A History of Women’s Colorways in the Air Jordan Line

I still remember being there for the release of the 2006 “Sunset” Air Jordan V. I wanted them. A clean white shoe with red, orange, and grey accenting? Oh my god, for someone who thinks the Kansas City Chiefs have the best color lineup of any sports team in the country, this was like hitting a gold mine. Unfortunately, that year saw what felt like dozens of different releases for the Jordan V and I simply needed a break. My bank account couldn’t take another $135 withdrawal. (I actually bought the “Green Bean” Jordan V as the two shoes released on the same day. I still wonder why I did that, even though now I have younger kids coming up to me talking about the “Green Beans” being grails. That’s crazy to me.) The “Sunset” Jordans were also meant for the ladies and that fact alone gave me pause.

And, honestly, that’s somewhat strange, considering the role women have played in the Air Jordan line.

This weekend, a new women’s colorway–grey, black, and lava–for the Air Jordan V is releasing at Champs Sports, continuing a legacy of female colorways that extends back nearly two decades.

It all started back in 1998, just a year after the Jordan Brand became a real thing. It also marked the start of the WNBA. That year saw the release of the first women’s Air Jordan, a somewhat radical design that also featured bits of the “dimples” that came into play on the Air Jordan XIII. The WNBA, especially, played a big part as it afforded the shoe a platform to gain traction. Some of the world’s best women’s players balled out in these kicks, including Sheryl Swoopes and the MJ of the game, Cynthia Cooper. This might’ve helped pique the country’s interest surrounding professional women’s basketball. Almost immediately, many of the league’s top stars got shoe deals. Heck, even Nikki McCray got a shoe with FILA.

It wasn’t long before the retro craze hit levels no one thought possible and JB countered by predictably dipping into the female market, releasing more feminine retros for the girls out there. In 2015, that’s being met with some resistance. Girls enjoy rocking the classics as much as anyone, but some are saying they don’t always need products with teals and pinks and greys in them. Initially, however, it was a breath of fresh air.

In 2001, Jordan not only released a string of low-top Air Jordan XIs but many of them were specifically designed for the ladies. Both a grey patent leather version and a citrus-colored colorway were in high demand, the citrus one especially as many of the earliest women’s Jordans always seemed to utilize this color. Yes, there were some early misses, like the following year’s “Coral Rose” VI that was just not a good look for anyone involved. But for the most part, Jordan came correct.

Air Jordan 5 Sunset women's

The mid-2000s were a gold mine and it was during this time period that the brand hit its stride. There were the “White Aquas” that had me turning into a fiend almost as much as the regular “Aquas” did. There were the previously mentioned “Sunset” joints, a “Varsity Maize” edition of the Jordan VII that doubled not only as my one of my college roommate’s favorite pairs EVER but also as the only women’s edition of the VII for a long, long time. There was even a purple-and-grey edition of the Jordan X, which I actually liked better than any men’s colorway to come out at that time. Wear any of these sneakers out right now and I guarantee most sneakerheads will be doing double-takes, not necessarily because they’ll know them as women’s releases but more so because they’ll legitimately see them as super lit.

Michael Jordan, Spike Lee, and the Jordan Brand might’ve changed the world forever nearly 20 years earlier but, in a way, it was the new generation that was changing the game.

A few years later, New York style icon Va$htie Kola became the first women’s designer in Air Jordan history, collaborating with the fellas to drop a special edition Air Jordan II model, done up in light purple with deep purple accenting and a white midsole. It was fresh. It was hip. It showed that female sneakerheads aren’t just here as hypebeasts. They love and know the history too.

“A lot of people look down on us,” female sneakerhead @jcheyenne_ told me previously, “especially on a lot of the newbies that are coming in. But I really hope they let us branch out just like they did, give us the knowledge and hopefully that will work towards keeping the sneaker community strong.”

Over the last few years, we’ve seen some awful fusion editions and some colorways that just didn’t work. But the Jordan Brand kept coming back because, as you can see anywhere nowadays on social media, girls love their kicks just as much as anyone else. Jordan has since recognized this and in a move that started this spring, they’re extending the sizing of select GS releases to US 11 in women’s. Everyone is excited, especially since this year’s lineup includes a dope take on the Jordan Future, as well as two intriguing colorways for the Jordan IV and I. The Air Jordan I, in particular, looks amazing.

As I’ve said previously, the Air Jordan V looks good in any colorway. This weekend’s release is another example of that. Girl power runs deep, even when it comes to these sneakers.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney

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Air Jordan 5 Girls "Hot Lava"
Jordan Brand
Air Jordan 5 Girls "Hot Lava"
Jordan Brand
Air Jordan 5 Girls "Hot Lava"
Jordan Brand
Air Jordan 5 Girls "Hot Lava"
Jordan Brand
Air Jordan 5 Girls "Hot Lava"
Jordan Brand