34 years of Air Jordans: A look at the sneaker institution that Michael Jordan and Nike built

From the infamous $5,000 fine in 1985 to $1 billion in sales in the first half of 2019, Michael Jordan and Nike have built an institution with Air Jordans. The swoosh disappeared in the second year of the shoe and since then Jordans have drawn inspiration from jets and sports cars, jazz and wildlife. The sneakers also host an annual exhibition of athletic shoe technology.

Here’s a visual look from 1985 to present.


Air Jordan I

Released April 1985 | Retail price $65

Nike paid Michael Jordan's $5,000-a-game fine for wearing the red, black and white sneakers. It's the only Air Jordan to have Nike's swoosh logo.


Air Jordan II

Released November 1986 | Retail price $100

The shoe carried a "Made in Italy" tag and was constructed of "premium" Italian leather with a lizard skin texture. It was a luxury sneaker. "Nike" was printed on the heel, but the shoe had no swoosh.


Air Jordan III

Released January 1988 | Retail price $100

The debut of the Jumpman logo. It also featured an elephant skin pattern that has been incorporated into Air Jordans over the years. The sole had a cutaway for the Nike Air pods inside. Spike Lee starred as Mars Blackmon in TV ads.


Air Jordan IV

Released February 1989 | Retail price $100

Featured in Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," in which a scuffed-up sneaker leads to a racial scuffle. Mesh was used for extra breathability.


Air Jordan V

Released February 1990 | Retail price $125

Inspired by a WWII Mustang fighter, with flames on the side and a reflective tongue. The sneakers came with a plastic piece that held the laces tight.


Air Jordan VI

Released February 1991 | Retail price $125

The No. 23 was cleverly incorporated into material on the upper part of the shoe. The overall shape was designed after a German sports car. The shoes Jordan wore for his first Bulls championship.


Air Jordan VII

Released February 1992 | Retail price $125

Versions of the shoe were made in Team USA colors to coincide with the Barcelona Olympics and featured Jordan's Olympic jersey number, 9. The design was inspired by West African tribal art. There was no more window into the air in the sole.


Air Jordan VIII

Released February 1993 | Retail price $140

The world met Hare Jordan, played by Bugs Bunny in its ad campaign. The sneaker came in three color combos, including a black and aqua pair Jordan wore for the All-Star Game. Straps across the laces held the foot down.


Air Jordan IX

Released November 1993 | Retail price $125

MJ did not wear this shoe on the court because he had retired, and Nike transformed it into a baseball cleat. The tread was designed with words in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and Swahili.


Air Jordan X

Released November 1994 | Retail price $125

In Jordan's first comeback, some of his accomplishments were written on the sole. The shoe was issued in different colors representing U.S. cities. The lines on the shoe symbolized Jordan's career milestones.


Air Jordan XI

Released November 1995 | Retail price $125

Featured a patent leather toe for what Nike called a formal look. The sneaker made an appearance in "Space Jam."


Air Jordan XII

Released November 1996 | Retail price $140

The design featured a "Rising Sun" motif mimicking Japan's flag but no Nike logo or lettering. The leather on the toe had a reptile pattern.


Air Jordan XIII

Released November 1997 | Retail price $150

Inspired by a black panther with a green hologram "eye" on the heel. The bottom featured a paw print. A carbon fiber plate gave support.


Air Jordan XIV

Released October 1998 | Retail price $150

Inspired by Jordan's Ferrari 550M with the logo on the side in a yellow shield. The shoe's street name is "Last shots" after Jordan's NBA Finals heroics.


Air Jordan XV

Released December 1999 | Retail price $150

Modeled after an X-15 fighter jet. A conspicuous tongue was rumored to have been influenced by Jordan's own. The body of the shoe was made from woven kevlar.


Air Jordan XVI

Released February 2001 | Retail price $160

The shoe came with spats that allowed it to transform from court to office, as Jordan's career did. The design was inspired by marching boots, high-performance cars and architecture. The ad campaign featured Mos Def.


Air Jordan XVII

Released February 2002 | Retail price $200

A pair came in a metal case with a multimedia CD-ROM. The design was based on jazz and featured the notes from a song about Jordan. This was the most expensive Air Jordan created.


