Last year during the mass hysteria of the release of the Jordan XI’s, I began to think of my all-time favorite retro shoes. While a few Jordan’s appear on my list, you may be shocked at some others on the list. These shoes on this list make me wish that I could go back to my younger self and tell me to buy 2 pair of the shoes….one in my current size and another in my grown-up size to keep in the box! The hardest part of this blog will be to narrow down the list to only 10, which I did by a technicality. I wouldn’t consider myself a sneakerhead, but I have owned quite a few of the shoes on the list.
Honorable Mention 1: Nike Cortez
The Cortez reaches all the way back to 1968, before Nike was even Nike, Inc. Before Nike, Inc. was even a real shoe company that used terms like “Anti-wear plug” and “herringbone sole” to describe their products. It all started with an Olympic-class track coach. Designer and track coach Bill Bowerman originally intended for his new shoe, the “Corsair”, to be used for distance training. This is the same guy who brought the idea of jogging to America. He had no idea what kind of running people were going to do in that shoe…especially once the Corsair was reintroduced to the world and the L.A. streets as the “Cortez” in 1972 under the Nike brand, right when gang banging was taking flight in a major way. Nike itself described the shoe as having a “…thick, long wearing outer sole, full length sponge with a mid-sole cushion to absorb road shock and reduce leg fatigue.” Road shock and leg fatigue….indeed. So with that said, of course I had a few pair of these, mainly because of the different colors they were available in and because they were fairly inexpensive.
Honorable Mention 2: Air Jordan XII
The Air Jordan XII (12) was released in 1996/1997. In the 96/97 season Jordan saw himself being bounced off the MVP throne by Karl Malone, who won the honor with the slimmest margin one can think of. Jordan got his revenge in the finals though, and led the Bulls past Malone’s Utah Jazz and also picked up the Finals MVP honors for the fifth time (out of five tries!). This shoe was again something totally new when it came to design. The way the ribbed leather seemed to go all the way to down to the ground due to the match in color with the midsoles, really made people turn their heads. This unique design was partly inspired by the flag of the Japanese Army & Navy in which the red circle is surrounded by a “sunset”. The XII’s were also one of the most durable AJ’s to date. It seemed almost nothing could break these shoes down. The Air Jordan shoes also came with a 360 Max Air unit beneath the Jordan midsole to earn the comfortable ventilated feeling while doing sports. In September 1997 Nike decided to launch a new sub-brand of Nike called Jordan Brand. This made the Air Jordan XII one of the first products that were a part of the Jordan Brand collection. Probably due to this fact, the Air Jordan 12 XII was the first Air Jordan that did not have a Swoosh or a Nike logo anywhere on the shoe. Not even on the insole. Again, I only like certain colors of this shoe…not sure why though.
Honorable Mention 3: Reebok Question
The Reebok Question was Allen Iverson’s first signature shoe and has been his most popular and best selling out his entire signature line. First released in 1996, the Reebok Question sold out immediately and set record-breaking sales numbers for Reebok. Iverson wore this shoe for the duration of his unforgettable and history making NBA rookie season. Iverson has worn the shoe sporadically in regular season games, playoff games, and All-Star games. I had a pair of these, but in blue and they were very comfortable hooping shoes…considering they were Reebok’s.
10. Nike Air Trainer Huarache
Released in 1992, the Nike Air Trainer Huarache was the first cross-trainer with Air Huarache technology. This relatively new model also possesses a large adjustable velcro strap, leather skeleton frame, neoprene inner bootie and perforations for breathability. These went pretty well with some starched down jeans and I loved them so much that when I messed up my white/gold/red pair I went back and copped the black ones that you see above.
9. Nike Air Max 95
The Air Max 95 is a landmark in Nike Running’s rich heritage. Air Max units appear in the heel and forefoot for cushioning all while providing a very distinct look. The Nike Air Max 95 was designed by Sergio Lozano, and was inspired by the human body. The middle of the sole of the Air Max 95 represents the spine, the graduated panels represent the muscle fibers, the lace loops and straps draw inspiration from the ribs, and the mesh upper references the skin. Something very unique about the Air Max 95 is that the Nike Swoosh logo is only found two places on the Air Max 95 – near the heel and on the back. By 1995 I was slowly falling off with my Jordan shoe game, but I had to stay with Nike…and even though these were running shoes, I can guarantee you I never ran anywhere in mine.
8. Nike Air More Uptempo
Scottie Pippen gets in on the action during the Jordan-filled retro game. The Nike Air More Uptempo and unlike the leather version that released in 2006 this pair uses an upper similar to the OG nubuck pair released in 1996. Although not an official signature for Pippen, he did wear this pair during the second 3-Peat with Chicago. Plenty of people felt these shoes wasn’t hot, but I had an all white pair that would shut them haters (even though we wasn’t calling people haters in 96) up.
7. Nike Air Jordan 8
Air Jordan 8 was released during the 1992-93 “Three-Peat” Championship season. Nike Jordan 8 features more colors, details and comfort which lead to the popularity of it. Its base was clearly close to its predecessor but it had a lot more details, color and accents. Air Jordan Shoes 8 had cross-over velcro/leather straps and was so padded your foot got surprised. The Jumpman logo design on this style vaguely looks like a Peace sign, specially at the white-chrome rendition together with its shaggy carpet-like Jumpman. Due to the thick padding nike air jordan shoe was heavy and also easily got very warm. I loved these shoes so much…I never tied them and I still own a pair to this day!
