In the nearly 40 years since the Air Jordan 1s inception, the sneaker has solidified itself as the most iconic shoe of all time. Say the word “sneaker,” and most people are going to conjure up images of their favorite AJ1. For good reason, too — the sneaker single-handedly created sneaker culture as we know it when it first dropped to the public on April 1st, 1985. Aside from being emblematic of basketball’s most iconic player, the Jordan I also set the stage for the full lineage of Jordans, which as of 2022 consists of 36 individual sneakers.
With 36 different designs in its lineage, the fact that the Jordan I still tops the list of many people’s favorite sneaker silhouette is a testament to its design. We have the late Peter Moore to thank for that, who not only designed the Jordan 1 and 2 but also gave us the branding associated with the Air Jordan family, from the original wing logo on the 1 to the Jumpman which debuted on the 3.
The Air Jordan 3 might’ve been designed by Tinker Hatfield but it took design elements originally sketched out by Moore, and it’s probably second to the Jordan 1 for that very reason, as it combined design elements from two sneaker legends — creating something greater than the sum of its parts. But even still, we never would’ve gotten there without the 1!
In celebration of the sneaker world’s greatest design, we’re running through the Air Jordan Is 30 best colorways, from 1985 to 2022. And if you want to see a fully custom Jordan 1, check out The Game reacting to his new kicks on Uproxx’s Fresh Pair, below.
Air Jordan 1 Royal Blue, 1985
The very first colorway released to the public, the Air Jordan 1 Royal Blue was Michael Jordan’s personal favorite. Despite not being his team colors, Jordan wore this blue and black colorway in an early ad campaign shot by famed sports photographer Chuck Kuhn.
The image of Jordan wearing Royal Blues in a matching sweatsuit on a remote Oregon airstrip at sunset is as iconic a visual as the very sneaker it’s advertising.
Air Jordan 1 Black Toe, 1985
One of the debut AJ-1 colorways, the Black Toe remains one of the sneaker’s most iconic and beloved designs. Though hardly worn by Jordan himself on the court, it was the Black Toe that MJ was rocking during the photoshoot that would inspire the now iconic Jumpman logo. For that reason alone, it’ll always be one of the greatest Jordan colorways ever.
The Black Toe has since been re-released in 2013 and again in 2016, which means we’re due for a refresh any day now.
Air Jordan 1 BRED/Banned, 1985
The BRED or Banned colorway of the Air Jordan 1 is the only sneaker that could be classified as “badass.” This Chicago Bulls-inspired colorway was famously banned for violating NBA league dress regulations (or rather, that’s how Nike tells it — more accurately, it was the “Air Ship” that was banned), resulting in a $5,000 fine per game every time Jordan rocked a pair.
He did it anyway and Nike gladly foot the bill (…or so the story goes).
Air Jordan 1 UNC/Carolina Blue, 1985
Not quite as rare as some of the other first-year colorways, the UNC remains one of the prettiest pairs of Air Jordan 1s. Made in tribute to the college colors of Jordan’s alma mater, The University of North Carolina, the UNC pulls together shades of Carolina Blue and white across an all-leather upper.
The look of a cloud is a perfect fit for someone nicknamed “His Airness.”
Air Jordan 1 Shadow, 1985
It’s easy to forget given the insane popularity of the BRED and Royal Blue colorways that the AJ-1’s debut sneaker also produced a fifth classic colorway, the moody black and grey Shadow. While it doesn’t get the same amount of ink spilled over it as those other classics, it’s still, 35 years later, the cleanest the Air Jordan has ever looked.
Air Jordan 1 High Chicago, 1986
To correct the (self-created?) controversy surrounding the BRED, Nike released this league-approved red, white, and black colorway which quickly became emblematic of the AJ-1 itself. If sneakerheads picture the Air Jordan 1 when they heard the word “sneakers,” then this is the colorway they see it in.
The Chicago, or Varsity Red (as it’s now known), has been re-released several times, and it’s the colorway Virgil Abloh based his updated take on the AJ-1 on from his now-classic “The Ten” collection.
Air Jordan 1 Retro Japan Pack, 2001
Nike Japan has a track record of producing some of the brand’s greatest colorways, and that trend started with this four sneaker release. The full Japan pack consisted of Metallic Silver/Neutral Grey, White/Midnight Navy, Black Metallic Silver, and White Metallic silver colorways, with some pairs featuring reflective 3M detailing.
Each sneaker from the collection was released in a limited edition suitcase, which was a puzzling move, but hey, who wouldn’t want to keep one of these pairs in a hard shell under lock and key?
Air Jordan 1 Patent Leather, 2003/2013/2020
It’s rare that a mid-rise Jordan 1 colorway ever edges into legendary status, but this patent leather iteration of the AJ-1 is impossible to ignore. We mean literally, how can you not see this sneaker when it reflects any light source directly into your eyes?
