AJ1: history of The One that started it all
While some of us old heads experienced the 80s firsthand, all of us are here today because of that golden era. Today’s sneaker culture began in 1984 when Michael Jordan was third pick in the NBA draft. The Chicago Bulls saw Jordan’s potential and signed him to a seven year contract.
The Bulls weren’t alone in recognizing greatness in the young guard from North Carolina. Before the contract with Chicago was even inked, Nike was preparing its own offer for MJ. That initial deal was worth $2.5 million plus royalties. Today, Jordan brings in $1 million per year off Nike royalties alone. As of March, 2019, Jordan’s total net worth is over $1.9 billion. Not bad for a scrappy kid from Wilmington.
In April of 1985, the world was introduced to the Air Jordan 1 – the first sneaker with multiple colors to be worn on the hardwood. As legend goes, Commissioner Stern fined Nike and Michael for that first infamous red and black colorway, saying it violated the league’s uniformity of uniforms rule. While we now know the sneaker in question was actually the Air Ship, Nike’s “banned” marketing campaign worked. Of the 75 posters Nike pasted up in NYC bus stations, 54 were stolen. Never before had a shoe release had this level of hype. This was coincidently the birth of the resale market – $65 AJ1s were going for $100 on the street. The Air Jordan 1 became a phenomenon and the seed for a global sneaker renaissance.
Tinker may be responsible for the bulk of iconic Js, but the franchise began with a Nike Creative Director named Peter Moore. Not only did he create the AJ1, he’s also behind the wings logo. Moore sketched the basketball + wings idea on a cocktail napkin on a flight back to Portland. The inspiration was courtesy of a kid wearing the classic airline pin… pilot’s wings. Moore said the design “seemed to fit the idea of a guy who could fly”.
Over the initial production period, 20+ OG colorways were made. Since 1985, the silhouette has been a favorite of not only basketball fans, but also embraced by hip hop culture, streetwear, and even skaters. The AJ1 was famously endorsed by Steve Caballero and the Bones Brigade in the 80s.
The Air Jordan 1 is undeniably one of the most popular sneakers of all time. It remains a staple today, 34 years later, due to the timeless style and versatile design.
“I am somewhat surprised by the staying power of the Jordan 1. It seems every new generation of kids has to try it, almost as if they discovered it.” – Peter Moore
Jumping ahead to 2019… over the past two decades we’ve seen countless retros of the AJ1. Books like The Encyclopedia of Air Jordans chronicle the shoe’s impact on culture and today’s sneaker community, as well as highlighting the most significant releases. OG colorways dominate those releases, but a growing number are collaborations. 2017’s OFF-WHITE x Air Jordan 1 Chicago release is one of the most sought-after releases of all time.
Next on the list of significant releases? The Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 High OG Mocha. Dressed in supple tumbled leather and earthy brown suede, La Flame’s latest kicks sport a Nike + Cactus Jack tongue label, a hidden velcro stash pocket, and a debossed heel logo. Of course, the loudest detail is an oversized reverse Swoosh on the lateral side. Polishing off the design is an off white midsole + brown outsole.
Travis Scott has reminisced on the importance of the AJ1 in his childhood. His love of the shoe comes through on this minimal execution. This is at its core an Air Jordan 1 with some personal details added. The bones of the shoe are so strong, any successful collab has to elevate the OG design, rather than trying to remix it. “These Jordan 1s are just a fresher version of my old play shoes,” says Scott. “The colors are from tones and textures of what I saw growing up and remind me of my backyard and playing outside.”
What sets this release apart from the countless other drops of 2019 is the same thing that distinguished the OG release in 1985. “The whole idea of the shoes was to bring color into basketball,” Peter Moore recounts. While these kicks won’t be getting banned for a wild colorway, Nike couldn’t have chosen a more colorful performer to collaborate with.
Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 High OG TS SP
Release Date: May 11, 2019
Color: Sail/Black-Dark Mocha-University Red
Style #: CD4487-100