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The Legacy of the Air Jordan IV sneakers

by Victoria
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The Air Jordan IV is one of the most iconic and influential sneakers in history. Designed by Tinker Hatfield and released in 1989, the Jordan IV cemented Michael Jordan’s global legacy both on and off the court. In this article, we’ll explore the rich history and cultural impact of the Air Jordan IV.

A New Design for a New Era

By the late 1980s, Michael Jordan had already achieved superstardom in the NBA. However, he and Nike wanted to take his signature shoe line to the next level. For the Jordan IV, designer Tinker Hatfield crafted a lighter and more breathable shoe perfect for Jordan’s quick cuts and high-flying acrobatics.

Structurally, the Jordan IV introduced several innovations. It was the first Jordan to feature a full-length Air sole unit for enhanced cushioning. The mesh paneling increased ventilation while the reinforced plastic wings provided added support and protection. Traction was improved with the use of nubuck overlays and sculpted rubber outsoles. Lace locks and plastic accents added distinctive visual flair.

Aesthetically, the Jordan IV was crafted as a contemporary high-end fashion sneaker. The sleek silhouette and clean lines reflected the minimalist styles popular in the late 1980s. For the first time, visible Air technology was incorporated into the heel to amplify the shoe’s technical appeal. The Jordan IV was at once futuristic yet retro, setting the stage for Jordan Brand’s approach to blending innovation, performance and style.

Immediate Pop Culture Impact

Upon its release in 1989, the Air Jordan IV made an immediate splash in the burgeoning sneaker culture. Although initially banned by the NBA for not meeting color restrictions, Jordan nevertheless donned the AJ IV as Nike happily paid the fines. Enthusiasts and collectors scooped up the shoes, recognizing their groundbreaking style and soon-to-be-iconic status.

The Air Jordan IV also gained exposure from Michael Jordan’s newfound celebrity beyond basketball. Spike Lee directed ads starring Jordan and Mars Blackmon. Jordan wore the IVs during scenes in Lee’s film Do the Right Thing. This crossover between sports, advertising and entertainment demonstrated Jordan’s growing cultural influence.

Later that year, the AJ IV appeared on the feet of the Spike Lee’s character in Do The Right Thing. Lee’s enthusiasm for Jordan’s shoes sparked enthusiasm among his fans. The AJ IV was now a certified fashion staple for the streets of America.

Retro Legacy in the 2000s and Beyond

After Michael Jordan’s first retirement in the 1990s, retros of Air Jordans became huge sellers. The Air Jordan IV was no exception. When re-released starting in 1999, the AJ IV Retros sold out immediately, feeding demand in the flourishing sneaker reseller market.

The AJ IV continued this popularity into the 2000s and 2010s through collaborations and special editions. Premium materials like quilted leather and suede were used on Retro colorways. Fragment Design, Eminem, Travis Scott and KAWS have all lent their own creative touches to special IVs.

As a retro, the AJ IV maintains its allure through rare and exclusive drops. Original colorways like “White Cement,” “Bred,” “Military Blue” and “Fire Red” remain coveted collector’s items. The combination of old-school Jordan appeal and modern hype culture has cemented the Air Jordan IV’s legacy for decades to come.

Notable Air Jordan IV Colorways

  • White/Cement Grey – The original Air Jordan IV features white leather upper with grey accents. It was Mike’s shoe of choice while hitting “The Shot” in the 1989 NBA playoffs.
  • Black/Cement Grey – Also known as the “Bred” colorway. The black upper with red accents is an all-time favorite among Jordan fans.
  • Fire Red – White upper with black, grey and pops of Fire Red. This colorway is associated with Spike Lee’s Mars Blackmon character.
  • Military Blue – A white, grey and blue colorway inspired by World War I military uniforms. It was Mike’s shoe in the 1989 All-Star Game.
  • Bred 2012 – Updated black and red colorway with a nod to the original “Bred” IV. It uses a higher cut patent leather upper.
  • KAWS – Designed by artist KAWS with premium grey suede upper and glow-in-the-dark accents. One of the most hype IVs.

The Jordan IV: A Sneaker with Staying Power

In the 30+ years since its debut, the Air Jordan IV has remained one of the most popular and relevant Jordans. It set the stage for Jordan Brand’s distinctive approach to style and innovation. As a retro, it connects today’s consumers to the energy and nostalgia of the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Beyond just sneakers, the AJ IV represents the cultural sway of Michael Jordan. It reminds us of his gravity-defying exploits on court as well as his status as a style icon. For both sneakerheads and basketball fans, the Air Jordan IV will forever occupy a special place in the culture thanks to its rich legacy.

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