Wherever you rank him on your list of NBA greats, there’s no denying Michael Jordan is responsible for some seriously stylish kicks. Rooted in nostalgia and touted for timeless design, Nike’s Air Jordan sneakers continue to revolutionize the relationship between luxury construction and athletic performance. The now-ubiquitous Jumpman silhouette graces sneakers from the court to the streets, making Air Jordans the gold standard for athletes and aesthetes alike. Top-notch construction and fashion-minded design have become hallmarks of the Air Jordan brand.
Under the guidance of designer extraordinaire Tinker Hatfield, Air Jordans evolved from MJ’s namesake shoe into a legendary brand with an iconic logo. Throughout the years, the dynamic duo expertly tweaked various models based on Michael’s passion for luxury goods, especially race cars, and his requirements for on-court performance. Hatfield and Jordan’s creative collaborations were truly a thing of beauty, full of sturdy specs and fresh details. With many models rapidly approaching their 30th birthdays and coveted collabs lining shelves worldwide, it’s the perfect time to dive into what makes these shoes so special and, therefore, often copied. Read on as our Senior Sneakers & Streetwear Valuation Manager Sean Conway shares his insider tips for guaranteeing genuine Nike Air Jordan goods.
“This was the shoe that started it all. In 1985, Michael Jordan took the court in his brand new black and red Air Jordan 1s. This was a violation of NBA uniform rules, which stated that the majority of players’ shoes needed to be white. As a result, they fined him every time he wore them on the court,” says Conway. “Nike capitalized on this with a brilliant marketing campaign that highlighted the banned shoes, and the rest is history.”
“Look for the original Air Jordan Wings Logo on the lateral side of the ankle collar. It’s a clean, semi-glossy, well-defined stamp that features a basketball with wings,” suggests Conway.
“2015 marked a milestone year in streetwear when Supreme and the Air Jordan brand collaborated for the first time on apparel and three pairs of Air Jordan 5s,” says Conway. “Supreme used different materials for each pair with the black made of durabuck [a synthetic leather used by Nike].”
“Look for a clean, even Supreme logo on the interior of the tongue that is comparable with other Supreme tags,” advises Conway. “Also, examine the Jumpman logo on the tongue and on the back of the shoe to make sure it’s consistent with other Jordan branding—this is where fakes most often slip up.”
“This Jordan 4 is among Nike’s most popular models from the Doernbecher series, a charitable collection in conjunction with Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon,” says Conway. “Designed by patient Isaiah Scott, the shoe features vibrant, contrasting colors and a Superman logo on the tongue.”
“When authenticating this shoe, always take the insole out to examine the stitching of the upper to the midsole. We look for clean diagonal stitching and consistent glue patterns underneath both insoles,” Conway notes.
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Please note: Brand standards, logos and other identifying features may have changed since the time of publication.