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JORDAN 101: The Air Jordan 11 Low

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This weekend brings us one of the most anticipated Air Jordan Retro releases of the summer. Actually, forget summer, this is one of the most anticipated Jordans of all time—at least for some of the older Jordan collectors that were cognizant of sneakers way back in 1996. We’re talking about the Air Jordan 11 Retro Low, that’s releasing in the same “Bred” colorway seen on the feet of Michael Jordan after the 1996 NBA season.

The “unicorn” sneaker that’s remained at near legendary status since ’96—remembered throughout the years almost solely thanks to one grainy photo that floats around the internet—goes from a rare PE just for MJ to a reality for all, with their retail release this Saturday. To celebrate the momentous occasion, we decided to take a look a the entire history of the Air Jordan 11 Low and lay out all of the essential facts in this latest edition of Jordan 101.

Air Jordan 11 Low “IE”
The Air Jordan 11’s first low-top edition is one of the great anomalies of the entire Air Jordan line. Ditching the patent leather in favor of a mesh vented, elephant printed design, the Air Jordan 11 Low IE (International Edition) made the 11 the first Air Jordan to be offered in a varied construction.

PE Versions for MJ in Patent Leather Construction
The 11 Low in the traditional patent leather design was originally only available as PE versions for Michael Jordan himself. Michael wore the Air Jordan 11 Low in a black-lined “Bred” colorway (just like the OG Mid-top) in a game during the 1996 Finals, and then stunted in “Concord” 11 Lows during the ’96 Championship parade celebration. He was then spotted in the red-lined “Bred” Lows later that summer.

First Air Jordan Low-Top Since the II
The Air Jordan 11 Low IE and Michael’s PE patent leather versions were the first Air Jordans to be made in low-top form since the Air Jordan II way back in 1986. It wouldn’t be until the Air Jordan 13 in 1998 that low versions for each year’s new Air Jordan would become the norm.

Patent Leather Lows First Released at Retail in 2001
Sneaker fans had to wait five years after MJ flaunted his patent leather 11 Lows in 1996, as the shoe didn’t debut at retail until 2001. It released in a number of colorways for both men and women, but none of the originals found on MJ’s feet. It wouldn’t be unitl 2014 that Jordan heads got one of them: the “Concord” Air Jordan 11 Low.


For two of the Air Jordan 11 Low releases in 2001—one for men and women each—the patent leather was replaced with faux snakeskin, for one of the most exotic modifications to an Air Jordan at the time. The snakeskin 11s definitely led the way for all of the many wild makeovers for classic Jordans you see today.

Now an Annual Summer Release
After the first set of Air Jordan 11 Lows in 2001, the shoe didn’t return until the summer of 2012 with the all-white, red-bottomed colorway. Now the low-top 11 seems to be becoming a summer tradition, releasing every year since. Since the Concord colorway dropped last year and now this year the “Breds” are hitting the market, it makes you wonder if we’ll see a Cool Grey, Space Jam, or Columbia Air Jordan 11 Low next year.