Evolution of the Air Jordan VIII

How do you update a classic? If the Air Jordan VIII – released during the 1992-93 NBA season – traveled into the future, it would see its progeny in the Air Jordan 8.0. Featuring some structural upgrades like the breathable mesh panels and Flywire-laden crossing mid-foot straps, the Air Jordan 8.0 captures both the nostalgic flavor and new-age design that has been the formula for most of Jordan Brand‘s non-retro releases over the last few years. But how did we get to this point? Let’s take a look at the evolution of the Air Jordan VIII.

1993: MJ‘s high-performance kicks embodied the all-out philosophy that enabled him to three-peat as a world champion. The radical shoe was fully tricked-out with anti-inversion straps, a polycarbonate torsion plate, ultra-bold colors and even a fuzzy Jumpman tongue logo. The eighth version of the Air Jordan was also heavier than previous models. Its base was close to its predecessor, but it had a lot more details, accents and color – specifically with a unique color splash on the midsole.

It was very surprising that this shoe was only made in three different colorways – White/Black-True Red (“Bugs Bunny”), Black/Bright Concord-Aqua Tone (“Aqua”) and Black-Black-True Red (“Playoffs”). Previous models had sold very well, and so did the VIIIs, so it’s a mystery as to why Nike decided not to make more of these. Even the quantity of the shoes produced was lower than the Air Jordan VII.

The popular “Aqua” colorway was debuted by MJ at the 1993 NBA All-Star Game, while the “Playoffs” colorway was the shoe he wore en route to the 1993 NBA Championship. And if you’re wondering about the “Bugs Bunny,” all you need to do is watch the commercial. This subsequently became the inspiration for Space Jam which hit theaters in 1996.

In terms of on-court achievements, MJ got his seventh straight scoring title in these, as well as his 20,000th point. It was also the last shoe that he wore before retiring the first time.

It is interesting to note that Tinker Hatfield didn’t want the VIII to feature the Nike swoosh, feeling the Jordan brand was strong enough at that point to hold its own. Hatfield brought this idea up to Nike as early as the Air Jordan VI, and after a lot of convincing, was finally able to make this happen for the VIII.

2003: The VIII was first retroed in 2003, and is easily one of the most anticipated retros ever released. Nike kept it short and sweet with this release, as there were only four colorways released in total – two mids and two lows. This was the first the VIII ever got a low-top makeover – in an original colorway no less. A unique thing about these is the trademark straps were altered a bit. Instead of both straps being able to be undone, only one is able to be unlatched on the low-top version.

2007: Backed by Kanye West, Jordan Brand finally re-released the extremely popular “Aqua” colorway in 2007 for the first time since its original release just after the 1993 NBA All-Star Game. Only this time, a women’s version was released as well. People are still clamoring for these to be re-released again.

2008: The VIII made another comeback, this time as a one half of the Jordan 8/15 Countdown Pack. This very limited pack commemorated the countdown to the release of the Air Jordan XX3. This release also brought the third and final original colorway to market.

2010: As part of Jordan Brand’s fusion series, 2010 saw the release of the Air Jordan Fusion 8. Mixing the VIII with the Nike Air Force 1, white leather was used for the upper, including the crisscrossing straps. Perforation was also added to the mid-panel with AF1 midsole. And of course, the classic carpeted Jumpman logo was in place on the tongue.

2011: Due in part to the scarcity of original VIIIs over the past couple of years, reception for the Air Jordan 8.0 has been extremely positive. And if the Air Jordan 2.0 was a refashioning of the original, then the 8.0 represents an extreme makeover. Completely re-tooled, utilizing a brand new midsole, Flywire stabilization and a Hyperfuse-like no-sew upper, these were clearly made in the 21st century. The cross straps have remained, but the shoe is now lower, sleeker and a lot less bulky than the original. To date, seven colorways of the 8.0 have dropped, with the “Aqua” being released on Jan. 7, 2012.

This story was originally published on Foot Locker Unlocked.

What’s your favorite colorway or iteration of the Air Jordan VIII?

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