with MJ’s second shoe to remove the ever-present Swoosh branding and let Michael and his original “Wings” logo stand on their own as far as carrying the identity of the model. When it came time for the Air Jordan III, then up and coming Nike designer Tinker Hatfield brought in some fresh new ideas, including a new logo that would forever symbolize Michael Jordan and his sneaker line. The Jumpman logo featured a silhouette of an outstretched Michael in mid-flight – a simple, graceful image that perfectly embodied Michael Jordan, his style and his sneakers. The Jumpman logo is now a cultural icon and has since graced every Air Jordan model that has followed, but it all started with Tinker and the tongue of the Air Jordan III.

In addition to the new logo, Tinker Hatfield introduced another element to the Air Jordan III that would be almost as legendary and recognizable as the Jumpman. In order to further separate the next Air Jordan shoe from the pack and continue to incorporate a sense of class and luxury into the line, something more than traditional leathers was needed to suit the task, and Tinker came up with just the right idea. The solution was a grey elephant skin inspired pattern

that has since made its way onto just about every different kind of shoe, apparel and accessory you can imagine, many times not even by Nike.

The material had an intangible motherload of style and originality that instantly made the Air Jordan III the first true must-have sneaker phenomenon of its kind and the spark to a new dawn of the sneaker age. Commanding a then almost unthinkable retail price of $100, the shoe was an enviable status symbol and pop-culture juggernaut and continues to be today, immediately recognizable as perhaps the most endearing reminder of the golden age of Air Jordans.

Further helped to immortality through the introduction of the memorable Spike Lee ‘Mars Blackmon’ campaign, the shoe stood as the pinnacle for sneaker design and stylishness and has arguably never been matched to this day. Now 23 years later, Jordan Brand proudly celebrated a symbolic anniversary by unofficially declaring 2011 the “Year of the III” and releasing a slew of new and OG colorways, complete with the original packaging as the icing on top. While new versions like the Black Flip, Stealth and Black History Month made some noise of their own, the obvious highlights of the bunch were the return of three original colorways.

The “Year of the III” was bookended by the White/Cement in January and Black/Cement on Black Friday, with the True Blues falling in between back in June. While the Black/Cement was released in 2008′s CDP pack and the True Blue hit Europe in 2009, the White/Cement colorway hadn’t seen a retro release since 2003. Needless to say, all three, along with the absent Fire Red, will all be more than welcome any time they return, and the bounty of Jordan III’s alone made 2011 a great year to be a sneakerhead. Everyone has their own opinion on the all-time greatest Jordan, but it’s pretty undeniable that the Air Jordan III gets the lifetime achievement award and will forever remain one of the true high water marks in the history of sneaker design.

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