Jordan Brand has released sneakers in quite literally thousands of combinations when looking at silhouettes and colorways. What started off as a signature line with colorways inspired by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls has morphed into the center of sneaker culture, now including any color combination imaginable– sometimes even including every color in the rainbow on the same shoe, like in the case of the recently released J Balvin Air Jordan I.
Below, we are going to look at three of the most recognizable Jordan colorways, with the exception of maybe the ‘Chicago’ colorway. The first being the ‘Bred’ colorway, named for its combination of the colors black and red. The ‘Fire Red’ colorway, another colorway that pays homage to the Bulls. And the ‘Cool Grey’ colorway, making its debut after Jordan’s second retirement on the Jordan XI that has since seen it’s way to other models such as the III, IV, IX, X, and XII, just to name a few. Along with looking at the history of each colorway, we also take a look at how they compare in the resale market by analyzing sales data from StockX.
On October 18th, 1984 Michael Jordan stepped onto the NBA stage for the first time in a shoe that would proceed to change the game of basketball and the sneaker world forever. That shoe was the Air Jordan I ‘Bred’. The NBA warned Michael stating that each time MJ wore the shoes, he would be required to pay $5,000. Nike scoffed at the threat, ensuring MJ that they would foot the bill as long as he kept wearing the shoes. This led to the shoes gaining the ‘Banned’ I nickname.
The Air Jordan I ‘Bred’ has seen a multitude of retro releases and alternate materials– the 2011 retro even included two red X’s on the back of the shoe, toying with the infamous ‘Banned’ nickname. In the chart above, we take a look at the 2016 retro, which has seen a nearly $300 price increase in the past year. Similar to the XIII and XIV we’ve looked into before, this price increase comes around the same time as ESPN’s premier of “The Last Dance” docuseries.
After delivering the Jordan III with high praise from MJ himself, Nike turned to Tinker Hatfield once again to churn out another signature model. The Air Jordan IV ‘Bred’– or as many sneaker enthusiasts may correct you, the ‘Black Cement’ IV– has many memorable moments on the hardwood, including MJ’s ‘The Shot’ from 1989 that solidified Chicago’s series victory over Cleveland with an iconic buzzer beater over Craig Ehlo.
Releasing for the fifth time in 2019, the Air Jordan IV ‘Bred’ is timeless and continues to make waves in the sneaker community with every release. In the graph above, we take a look at the 2012 retro, donning the unpopular ‘Jumpman’ heel. Like other shoes on this list, we see prices for the 2012 retro dropping prior to their 2019 retro release. A trend we can also see with the Fire Red IVs later in the list.
Making its debut during Jordan’s 1997-98 season, where he would go on to win his sixth NBA title, the Air Jordan XIII played a pivotal role in MJ’s last season as a Chicago Bull. Like many of Jordan’s other shoes, the XIII was featured in one of legendary director Spike Lee’s films. In Spike Lee’s “He’s Got Game” from 1998, main character Jake Shuttlesworth, played by Denzel Washington, buys a pair of ‘He Got Game’ XIIIs for his son, played by NBA star Ray Allen. This feature furthered the silhouette’s impact, cementing it as a true classic amongst sneaker enthusiasts.
Fire Red III
With Michael Jordan ready to leave Nike after not being impressed with the Air Jordan II, the fate of MJ’s future with Nike was up in the air. To make matters worse, Nike had recently lost two heavy hitters with Peter Moore (Nike’s creative director and lead shoe designer) and Rob Strasser (Nike’s vice president) abandoning ship to launch their own venture. With Strasser and Moore gone, the job of designing the next Air Jordan signature shoe– the shoe that was supposed to keep Jordan with the brand– fell in the lap of Nike sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield. While Tinker was not new to the world of shoe design, having produced two smash hits previously with the Air Max I and Air Trainer I, he had never worked on an Air Jordan.
After designing the new signature shoe for Jordan, complete with all new features such as a visible air unit and Jordan’s very own logo on the tongue, Tinker held his breath while MJ got his first look. Michael Jordan was an instant fan of the shoe, and the rest is history.
Looking at the graph above, we have data for the 2013 retro of the Air Jordan III ‘Fire Red’, one of the four original colorways released in 1988. Here we can see the Fire Red III hovering between the $200-$300 range, with a gradual increase in the past year.
Fire Red IV
Released originally in 1989 alongside the aforementioned ‘Bred’ colorway, the Air Jordan IV ‘Fire Red’ was not as known for its on court moments. However, the sneaker has remained a classic amongst the sneaker community and has seen 3 retro releases since. One of which even featured Spike Lee’s ‘Mars Blackmon’ character on the heel, a nod to Lee’s ‘Do The Right Thing’ film that is often credited with fueling the sneaker craze back in 1989.