Air Jordan XVIII

Released February 2003 | Retail price $175

Design was inspired by Italian race cars and came in Wizards colors. Shoes came with a brush and cloth to clean the suede.


Air Jordan XIX

Released March 2004 | Retail price $165

A black mamba snake slithered into design elements. The upper part of the shoe was made of a braided material often used for tubing and covering in car engines.


Air Jordan XX

Released February 2005 | Retail price $175

Partly inspired by low-cut motorcycle shoes as Jordan got into bike racing in 2004. The strap had more than 200 icons designed into it. The shoe listed some of Jordan's accomplishments on each heel. A leash above the shoe wrapped around the ankle.


Air Jordan XX1

Released February 2006 | Retail price $175

Modeled after a Bentley with a grille design on the side of the shoe. The shoe also came with removable parts that could make the cushioning firm or soft. The sneaker had a hidden message that could be seen under a blacklight.


Air Jordan XX2

Released January 2007 | Retail price $175

Inspired by the F-22 fighter jet with a camouflage heel cover and zigzag "radar." The support was titanium-coated. The shoe also had changeable cushioning for different surfaces.


Air Jordan XX3

Released February 2008 | Retail price $185

An eco-friendly Air Jordan with materials meant to reduce waste. Jordan's thumbprint was on one of the tongues, while the stitching in the upper was designed with DNA in mind.


Air Jordan 2009

Released January 2009 | Retail price $190

Inspired by prosthetic running technology with satin pleating and polishable leather. Also, the Roman numeral naming system was changed.


Air Jordan 2010

Released February 2010 | Retail price $170

The 25th anniversary Air Jordan featured a circular see-through window in the side of the shoe. It was meant to symbolize Jordan's ability to see through opponents.


Air Jordan 2011

Released February 2011 | Retail price $170

The 2011 Air Jordan featured two midsole inserts for different types of support. The outside of the shoe was leather with an elephant print motif.


Air Jordan 2012

Released February 2012 | Retail price $$180 to $223

Building on the interchangeable midsole concept from the previous year, the 2012 Air Jordan offered midsoles and interchangeable inner sleeves geared for different playing styles.


Air Jordan XX8

Released February 2013 | Retail price $250

The XX8 incorporated a host of new materials, including internal straps that wrap up from the midsole and link with the laces and carbon fiber heel support. The outside of the shoe was made from a Swiss fabric used for motorcycle jackets. The year naming convention was changed to XX8 for the 28th edition of the sneaker.


Air Jordan XX9

Released September 2014 | Retail price $225

The 29th Air Jordan used special weaving machines to create a shoe upper with areas that are stiff and others that are softer and more flexible. The approach meant fewer layers of materials and a more sock-like fit.


Air Jordan XXX

Released February 2016 | Retail price $200

Back to Roman numerals, the XXX was an integral part of the design, stitched around the back of the shoe and doubling as a visual of a basketball net. The Air Jordan logo was shown on the toepiece.


Air Jordan XXXI

Released August 2016 | Retail price $185

The 2016 Air Jordan played to the infamous ban of the 1985 sneaker with the word "BANNED" printed on the bottom. New air pods were added to cushion the heel.


Air Jordan XXXII

Released October 2017 | Retail price $185

The articulated area around the ankle had six ridges to signify Jordan's titles. The knit upper was flexible and had laces designed to disappear into the fabric. A mid and low version came out at the same time.


Air Jordan XXXIII

Released September 2018 | Retail price $175

Grab the loops on the tongue and heel to put the sneaker on. Grab the strap on the front and pull to lock the foot into the shoe. The loops released the fitting mechanism.


Air Jordan XXXIV

Released September 2019 | Retail price $180

A window through the sole is where the shoe's two support plates interacted to create more flexibility and explosiveness. The look of the shoe was a back-to-basics approach.




Nike photos

Sources: Nike, Footlocker, the NPD Group, Sneakerfiles, Tribune reporting

Created by the Chicago Tribune Dataviz team. On Twitter @ChiTribGraphics

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1 comment

  • My first pair and my favourite Jordan shoes is the Jordan 11

    • Ian