Now this is a story all about how, the TV sneaker scene got flipped, turned upside down, and I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there, I'll tell you how Will Smith brought fresh kicks to a town called Bel-Air. SORRY! I couldn't help myself. With rumours circulating that an official Will Smith x Jordan Brand colab commemorating the Fresh Prince's epic on-screen sneaker collection is on the way, I subjected myself to an ungodly Netflix binge, screening all 148 episodes of the beloved sitcom back-to-back to scout the most memorable wears. From towering basketball behemoths to slick bubble-bound runners, these are our top picks for Will Smith's best footwear moments on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Enjoy!
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Greatest Sneaker Moments
Date: August 10 2018
By: Matt Williams
Air Jordan 5 'Black/Metallic Silver' [S01E01, 'Pilot (The Fresh Prince Project)', 1990]
This is it: the very first pair of kicks the Fresh Prince ever stunted on our screens! Within seconds of the pilot episode's opening credits — before Smith could even begin rapping the infectious opening jingle — an extreme close-up of the 'Black/Metallic Silver' Air Jordan 5s flashed on our screens, instantly solidifying his claim to freshness. Smith would wear the legendary pair of Jays as he first set foot inside the Banks family's swanky digs — as well as numerous other first season episodes — but it is their appearance in the opening credits that is most memorable and long-lasting. The close-up would be chopped from later intros for brevity, but the kicks were still visible on foot in every intro throughout the series. Curiously, the signature Jumpman branding on the tongues appeared to be taped over in the intro sequence, but not in any of the episodes in which they appeared. Still, Jumpman or not, real heads know!
Air Jordan 5 'White/Black/Fire Red' [S01E01, 'Pilot (The Fresh Prince Project)', 1990]
The Fresh Prince wasn't playing in his TV debut. Smith spent the first episode stunting in, not one, but two different pairs of that year's brand new Air Jordan 5s. While the 'White/Black/Fire Red' AJ5s weren't the first to make it on screen, their inclusion in the pilot episode is arguably even more memorable than the Black Metallics. Smith would switch into the white 5s midway through the episode as he mixed up his own wardrobe with some Beverly Hills swank — pairing his Jays, tee and cap with a full black tie get up that perfectly captured his fish-out-of-water situation. For the epitome of DGAF cool, Smith rocked his Fire Reds without laces — a signature look that Jordan Brand reportedly pay tribute to with their upcoming colab. Smith also appears to wear the pair in the series' intro when 'shooting some b-ball outside of the school', but thanks to the grittiness of old SD TV recordings, we'll never know for sure.
Nike Air Ultra Force High [S01E11, 'Courting Disaster', 1990]
Whenever the Fresh Prince wore sneakers throughout the series' six-year run, they were almost always basketball designs, but it was rare that we would ever actually see him hit the court. One exception was in the season one episode 'Courting Disaster', when Will joined Bel-Air Academy's basketball team and quickly became the squad's star player. Smith laced up in Air Ultra Force High for the occasion: the pump-less and Visible Air—less counterpart to the colossal Air Command Force. Smith completely dominated on court (no stunt double required), leaving viewers to question: 'is it the shoes?'
Air Jordan 5 'Grape' [S01E11, 'Courting Disaster', 1990]
You didn't think the Fresh Prince would pass up the greatest of all Air Jordan 5 colourways did you? Smith would wear Grapes in numerous episodes — and almost always with a complete turquoise and purple fit to match. The shoes would make their most memorable appearance in 'Courting Disaster', when Will daydreams himself in a fake advertisement for 'Air Fresh', going one-on-one against former Pistons point guard — and NBA hall of famer — Isiah Thomas. Smith's love for the Grapes and dedication to matching fits obviously caught the attention of someone at Jordan Brand, with the make-up rumoured to form the basis of Smith's upcoming colab.
Nike Air Max 180 'Bright Ceramic' [S02E08, 'She Ain't Heavy', 1991]
While there was no shortage of basketball heat in the first season, it would take until the second season for the Fresh Prince to begin showcasing his impeccable taste in runners. Smith would break his b-ball obsession in the episode 'She Ain't Heavy', making an appearance in a pair of 'Bright Ceramic' Air Max 180s — potentially inspired by Michael Jordan's fondness for the silhouette. Smith would continue to flaunt his good taste in runners, sporting a pair of 'Scream Green' Air Huaraches in the episode 'Community Action' later in the same season.
Nike Air 180 Pump High [S02E15, 'My Brother's Keeper', 1992]
Reebok Pumps were all the rage in the early 90s and almost every child begged their parents to fork out for a pair of inflatable sneakers. Unfortunately for most of us, the staggering price tag was enough to keep them off the shopping list, and Nike's pump-equipped contenders weren't any better. Still, even the high price wasn't enough to keep Will from adding a pair of the extra exxy Air 180 Pump High to his collection and then flexing them on screen — perhaps with a little help from Uncle Phil's credit card? Sadly, like the shoes themselves, these were a flash in the pan and made it into only a couple episodes before disappearing completely.
Nike Air Speed Turf Max [S06E08, 'Viva Lost Wages', 1995]
To match changes in fashion trends, Smith's basketball sneakers would quieten down as the series progressed. The fluro and neon pops would disappear by the show's final season, replaced by clean-cut kicks like the 'Columbia' Air Jordan 11s. While the Fresh Prince's footwear was no longer so in your face, that didn't stop it from sharing the limelight in some of the show's most memorable moments.
One such moment came in the episode 'Viva Lost Wages', when Will and Carlton become stranded in Las Vegas after Carlton develops a crippling gambling addiction. Stuck with no money and no tickets home, the duo enter a talent contest in a last ditch effort to escape Sin City. The two take to the stage and give their all, busting out a dance routine to The Sugarhill Gang's 'Apache'. Smith wore the Air Speed Turf Max for the occasion and, although the two didn't take out first prize, we've never been able to hear the lyrics 'jump on it' without busting out our best impersonation of Carlton and the Fresh Prince. It was rare that we saw Smith rocking a sneaker designed to tackle turf, but when they look as good as the Air Speed Turf Max we can understand why he couldn't resist.
Nike Air Max Penny 1 [S06E24, 'I, Done' (Part 2), 1996]
One good dance deserves another, and Will and Carlton saved the best for last. In the series' final episode, as the Banks family pack up their belongings and prepare to leave the cushy comfort of Beverly Hills, Carlton and Will say their goodbyes. It's a sad moment that Smith quickly flips 180 by putting on Carlton's favourite song — Tom Jones's 'It's Not Unusual' — for 'one last time'. Carlton immediately busts out his iconic namesake dance moves and is joined by Will, who's wearing a pair of Air Max Penny 1s in Orlando Magic's signature colours. It's one of the final laughs the show would ever bring us, and it was the perfect way to end the ride.