In the graph above, we look at the 2012 Air Jordan ‘Fire Red’ IV retro– yes, again the retro with the not-so-popular Jumpman heel as opposed to the OG Nike Air heel. Here we can observe the ‘Fire Red’ IVs following it’s III and V counterparts nearly month for month, seeing no drastic shifts one way or another.
Fire Red V
The Air Jordan V came out with many new features that were seen later down the Jordan line. Some of these include the lace locks, the reflective 3M material, and the clear outsole that oftentimes yellows with age– a trait that inspired Virgil Abloh to pre-yellow his 2020 Air Jordan x Off White Vs.
During MJ’s 1989-90 season when he debuted the Air Jordan V, he finished the season with 92 three-pointers. In the 1988-89 season prior, MJ made a mere 27 three-pointers. This equates to a 240% increase in three-pointers. Not only did the Air Jordan V change the way Michael Jordan looked on the court, they changed the way he played.
In the graph above, we have StockX sales data for the Air Jordan ‘Fire Red’ V 2013 retro. Here we can see similarly to the III and IV, prices have remained steady over the last five years. Looking at all three ‘Fire Red’ silhouettes, we see each following nearly the exact same trend, all within about $75 of each other at any point in time.
Cool Grey IV
Visiting yet another colorway of the classic Air Jordan IV silhouette, the ‘Cool Grey’ IV. This is the only IV in our list that was not worn on the hardwood by Michael Jordan. With the original Cool Grey IVs releasing in 2004, the sneaker world saw them once again in 2019 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Air Jordan IV.
The 2019 retro of the ‘Cool Grey’ IVs saw a very tame initial release in August 2019, hitting StockX at barely over their retail price of $190. However, in the graph below we can see that since their release, the shoes have nearly doubled in value, experiencing a record monthly average of $390 in January 2020.
Cool Grey IX
The Air Jordan IX came out in the midst of Jordan’s first retirement in ‘93. The silhouette would go on to be seen not on the basketball court, but on the baseball diamond as MJ fitted his signature shoes with studs. While MJ’s new skills in baseball may have been lackluster, his new signature silhouette was not.
Below we take a look at the 2012 retro of the ‘Cool Grey IX’, which is the last time they have been released. Here we can see that prices are currently at record highs for the Cool Grey IXs, averaging roughly $444 so far in February 2021.
Cool Grey XI
The Air Jordan XI was the first in the line to receive the ‘Cool Grey’ treatment. Originally released in 2001, the Cool Grey XI provided a much welcomed variation from the tried and true Chicago Bulls inspired colorways.
In the graph below we have StockX sales data on the 2010 retro of the Air Jordan ‘Cool Grey’ XI. Here we see prices increasing steading and leveling off at around $600 for the past few months. Could this price stagnation be due to the news of a Cool Grey retro coming for the yearly Jordan XI holiday release?
Jordan IVs– Control Group
Admittedly, our analysis has not been extremely fair up to this point. Anybody that is familiar with sneakers will know that when comparing prices of retro Jordans, an original Air Jordan I colorway is bound to cost an arm and a leg. However, here we have gathered the same silhouette from each colorway, the Air Jordan IV, to serve as our control variable.
While this may not be a perfect case study, we can still see some very interesting observations. The first observation is that all three shoes seem to follow nearly the same trend line month to month in terms of increasing or decreasing in price. All three colorways’ monthly average sales price were within $50 of each other in December 2020.
Another interesting finding in the graph is the decline in Fire Red IV sales in mid 2020– presumably due to the news of the 2020 retro of the shoe coming in November– followed by the increase after the shoe was retroed. This is fascinating as we’ve seen in our prior analyses that restocks lower the resale value of shoes. However, in this case it appears a retro release may raise the value of previous releases.
Looking at the graph above, it is too close to call which colorway out of the three is leading the Jordan IV resale market. We will definitely be keeping our eyes on these prices in the coming months to see where they go.
Crowning The King of Jordan Colorways?
While this is nowhere close to an exhaustive analysis of what the best Air Jordan colorway in existence is, we were able to identify a couple trends in the sneaker resale market today for the three above, such as the effect of “The Last Dance” on prices for MJ’s shoes and the effect retro releases may have on prices of prior releases. However, there are still plenty of questions we can ask ourselves when it comes to colorways.
If included, would the classic ‘Chicago’ colorway have blown these three out of the water?
Could Jordan Brand come up with a colorway in the future that lends itself well to any silhouette and could rival any of these classic colorways?
That remains to be seen.