A Look At The Legendary Jordan Brand - IMBOLDN
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A name like this certainly needs no introduction—but the brand is certainly worth the praise. Since its inception, Jordan Brand has essentially changed the worlds of athletic wear and lifestyle gear. Created by basketball legend Michael Jordan and Nike, the now iconic line offers an extensive range of clothes, shoes, and accessories.

Once upon a time, you might be convinced that the garb and the kicks were designed strictly for budding b-ballers who had visions of Jumpman soaring through their heads. Of course, having stars in their eyes alone would be reason enough to invest in a pair of the company’s iconic sneakers. That someone might hope it would catapult them to NBA fame is no surprise—the fact is that Jordan Brand more than lives up to its name.

Photo via Air Jordan

Perspective matters. Comfort, after all, is king where clothes and accessories are concerned. There’s no room to cut corners, and it’s a given that anyone who appreciates Jordan’s game is likely to have a thing for finesse in other areas of their lives as well.

Photo via Air Jordan

Enter Jordan Brand, whose vast collection has spawned legions of followers since its inception. While the “official” relationship with Nike began in 1997, the story actually begins much earlier than that. Basketball enthusiasts will gladly regale fans about that fateful 1984 day, when Nike introduced its incredible Air Jordan 1 sneakers. It was almost a visual representation of “and the rest is history”—a shoe so instantly iconic that it transcended basketball and made a place for itself in the real world.

Real Legacy

The term “legacy” is thrown around with fairly reckless abandon in the modern world. These days, it seems virtually everything earns legend status in mere minutes. Perhaps it’s the fact that Jordan didn’t have the internet to follow his every move that makes his lengthy list of achievements all the more impressive. He really stood out. He wasn’t “internet famous.” He was simply everything to the game.

Photo via Air Jordan

But forget about the fact that he won six NBA championships during his years with the Chicago Bulls or that he broke countless records during his professional tenure. Never mind that he practically seemed to soar through the air, almost like a gazelle, graceful and unstoppable. Every shot came to fruition in some sort of magical slow motion trick of the mind.

His prowess was so impressive that he earned nicknames like “His Airness” and, yes, “Air Jordan.” The moniker stuck, inspiring the first shoe’s name and undoubtedly elevating its popularity. Though Jordan wore the shoes first, they were introduced to the public in 1985 to enormous fanfare. Designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, along with Peter Moore and Bruce Kilgore, the Nike kicks made history.

Soaring to Success

Inspired by the success of the first iteration, Nike introduced the Air Jordan II in 1986. Designed in Italy, the shoe held unique appeal for die-hard Jordan fans. During its testing phase, Jordan wore a pair that married the original AJ’s upper with the new version’s cushioning. This eventually generated a shoe featuring a full-length Air-Sole unit. In addition to its functionality, the shoe was a stylistic powerhouse, featuring sleek lines and faux lizard skin that gave it a fierce and unexpected quality.

In addition to its functionality, the shoe was a stylistic powerhouse, featuring sleek lines and faux lizard skin that gave it a fierce and unexpected quality.

More variations followed, including the groundbreaking Air Jordan IV in 1989. This was the year that the footwear collection made its global debut—to incredible exaltation of fans around the world. New developments emerged year after year, often with innovative features that set them apart from others in the range.

Air Jordan II

Jordan’s range was so versatile that he even made a brief stop in the world of minor league baseball, something many will recall was the subject of enormous attention—so much so that the Air Jordan IX was inspired by the cleats that he wore during his time on the field.

Air Jordan XI

That short-lived baseball career served as inspiration for yet another shoe in the collection: the Air Jordan XI. At the time, Jordan was retired from basketball, playing instead for the Birmingham Barons. Tinker Hatfield thought he could potentially inspire Jordan to come back to the game, and so the funky, highly durable, ultra-modern XI was born. It was a fresh interpretation of shoes past, with glossy patent leather that added a hint of a dressy element to the design—so much so that some even dared to wear theirs with their corporate attire.

