Earlier this spring, Nike SB and Jordan Brand joined forces to deliver the SB Air Jordan 1. Designed by artist Craig Stecyk, this highly limited SB Jordan 1 featured unique aesthetics and marked the first collaboration between the Swoosh partners. With two more releases in the pipeline, it appears that this joint venture is just getting underway. And although some skate die hards may have been taken aback by the seemingly unexpected cross-branding, the truth is, this is a partnership that was quite literally decades in the making.
The Air Jordan 1 was first and foremost a basketball shoe. Designed by Peter Moore, the Jordan 1 is fondly remembered not only for its iconic hardwood moments and its striking design, but also the controversy that surrounded the original release. It’s the story you’ve heard time and time again: at the time, the NBA’s uniform regulations were much stricter, and Jordan was penalized for wearing the black-and-red colorway due to the lack of white on its upper. Instead of going back to the drawing board altogether, Nike decided to let Jordan play in them anyway, coming out of pocket for the $5,000 fine each time he wore them on the court. This approach was nothing short of genius, leading to one of the most unforgettable marketing campaigns of all time and helping to kick-start the now mighty Jumpman brand.
Skaters in the mid-late 1980s embraced Michael Jordan’s rebel stance, and the sneaker itself was well-suited for the rigors of shredding and catching monster air. Thanks to its supportive high top design and Nike Air cushioning, the Air Jordan 1 allowed a skater’s feet to stay locked in place while keeping the ankle area safe and helped protect from heel bruises during hard landings. With a durable leather upper and a host of eye-catching colorways, the AJ1 was quickly adopted as a go-to choice for the stylish skater. From Lance Mountain (who helped design the 2014 Nike SB collaboration) and Steve Caballero in the Bones Brigade crew to Christian Hosoi and Mark Gonzalez, the Air Jordan 1 was worn by a who’s who of skate pioneers. Check out a collection of vintage photos above.
Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and a contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things pop culture, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.