Here’s Why “Nike Air” Matters

There’s something undeniable about an original. It gives you a feeling of nostalgia, of possessing something that’s been there from day one. Even if it’s about brand loyalty more than anything else, original sneakers are always held in high regard. Materials, molds, colorways, designs, technology, logos. Sneakerheads lust for these things.

This may be for many reasons, some of which is attributed to the evolution of fashion (or lack thereof). Most likely, it’s the sentimental value. Collectors look for “OG” pairs to complete a set because they may possess certain attributes that reissued pairs just can’t duplicate.

“Anytime you see the ‘Nike Air’ on the back it’s a nod to an era of classic Jordans,” says Joe La Puma, the Director of Content Strategy for Complex and host of the hit web series, Sneaker Shopping With Complex. “It’s never been a make-or-break thing for me, but the Swoosh being present is a cool twist for sure.”

Michael Jordan and the designers at Nike shaped the Swoosh into the talisman of sneaker fashion that it is today. The original 1985 Jordan model featured an extremely visible Swoosh on each side of the shoe and “Nike Air” sewn into the tongue tag. This branding was seen on prior sneakers (the Air Force 1 and Dunk) but this felt different. It was a marriage between two emerging faces–the Air Jordan “Wings” logo can be seen on the upper–and it set a precedent for what was to come in the future.

The following year, aside from small Nike imprints on the heel and sole, the trademark took a back seat to the Jordan II’s luxe Italian leather and sleek designs. However, “Nike Air” would return for the III-VI, which is a run featuring some of Tinker Hatfield’s most iconic designs. The original Air Jordan IV, for example, found fame in popular culture with “The Shot” on Craig Ehlo and an iconic sneaker moment in the Spike Lee Joint, Do The Right Thing, both happening in 1989.

What is most visible in all of this? The Nike Swoosh.

In recent history, collectors have sought pairs of Jordans (the “OGs”) dating all the way back to the mid ’80s. However, due to the natural construction of sneakers, material breakdowns, and regular wear and tear, many shoes from that time simply cannot hang around for 30 years. To combat that, Jordan Brand and Nike re-released the models on numerous occasions, first in 1994 with the Jordan I-III, and then again between 1999 and 2001 with the Jordan I, III, IV, V, and VI all returning with their original design and “Nike Air” included.

That’s when Jordan Brand switched things up.

After 2001, JB switched to the Jumpman logo in conjunction with their division from Nike, and with that change came the plastering of Jordan’s logo over any and everything. For many sneaker enthusiasts, the change wasn’t welcomed–they wanted their Swoosh! Sales eventually skyrocketed throughout the following decade, though, in part because for younger consumers, it was business as usual.

“I’d wager that some kids only know Jordans most famous pose and Air would be there to appease fogeys,” says sneaker influencer John Gotty (@jgotty) of The Smoking Section. “Again, appreciated but not necessary in order for me to buy the shoe since my whole purpose of buying them is strictly for wearing them and wearing them isn’t affected by what’s on the rear of the shoe. Spend those resources and time on something both the young and old care about, like cracking paint on the midsoles and overall quality control.”

Even throughout the years of campouts, resellers, and the madness that came with the major sneaker boom of the last decade, one question that always came up when a shoe was retro’d was “Where is the Swoosh?” The demand for the original product grew as more consumers became increasingly knowledgeable about the history of Jordan Brand. So, in 2013, the first return came with the Jordan I re-releasing. The red, blue, and shadow pairs all dropped with the Swoosh, leaving behind the days of a Jumpman on the tongue and heel. Soon after, rumors surfaced of “remastered” versions of the Jordan IV, and here we are today where the White/Cement Air Jordan IV will be releasing this Saturday at Champs Sports with the iconic “Nike Air” on the heel.

Now with the return of that legacy-defining Air Jordan IV in these classic colors, you can own a piece of modern history. The Jumpman will forever be iconic, but the imagery of a Jordan shoe with a “Nike Air” will remain king.

Buy Saturday

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