Jordan eventually returned home to the basketball court in 1995, at which point he made the shoes his own. He liked them so much that he broke NBA rules on the court, wearing them while everyone else on the team sported straightforward black sneakers. That earned him a fine, but Jordan wasn’t one to shy away from doing precisely what he wanted. Nike followed suit by producing a shoe in the right colorway.

Inspiration is key to the entire collection. The XIV model, for example, was designed in honor of a Ferrari Jordan owned. The XV that followed was designed after his retirement and featured a design inspired by a NASA aircraft prototype. Innovation is also a significant part of the design mentality; 2018’s XXXIII went completely lace-free, marking the first of its kind in the extensive lineup.

That Retro Appeal

Imagine a shoe so good that it requires reissues every single time. Such is the case with the Jordan range, whose collection was so popular during each model’s initial run that Nike saw fit to release new versions, also known as Retros. The Air Jordan II, for example, reappeared on shelves as the Jordan Retro 2 in 1994, again in 2004, and subsequently in 2008, 2010, 2014, and in the years following.

Jordan Retro 2 2004 

Retro versions are simply improved variations of the original. They evoke the same attention to detail, the same flawless design, and the same character—but the similarities end there. The newer versions capitalize on contemporary elements that elevate your comfort level tenfold. Features like enhanced cushioning, more flexible materials, and sturdy closures all provide security and stability, whether you’re a player dreaming of an Olympic run or just want to rock something cool off the court.

The Jordan Vibe

Someone considered the greatest offensive player on the planet isn’t likely to whisper when he can shout. That his footwear collection followed that general ethos is no surprise. Each release was essentially a cultural event, the type of annual celebration that drew millions from the general public, the sports world, and the media in for a closer look.

Each release was essentially a cultural event, the type of annual celebration that drew millions from the general public, the sports world, and the media in for a closer look.

It’s also no surprise that this Jordan vibe eventually transcended, well…itself. Once upon a time, the line was limited to footwear. But the obvious success of the company marked an equally obvious next step: the introduction of apparel and accessories. Indeed, that lineup of ready-to-wear lifestyle apparel was just as successful.

Photo via Air Jordan

Hoodies. Basketball jerseys. Joggers. Shorts. T-shirts. Jackets. Hoodies. Even kids’ clothes. The Jordan clothing collection leaves nothing to chance, offering something for everyone in the family—even infants. (Peep the baby AF1 collection and the “23” onesies for proof.) And ongoing partnerships with iconic designers like Virgil Abloh just make sense.

Smooth Sailing

A practical way to describe MJ? “Smooth” might be fitting. This was the player who defied the odds, something many may not realize. He struggled to make the varsity team as a high school sophomore. But that was hardly the end of the story for Jordan, who doubled down and fought harder to achieve his goal. He trained and trained and trained, hoping against hope that he’d eventually land a spot on the team.

Photo via NBA

And the hard work paid off in dividends, eventually earning him his rightful place on the high school team. During those two epic seasons, Jordan averaged epic points per season—and impressed scouts so much that he eventually moved on to play at North Carolina. The rest is college basketball history. He played for three seasons with the Tar Heels before he was drafted in 1984 by the Bulls—a year before he was supposed to graduate.

The smooth transition simply worked. Jordan proved right from the start that he was more than worthy of the accolades. He earned the Jumpman nickname for his ability to soar through the air. He even played while he had the flu, eventually leading the team to the championship title. And, of course, there was the legendary Shot—the one that basketball and non-basketball enthusiasts alike still talk about with the same level of awe. He beat the buzzer to nab the title for the team.

Photo via Air Jordan

It could be said that history was made then and there, but the truth is that Jordan has been making history for decades. Jordan Brand is simply a reflection of that greatness, that positive attitude, that strength, and that attention to detail. In essence, the same energy he put into the game is mirrored in this bold collection of shoes, clothes, and accessories.

And that so many of the pieces in the collection are considered staples, both inside the world of sport and on the street, is evidence of Jordan’s longevity and secure hold on the cultural landscape. For Jordan, greatness comes easy.