December 16, 2013 BY Sneaker News / 9
The undeniable powerhouse of the sneaker world is the Air Jordan – a series that for nearly three decades has managed to continually put out releases that end up at the top of must-have lists around the world. This year was no different, only that it had a rather tough act to follow. 2012 was solid front to back, with rich stories, great Retro comebacks, and the addition of key athletes to the roster, but 2013’s output held its own from front to back. From the start, it was clearly the “Year of the 5” with no let-up in the 23rd anniversary celebration of the Air Jordan V, but the spotlight was inevitably shared by several other high-profile models – namely the Air Jordan 1, Air Jordan III, and even the newest addition to the legacy, the XX8 and its accompanying SE edition.
Perhaps the most significant general headline was the return of Nike Air branding, adorning several Air Jordan 1 tongues and the heel of the Air Jordan III Retro ’88 – a special nod to the 25th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s history-making Dunk Contest victory. Other titillating headlines that kept the Air Jordan category front and center were the release of not one, but two Doernbechers, the “Fear Pack” represented by JB’s three most prized silhouettes, a unique approach to the heritage mash-up in the 3Lab5, and of course, the now annual year-end Air Jordan XI release. For a rundown of the memorable 2013 moments scripted by the brand that Michael built, read on below for a comprehensive breakdown.
The longstanding debate centering around the return of Nike Air branding on Air Jordan Retros came to end with the release of the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG. Four originals from ’85 were brought back boasting the classic tongue label, as well a few new colorway creations that also received the vintage detail.
Jordan Brand celebrated the 25th anniversary of Michael Jordan’s epic Dunk Contest win with the release of the Air Jordan III Retro ’88. At long last, the iconic White/Cement colorway came fully equipped with Nike Air branding on the heel, marking the first time the shoe was released in its original form since the 1994 Retro version.
After a launch event in December of last year, the twenty-eighth Air Jordan installment made its retail debut during the 2013 All-Star Weekend, complete with its shin-high zip-up shroud. Leading up to the release was the launch of the #XX8DaysofFlight campaign, which featured daily giveaways of the Air Jordan Legacy volumes in the Black/Electric Green colorway.
One of the earliest Air Jordans to earn a righteous nickname, the “He Got Game”, made its first ever solo Retro release in March. Despite being the first shoe to release under the autonomous Jordan Brand back in 1997, it had only ever been retroed as part of 2008’s Collezione Pack. This Air Jordan XIII was one of three to drop this year – the two other being the “Bred” and “Squadron Blue”.
It’s good to be an athlete at a Jordan Brand outfitted college, and even greater if you’re a Duck. The Jumpman label hooked up UNC, Marquette, Georgetown, Cal, and Oregon with some sick Air Jordan IV PEs over the course of the year, with the last of that bunch receiving an added treat in the form of an Air Jordan V just in time for the tip-off of the new season.
The “Grape” edition of the Air Jordan V has always been a highly celebrated member of the Jordan family tree thanks to its OG status and standout color scheme. After years of speculating on its next retrun, the public outcry for a re-issue was finally acknowledged in 2013 as the legendary make-up hit stores for the first time since its 2007 Retro release.
Jordan Brand was ready for the summer months with the release of a clean pair of Air Jordan XI Lows. The Bulls-friendly mix of White, Black, and Red attracted plenty of Jordan-heads to this shoe, making for one of the most popular non-OG pick-ups of the year.
With so much attention being paid elsewhere within the Air Jordan Retro universe, JB quietly brought back the Air Jordan VIII this year, honing in on two OG colorways commonly referred to as the “Bugs Bunny” and “Playoffs” editions.
Just when you thought the Air Jordan V “Grape” was perfect as is, Jordan Brand decided to switch out the white leather for black suede, and ended up dropping one of the best colorway flips of all time.
All-red Air Jordans have been a rare but satisfying treat since the “Raging Bulls” dropped. In July, demands were met with the Air Jordan IV “Toro” – a color-up originally spotted as a PE for Jordan Brand athlete Carmelo Anthony.
Justin Timberlake’s name became a trendy topic in the Air Jordan category thanks to the special Retros that were made for his Legends of the Summer tour. He originally gave away autographed pairs via scavenger hunts within respective cities of the tour, but later on, they became the ultimate celebrity hook-up as several notable names began flashing their pairs.
Jordan Brand went back into story-telling mode with the Air Jordan Retro “Fear Pack” – a concept inspired by the fear MJ put into his opponents. Comprised of the Air Jordan III, IV, and IV, the entire set was colored in dark and gloomy tones and details with special insoles to help hammer home the theme.
Nike and Jordan Brand launched the “Ignite Shanghai” campaign, which celebrated the city’s love for the sport of basketball. Trickling out of that celebration was the Air Jordan V “Shanghai Shen” – a limited edition Asia exclusive release that more loosely applied the “Black Grape” treatment to the Laney color scheme for an all new look.
Prior to the unveiling of the Doernbecher Freestyle X, Nike released a lone Air Jordan V designed by young Isaac Arzate. Isaac was a patient at the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, but tragically passed away last April. To honor him, the Swoosh brand shared his Air Jordan V creation as a stand-alone release, which turned out to be one of the year’s best.
A new spin on the “fusion” concept was unveiled via the premium Air Jordan “Elements” Collection – a series of designs that would combine two models into one seamless heritage piece. The first of these releases was the 3Lab5, which unleashed the iconic elephant print from the Air Jordan III onto the entirety of the Air Jordan V upper.
One of the most popular new colorways among the year’s Air Jordan V releases was the “Bel-Air”, which paid tribute to one of the most influential television comedies of the early 90’s. The colorway was inspired by the wild colors seen in the show’s opening credits and the fact that it’s main attraction, Will Smith, was often spotted wearing AJVs on-screen.
Commonly mistaken as an OG colorway, the Air Jordan V Laney – originally a 2000 Retro release inspired by Michael Jordan’s high school team – made a heroic comeback during the month of November. While those Grape/Laney rumors from a few years ago may not have panned out, both pairs managed to make their way back separately in 2013.
Breaking the string of OG Air Jordans on Black Friday was the Air Jordan V “Oreo” – a simple yet irresistible composition of black and white on the year’s 23rd anniversary model. Although quite different from the approach taken by 1999’s “Oreo” IV, the nickname still proved a good fit thanks to the speckled “shark teeth” on the midsole.
While a Retro release of the Taxi isn’t exactly new territory, the 2013 version brought back an overlooked feature – the metallic gold eyelets. And as we know, when it comes to sneakers, the little details can make all the difference.
An Air Jordan XI release in late December is a formula that’s been working quite well for Jordan Brand these past few years. Although the “Gamma Blue” isn’t original flavor, it should have no trouble keeping the streak alive.