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#FactsFriday: The History of Air Jordan – The groundbreaker.

#FactsFriday: The History of Air Jordan – The groundbreaker.
Air Jordans have been a complex part of the sneaker game since they were first introduced back in 1985. Whether it was the Jordan 1 getting banned, Michael Jordan dunking from the foul line in the Jordan 2, or making us believe he could fly in the classic Air Jordan 3, our memories our filled with Air Jordan history.

But even when Michael was captivating crowds with his athletic performances his sneakers didn’t always fly off the shelves. Getting a pair of Jordans during his active career was much easier than grabbing a pair now. The selling out of every release is relatively new to the history of Jordans. With the new generation of sneakerheads and the craze about Jordans over the past few years, there is often an argument that some of the buyers never even saw Jordan in flight or know anything about the history of Air Jordans—we got you.

We’re taking you back in time to understand the true history you’re wearing on your feet. Next up we’re focusing on the Air Jordan 3.

In every brand’s history, there’s a model, design, or release that defines the brand itself and makes it huge. To many collectors and sneaker fans, the Air Jordan 3 is what really started the Air Jordan line.

In so many ways, the Air Jordan 3 was a first in footwear.  The Jordan 3 was the first Air Jordan designed by famed and legendary sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield when it hit Michael Jordan’s feet for the 1987-88 season.  While we saw high-top and low-top versions of the Air Jordan signature shoe in the first two models, the Air Jordan 3 was the first mid-top basketball shoe. 

Wearing the Air Jordan 3, Jordan came out of the 1987-88 NBA season with several notable awards.

NBA All-Star
NBA All-Star Game MVP
NBA Slam-Dunk Contest Title
NBA Steal Champion
NBA Scoring Champion
NBA Defensive Player of the Year
NBA Most Valuable Player

In other words, Air Jordan 3 was what let Michael Jordan jump like an acrobat and pluck almost every award for the season. But it’s not just Jordan and half a dozen awards he won that gave the Air Jordan 3 a unique, puzzling yet exotic touch.

Designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, it was the happy medium between high-top and low-top versions. They provided greater flexibility than the high-tops and more stability than their low-top Air Jordan siblings. In other words, Air Jordan 3 came as a balance between the two different strengths provided by Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 2.

However as mentioned, it looked more than exotic. It was on Air Jordan 3 that that the series introduced the infamous Jumpman logo. For the first time, the Nike Air Unit became prominent on the shoes. When it came to designing the shoe, Nike needed a new designer to bring a new flavour to the series. So they went to world famous Tinker Hatfield. His name is known mainly for designing Air Jordan III-XV, and also making a return on the AJ XXs, but Tinker also designed some really nice Nike’s as well (cough – Nike Air Max 0 etc). Tinker and Michael worked hard, talked to each other on what were good ideas, and what could “work”.

Michael apparently wanted a lightweight shoe, with a lot of durability; so with the Air Jordan 3 they both decided to make them a mid top, the first mid top to be seen in the Air Jordan line. On the Air Jordan 3 model Tinker placed the famous jumpman logo on the back of the shoe, and adding in an “elephant print” on the toe box.

Director Spike Lee launched the Jordan 3 into the brands first collaborative media blitz. Reprising his role as Mars Blackmon from his 1986 film “She’s Gotta Have It,” Lee became Air Jordan’s first pitchman. In the movie, Blackmon was Brooklyn-for-life, sports nut, die hard Knicks fan… Much like Lee himself. Known as the “Mars and Mike” campaign, it still stands as one of Nike’s most successful ads in their empire. Lee stayed on as spokesperson into the early 90’s and the two men went on to create the Spiz’ike line that is legendary all on its own.

When the Jordan 3 retroed in 1994 it flopped, much like the prior Jordan’s had at first retro. When it re-retroed back in 2001, it flew off the shelves. The Jordan 3 also saw special editions like the “Do The Right Thing” joint with Spike Lee – ironic since it was the Jordan 4, not the Jordan 3 that had a crucial scene in the film. A 35th Anniversary of Black History Month kick was released in 2011 with an all black colourway featuring gold accents and stitching. With only 3,000 pairs produced, it became an instant sell out and collector’s item. The same was true for the 2009 Jordan 3 True Blue retro which only released internationally.

To this day the Air Jordan 3 is one of the most popular, wanted, retroed and famous of the brand. It has sold out every retro since the 2001. The Air Jordan 3 is also widely believed to be Michael Jordan’s favorite of the lineup. Maybe it’s for all these reasons that the Jordan 3’s influence goes beyond the Air Jordan line. Over the past few decades following its release, it has influenced the design and aesthetics of countless shoes by so many other brands.



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