The Story Behind The Air Jordan 1 'Chicago'

The Story Behind The Air Jordan 1 'Chicago'

Haven Neiman

Looking ahead at the re-release of the imitable Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ on Saturday, November 19th, it's worth taking a look back into the Air Jordan archives, specifically all the way back to 1984, when Michael Jordan was about to make his initial debut in the NBA.


In 1984, Michael Jordan was currently the Chicago Bulls’ third overall pick in the NBA draft, after players Hakeem Olawajun and Sam Bowie. After signing with the Bulls, Jordan had negotiated a seven-year $6 million contract with the Chicago-based team, which spoke truth to the amount of success the world saw with him. At the same time, an ever-growing powerhouse label Nike could too see this same potential in the young basketball player. While Nike was pursuing Jordan, Jordan shockingly wasn’t immediately interested in a partnership. He had never worn a pair of Nikes and found them to be too uncomfortable on the court, resulting in him often opting for a pair of Converse sneakers. But Converse wasn’t quite ready to make an offer, and after some convincing from his parents and staff, Jordan and Nike officially joined forces, which was initially met with criticism and concern.


For Nike, it was time to get to work as soon as Jordan signed with the brand. The person with the responsibility to craft this debut collaborative sneaker would be Peter Moore, who is also responsible for the imitable Nike Dunk silhouette. During the 1980s, bright footwear was often reserved for women’s aerobics or running, and Peter Moore was committed to changing that narrative when it came to basketball. While what we now know as the Air Jordan 1 was still in production, Michael Jordan’s rookie year with the Chicago Bulls had started, so he was given a pair of Nike Air Ships to sport on the court. These sneakers closely resembled the Air Jordan 1, and this choice to wear these sneakers resulted in a ground-breaking $5000 fine for Michael Jordan, as the shoe’s black/red colorways had broken the NBA’s uniform guidelines.


Michael Jordan didn’t mind paying the fine, and as he continued to step onto the court wearing a pair of Air Ships, the hype for the debut Air Jordan sneaker continued to grow with the masses. Peter Moore finally put together the pieces of the Air Jordan 1 while on a flight. He had drawn a doodle of wings on a napkin, and then placed a basketball within this image. This became the iconic Jordan Wings logo, which is stamped at the ankle of the Air Jordan 1 and seen throughout the rest of the footwear and apparel line. When the Air Jordan 1 officially debuted in 1985 in a ‘Chicago’ colorway, it started a legacy that still lives on to this day. 37 years later, the Air Jordan 1 continues to hold significant weight within the sneaker industry.


The basketball shoe opened the eyes to the world of sneakers and was a starting point for one of the most successful sneaker franchises to exist. No colorways epitomize the Air Jordan 1 silhouette more than the ‘Chicago’ colorway. This Chicago Bulls-inspired colorway is simple, versatile, and emphasizes the most important parts of a sneaker. The colorway has not only defined the detailed aesthetics of the Air Jordan 1 itself but the entire sneaker industry. 


It's been seven years since the last official Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ release, and this upcoming release is inspired by the rich history and legacy of this OG colorway released back in 1985. The design references a time where sneaker shops often mixed up shoe boxes in inventory stockrooms, only to be found again years later. Prior to online releases and raffles and the concept of the internet in its entirety, products were typically tracked with pen and paper. Because of that, human error was inevitable, resulting in shoe boxes more often than not arriving with mismatched lids. The 2022 Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ nods to this time period, drawing inspiration from what an original 1985 Air Jordan 1 would be like if found years later.


The goal of the latest Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ was to hold on to a legendary moment in time, especially for a new generation of sneaker enthusiasts. This new design took an approach that gives the sneaker an edge, narrative, and connection to fans of the Air Jordan 1. The beauty of the story behind the shoe is prevalent.


The FEATURE Release Draw for the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ ends Friday, 11/18 at 4 p.m. PST.


* Visit the "Releases" page on our site.

* Click your size and enter your information.

* You will be notified the night prior if your entry is granted.

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