6. Nike Air Jordan VI
The Air Jordan 6 was released for the 1990-1991 season. Air Jordan 6 Shoes is not only well-known for the fact that it was worn during Michael Jordan’s first NBA title that the Bulls finally won the NBA Championships beating the LA Laker’s in the final, but also for its high quality materials and stylish design. The Nike Air Jordan 6 was the second form to have the clear rubber sole, and it also offers some sort of detachable band much like Air Jordan 3 pertaining to mid-cut verison. Again if you take a look at the bottom sole you will notice the outsole that is dotted and translucent taken from the Air Jordans. Authentic Air Jordan 6 adopt a rubber tongue with two holes which makes people much more comfortable and fashionable. Out of all the J’s I had, I loved the ones that came with the lil clip that goes on the shoestrings….call me weird.
5. Nike Air Jordan IV
Air Jordan 4 can be called a masterpiece, designed by Tinker Hatfield and was first released in 1989. Different from the former Jordan shoes, Nike Air Jordan 4 has its own style. The Air Jordan 4 featured many new design concepts. First, the straps on the side for increased ankle support. It was nearly impossible for MJ to roll his ankle in these shoes. Also, The Air Jordan 4 again featured the air sole heel for added cushioning and a full length midsole. However, when Nike released the first Retro model of the Nike Air Jordan 4, many fans of the shoe claimed that the company had “destroyed a classic” by removing the nets on the shoe along with making some other subtle changes. A rich-grain leather and nu-buck are the characteristics of these Air Jordan Shoes which will make you quite comfortable. My love for these shoes goes deep, these were my first pair of Jordan’s!
4. Nike Air Force One
The Nike Air Force Ones were first released 25 years ago in 1982! Amazing that most sneaker collectors who salivate for these shoes weren’t even born yet let alone wearing them. The Nike Air Force Ones were the first Nike shoes to have a full length air sole. The Nike Air Force One shoes have been a major hit in the hip-hop community. Since their first release early 80s while the popularity of hip-hop grew, so did the Air Force One. Since hip-hop culture was so closely connected to the streets of New York and the basketball scene there, many of the up and coming artists from the streets of Brooklyn rose to the top while wearing the Nike Air Force Ones. While I didn’t get my first pair till 2002, the all-white high-tops were instant classics in my book. Then I went back and got me a pair of solid black low’s and they go so well with anything I wear.
3. Air Jordan XI
The legendary Air Jordan 11 was first released for 1995-96 season. This Nike Air Jordan Shoes are the most famous and most popular model of the Air Jordan line. The Air Jordan 11 Shoes are loved by many sneaker enthusiasts and are always sell out. Because of high-quality materials and manufacturing technology, all of them are rather comfortable. With an upper made of ballistic mesh and a wraparound rand made entirely of patent leather, the Air Jordan Shoes 11 enabled the wearer’s foot to breathe, while giving support to the whole perimeter of the foot. The shoes itself resembled dress shoes that were fitted with spats, from the styles of the early 20th century. While these are technically the “Cool Grey’s” and the “Concords” I’m only a fan of the ones pictured above…no real reason why. Word on the street is that these will be re-released around Christmas time…I expect somebody to get shot over these. I’m just saying.
2. Adidas Superstar
The Superstar is a basketball shoe manufactured by athletic goods company Adidas since 1969, released as a low top version of the Pro Model basketball shoe. Nicknamed the “shelltoe”, “shell shoes”, and “shell tops” for their rubber shell toe piece, their iconic design is known as one of the major influences in the sneaker culture. When the shoe was introduced, it was the first low-top basketball shoe to feature an all-leather upper and the now famous rubber shelltoe. With its rubber toe protection and non-marking sole, the shoe caught the attention of some of the best players from the NCAA and NBA, most notably Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Within the first few years of its introduction, the Superstar was being worn by over 75% of all NBA players; proof of its revolutionary technology which remains relevant today. Over the course of the next few years, it would advance from the court to the sidewalk and, consequently, further into the public’s consciousness. No sneakerhead can validate NOT owning a pair of these…I own 2 pair. This is where REAL hip-hop culture meets fashion in my opinion.
1. Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star’s
Throughout the years since 1917, Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars made a shift from athletic sportswear to casual footwear. Originally an elite basketball shoe, the Chuck Taylor All Star evolved into the shoe of choice for many subcultures. The shoes were popular among many groups throughout the decades including greasers, athletes, punks, grunge rockers, alternative rockers, surfers, rappers, Time Lords and skaters. Today, Chuck Taylor All Stars are worn by countless people from all cultures and styles and the shoe continues to be an iconic style marker. When Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle hit the shelves, I threw on my all-blue Chucks and went bought that CD….it was my FIRST CD ever purchased! How can a shoe that was created in 1917 and is STILL WORN by all type of people not be the top sneaker of all time? I’m just saying.
Feel free to comment on the list or post some of your all-time favs!
Thanks for tuning in…