These feel a little dated by 2020’s standards, but this black and gold colorway remains popular to this day, with a recent re-release in high-top form. The newest iteration is a huge improvement over the original, but we have to shout out the design that started the patent leather look, so we’re showcasing the mid-rise.
Air Jordan 1 XQ, 2007/2013
Sometimes sneaker brands will do things that seem to go against reason. Surely, Nike loves to make money, why then has there only been one refresh of the China-exclusive XQ colorway? This pair remains one of the most unique in the AJ-1s history, thanks to its star-speckled embossed leather paneling, and unique line detailing.
The sneaker serves as a reminder that Nike is at its best when the brand is playing loose with its design template.
Levi’s x Nike Air Jordan 1 23/501 Denim Retro, 2008
As part of their first brand collaboration, Levi’s and Nike offered up new takes on their two most iconic products, the Air Jordan 1 and Levi’s 501 jean. Sure, nobody remembers what that pair of pants looked like, but the image of the corresponding sneaker will be burned into every Air Jordan 1 fan’s memory for as long as people keep making lists of the best Air Jordan 1s.
Sporting a denim and leather upper, the 23/501s featured red paneling and a denim iteration of Nike’s famous elephant print.
Air Jordan 1 HARE, 2009
Sneakerheads rarely go crazy for cartoon sneaker tie-ins but the HARE Jordan 1 — inspired by the Air Jordan 7 colorway of the same name — has managed to carve out space amongst even the most fashion-obsessed of hype beasts. That’s probably because this neutral grey on pristine white colorway with red accents manages to look so dope.
On paper swapping out the iconic Jumpman logo for Bugs Bunny sounds like a stupid idea but in practice? Fresh as hell. The HARE colorway has been used on several Air Jordans to date, and it always looks fly.
Air Jordan 1 High Strap A Tribe Called Quest, 2009
We debated not even including this pair on this list as only 25 pairs were initially released, but this A Tribe Called Quest-celebrating design — which uses Tribe’s “Midnight Marauders” as inspiration — is just too unique to ignore.
First, there is that black-on-red-on-green colorway that is so representative of Tribe, and then there is that strap, a definite anomaly in the Jordan 1 lineage and one we’d like to see a lot more of going forward.
Fragment Design x Air Jordan 1, 2014
Famed streetwear designer Hiroshi Fujiwara had a simple recipe for this Fragment Design Jordan 1: take two of the shoe’s greatest colorways, the Black Toe and Royal, and mash them together, giving us the Fragment Design Air Jordan 1.
It could be argued that Fujiwara’s design even improves upon those original colorways. In fact, we’ll say that right here, right now.
Just Don X Air Jordan 1 High Strap BHM, 2013
Released in celebration of Black History Month to benefit the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America charity, this black and orange pair designed by legendary Chicago streetwear designer Don C features a high-top strap and a premium snakeskin-inspired leather upper.
It doesn’t look too much like an AJ-1, but it definitely looks fresh.
Air Jordan 1 High Legends of Summer Pack, 2014
Here is the thing about the Legends of Summer — I happen to think they’re some of the ugliest Jordan 1s ever. Why are they are on this list then? Because all three pairs, the red, the black, and the red and white sell for, easily, above $5K on the aftermarket.
While I don’t think an expensive shoe necessarily makes for a great shoe, to deny the popularity of this pack — which dropped to a limited few in commemoration of Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s Legends of Summer tour — would be to ignore a part of Jordan 1 sneaker history.
Air Jordan 1 Shattered Backboard, 2015
2015’s starfish orange on black and sail colorway, known simply as the “Shattered Backboard” is a modern classic. The Shattered Backboard gets its name and colors from an exhibition game in Italy during Jordan’s rookie year. Wearing an orange, black, and white uniform, Jordan dunked so hard he shattered the backboard, creating history in the process.
30 years later, it would lead to one of the AJ-1’s greatest colorways.
Air Jordan 1 Letterman
Released 30 years after his first appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, this pair of AJ-1s combined Light Crimson and Midnight Navy to create a colorway inspired by the jumpsuit Jordan wore on his first-ever late-night tv appearance.
It’s a weird moment to commemorate, but hey, we’re not complaining. We’ll take 10 pairs.
Air Jordan 1 Igloo, 2017
If the aforementioned Jordan 1 UNC is the sneaker’s prettiest colorway, the Igloo is a close second. Released as an Art Basel exclusive, this mint, black, and white colorway sought to capture the look and feel of Miami’s South Beach waterfront.
Did it succeed? Who cares, it made for a dope-as-hell sneaker.
Off-White x Air Jordan 1 The Ten, 2017
With this ranking, this will now be the third time we’ve written about this Chicago-inspired colorway from Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” collection. What more can we say about this shoe that we haven’t already? If we had to choose a single sneaker to be representative of Abloh’s entire 10-shoe debut Nike collection, it would be this one.
