Jordans aren’t what they used to be. But that’s not a bad thing.
Artists, designers, and clothing brands are reimagining iconic models by adding one-of-a-kind design elements to Air Jordans, turning the series of classic hoops silhouettes into contemporary lifestyle looks. No longer can a fresh colorway alone really catch the attention of the sneaker community. It seems that now you have to add some extra bells and whistles to truly stand out.
In today’s climate, originality is in. And bending the proportions of design determines how well-received your Jordan collaboration will be. It’s almost as if some collaborators are seeing just how far Jordan Brand will let them run wild with the original, revered Air Jordan designs.
Collaborators are simply no longer afraid of alienating Air Jordan purists with their creativity. Since Jordan Brand is still committed to remastering the core classics for those who prefer the traditional designs, there's an opportunity for everyone else to try something new. In a way, we all benefit.
With all that said, now let us share with you the kinds of new-age Jordans we’re talking about. Below you’ll find a collection of some of the most Remodeled Air Jordans in history.
Union’s “Sophomore Album” collection with Jordan Brand explores a throwback aesthetic on both the “Guava Ice” and “Off Noir” colorways of the Air Jordan 4. The construction features a few tweaks including a reconstructed mesh toe box and “solid” design for the top clear plastic lace wings. The most controversial modification is the stitched down tongue per Union owner Chris Gibbs’ specifications. If the new style isn’t your thing, the stitches can be removed to retain the Jordan 4’s original tall tongue.
Has there been a more polarizing collaboration? Off-White’s deconstructed take on the Air Jordan 1 is a complete overhaul in design in almost every way possible. The exposed foam padding on the collar, unstitched leather panels, and oversized leather Swoosh (not to mention the red zip-tie and “Air” branding on the midsole) are as groundbreaking to look at today as they were when the shoe dropped in 2017.
Once a display piece for Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” exhibit, the Off-White x Women’s Air Jordan 4 “Sail” has become one of the year’s most desirable collaborations after it was given an official release by Jordan Brand. The monochromatic “Sail” colorway features several firsts for the Jordan 4 including translucent netting on the throat and mid-panel, and translucent detailing on the heel cup and wings clips on the collar. Abloh’s signature “quotations” design also appears on the shoe, a first in that regard, as well.
Leather, and in some cases, suede, have been part of the Air Jordan 5’s design DNA for years. So when Off-White came along with this collaborative Jordan 5 in a light grey synthetic, semi-translucent material, it was a completely different look for the model. The most radical remix of Abloh's design was the circular cut-outs found on either side of the upper and tongue.
Travis Scott’s Air Jordan 1 collaboration features the one thing we’d never thought we’d see on a Jordan 1: a backwards Swoosh. The large inverted black tumbled leather Swoosh on the high-top, and white tumbled leather Swoosh on the alternate low-top silhouette immediately draw attention because we’ve only ever seen the Swoosh going in one direction. What’s more, Scott’s miniature “face” logo is embossed on the heel. This definitely isn’t your older brother’s Jordan 1.
Here’s a hot take: The “bubble” on the collar of the original Air Jordan 6 is aesthetically pleasing, but doesn’t really serve a purpose beyond looks. The stash pocket on the side of the Travis Scott x Jordan 6, however, is fully functional, because it allows you to store everything from loose change to your AirPods inside.
Renowned fashion house Comme des Garçons has its own set of rules when it comes to the design and styling of its seasonal apparel collections. And the same holds true for its collaborations with Nike and Jordan Brand. In 2019, CDG gave the Air Jordan 1 a punk and goth inspired makeover that took Michael Jordan’s first signature hoops shoe about as far from its origins as possible. Clasps, rivets, and a buckle-adjusted ankle strap are all present on the wild design, which released in all-white and all-black colorways. It’s original, it’s modern, and it’s about what fashionistas have come to know and love about CDG.
Supreme’s glam version of the Air Jordan 14 is wholly rooted in the punk aesthetics pushed by the streetwear giant season after season. Aside from the rounded metal studs, everything else on both the black and white leather based colorways is on-par with the original styling of the performance shoe.
It feels like time-telling sneakers are in the not so distant future. Before that happens, let’s salute the design that got the ball rolling—Melody Ehsani’s Women’s Air Jordan 1 Mid “Fearless.” While not operational, the jewelry designer’s collaboration features gold accented watch faces in the shoelaces of each shoe, a bold move that reeks of originality.