February 7th, 2013 by John Kim
Jordan Brand’s impressive appetite-filling series of Retro releases over the last decade or so should have satiated even the hungriest of Air Jordan collectors and enthusiasts. Should have. The original Defining Moments Package of 2006, the Collezione in 2008, the Bin 23 Collection, the in-depth plot-driven Kilroy Pack – all of those and more gave us enough reason to perpetually shell out our savings to lace up in Jays, but one gaping hole continues to be left unfulfilled since 2001 – the appearance of the original Nike Air. It’s nothing more than a piece of molded plastic, but its absence was still a void that was eventually left ignored seeing that a return of Nike Air had less to do with production and more to do with brand identity (Jordan would branch out to form its own label, albeit under Nike, Inc.) – but the desire was still there. Even today, hardcore enthusiasts continue to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get their hands on Nike Air branded Jordan Retros from the 1999-2001 era – shoes that are on the cusp of complete physical breakdown.
Why is Nike Air so cherished? Because it’s the perfect embodiment of a Retro release. It’s the undeniable original form that we were graced with back in the late 1980s, so even the most well-done Air Jordan Retros – the Air Jordan VI ‘Infrared’ from the 2010 Pack release, the Air Jordan IV ‘Bred’ from 2008/2012, the Air Jordan V ‘Black/Metallic’ in 2007 to name a few – would be unable to achieve a 100% grade. The era from Air Jordan III to VI is considered by many to be the most lustrous period of the Air Jordan Golden Era (or when Tinker was the architect), and it just happens to be the same span that utilized the large Nike Air logo on the heel.
A quick side-note: The Air Jordan 1 and even the Air Jordan II shouldn’t be ignored either as both featured ‘Nike’ as well, but they aren’t exactly part of the exclusive III-VI fraternity. Without a large Nike Air branding and with someone other than Tinker behind the wheel, the two earliest chapters of the Air Jordan legacy are seen on a different regard.
Yesterday, Jordan Brand filled that twelve-year long gap by releasing the Air Jordan III Retro ’88. Like the original, these featured Nike Air on the heel as well as the inner lining, but the outsole was labeled with JORDAN rather than Nike Air – that detail alone would’ve made the MSRP more than it already was. Even at the elevated $200 MSRP, which to this date is the highest MSRP ever for a single Air Jordan Retro release (more than the Premio, but less than the single-pair Pack style releases like the 2006 Thunder/Lightning, the Levi’s Pack, etc.), droves of consumers swarmed their computers for the online-only release. The interesting detail of yesterday’s release was that it wasn’t a completely random or out-of-place occurence, but a calculated retelling of a memorable moment in Jordan’s career and sports history as a whole – the 1988 Dunk Contest. Twenty-five years ago, Michael took off from the free-throw line in acrobatic fashion and froze in mid-air to create an iconic piece of sports imagery that speaks volumes on motivation and human ability.
So with Jordan Brand using events in Jordan’s career to bring back original Air Jordans, will we see more Nike Air in the future? Perhaps the Air Jordan VI ‘Infrared’ to commemorate the first NBA Title? The Air Jordan IV ‘Bred’ as a throwback to ‘The Shot’? What we do know is that whatever wall was between the Retro and the original branding has been broken down to some degree, so enjoy this chronological review of every Air Jordan Retro to feature Nike Air and let us know what you think this signifies for future Retro releases.