This design could go on the cover of an entire book about Abloh’s contribution to footwear, and nobody would bat an eye. It’s iconic.
Union x Air Jordan 1 Black Toe/Storm Blue, 2018
Los Angeles-based retailer Union has made a handful of Air Jordans and each one of them is a certifiable classic. For their first collaboration, Union took on the AJ-1 and dropped two iterations consisting of the colors of four classic colorways, stitched together with deconstruction-inspired zig-zag stitching and sitting atop pre-yellowed soles.
SoleFly x Jordan 1 High Art Basel, 2018
Another Art Basel Miami exclusive — this time in collaboration with SoleFly — this high top Jordan 1 dropped in a leather and shiny patent leather version, both featuring a University of Miami-inspired color combo of orange, white and green.
Air Jordan 1 High Origin Story Spider-Man, 2018
It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that we’re saying this but, Miles Morales is the coolest Spider-Man ever. Peter Parker never rocked a pair of Nikes, and this Chicago-inspired colorway worn by Morales in animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse remains the coolest pair of sneakers a superhero has ever rocked.
A Spider-inspired smash of blue and reflective details set this apart from this familiar AJ-1 color palette.
Air Jordan 1 Pine Green Retro High, 2018
An expansion of Jordan Brand’s Black Toe line, the Pine Green features a black on sail colorway with a Pine Green toe box. It’s a simple-but-striking colorway that acts as a reminder that the Air Jordan 1s debut colorways still play a major part in influencing future designs.
Travis Scott Jordan 1 High Cactus Jack, 2019
Travis Scott has produced a lot of solid designs out of his Cactus Jack label but has yet to surpass the perfection that is the Cactus Jack Jordan 1. Featuring a backward swoosh with coffee-colored suede paneling over a white sail upper, the Cactus Jack, alongside the Union LA and “The Ten” AJ-1, will go down as the colorways that kept this iconic silhouette relevant to a new generation of sneakerheads.
Off-White Jordan 1 High White, 2020
We don’t know if Virgil Abloh will ever design an Air Jordan 1 that reaches the same popularity as his Chicago-inspired colorway from “The Ten,” but this all-white iteration is pretty damn close.
Released in March of this year, this iteration of the AJ-1 sold out nearly instantly and still reaches prices as high as $2K on the aftermarket. The design is simple, consisting of deconstructed white leather paneling, mesh, and blue and orange threading that adds a striking yet minimal splash of color. Truly Abloh and the AJ-1 at their best.
A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 1, 2021
Atlanta-based label, A Ma Maniére has made a name for itself by consistently delivering some of the more premium-looking Jordans, and the brand’s take on the Jordan 1 stands as one of their best yet. Featuring a textured suede upper in off-white with a Burgundy snakeskin collar and swoosh, you could call A Ma Maniére’s Jordan 1 your favorite colorway of all time and no one would bat an eye. It’s that good.
Air Jordan 1 High Pollen, 2001
Dubbed the “Pollen” for its bumble bee-inspired colorway, this sneaker looks like a classic that’s always been with us, which makes its 2021 release date surprising. The sneaker features a premium tumbled leather upper in black with pollen overlays and authentic 1980s-style detailing.
Air Jordan 1 High ’85 College Navy (Georgetown), 2022
We’re always here for Jordan colorways that subtly point to MJ’s on-court career, and the College Navy, also known unofficially as the “Georgetown,” is one of the cleverest colorways to do so. Made to commemorate a specific match from Jordan’s college career, the College Navy makes reference to Jordan’s title-winning moment against the Georgetown Hoyas (go Bulldogs!) by dipping the shoe in the Washington DC’s school colors.
That’s a cold move on Nike’s part but we doubt anyone from Georgetown would complain considering this pair looks undeniably dope.
Air Jordan 1 High OG Stage Haze, 2022
A subtle shuffling of the coveted Shadow colorway, the Stage Haze combines white leather with cracked black leather paneling and bleached coral paneling with suede detailing and vintage Nike branding.
It’s not a star-driven shoe or a crazy collab — just a thoughtful reimagining of a classic. That’s very cool.
Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 Reverse Mocha Low, 2022
As you can tell from this list, it’s a rare thing when a low-top Jordan captures the imagination of sneakerheads but with Travis Scott’s name attached and a truly great colorway, this low-top is just too fresh to ignore.
The Reverse Mocha is the first Travis Scott branded sneaker that is self-referential, with this sneaker being very similar to the high-top AJ-1 Mocha, released in 2019. You might’ve noticed that release is absent from this list, and it’s because this one is better. The Reverse Mocha features a giant oversized backward swoosh\ and scarlet embroidered accents and sits atop an off-white rubber midsole.