The All-Time Greatest Air Jordan 4s: Part 1
Originally released in 1989, the AJ4 saw Hatfield continue with the design language that he brought forth with MJ's previous signature silhouette, but it took things to a whole new level. While details like bold sculpted tooling, visible Air cushioning, and the unmistakable Jumpman remained, the AJ4 added breathable mesh netting on the upper and tongue, as well as 'wings' and moulded additions to the eyestay that allowed for multiple lacing options. Add to that yet another memorable Mars Blackmon–led ad campaign, a scene-stealing appearance in a Spike Lee joint, an All-Star Game debut, and 'The Shot', and you have the perfect recipe for an icon.
So, as a nod to one of the all-timers, we're taking a look back at the best Air Jordan 4s to ever take flight.
Check out 10 of our favourites below, and then stay tuned for the second part of the retrospective.
Air Jordan 4 Black/Cement (1989)Air Jordan 4 Black/Cement (1989)
Naturally, a list of best-ever Air Jordan 4s might as well kicks things off with the one that started it all. Debuted by His Airness at the 1989 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, the Black/Cement version of the AJ4 perfectly replicated the most iconic Air Jordan 3 colourway, while ditching that shoe’s signature elephant print for a more streamlined look. After rocking the kicks in the All-Star Game, Jordan continued to go with the Black/Cement colourway for the majority of the season’s remaining slate – they were also the shoes he was rocking for ‘The Shot’ over Cavs guard Craig Ehlo in that year’s playoffs.
Air Jordan 4 White/Cement (1989)Air Jordan 4 White/Cement (1989)
Like the classic Black/Cement look, the White/Cement alternative will always be associated with both the Air Jordan 3 and Air Jordan 4. The 4s, however, switched things up and replaced the elephant print of the matching 3s with black speckles instead. The result was the cleanest AJ4 of the OG lineup, and a colourway that many still consider to be the 4’s best. Of course, we’ll also always associate the kicks with Giancarlo Esposito’s Buggin’ Out, who had his scuffed in Spike Lee’s classic Do The Right Thing. In fact, the Jumpman even released a re-creation of Buggin’ Out’s kicks in 2017 – scuff and all.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Fire Red’ (1989)Air Jordan 4 ‘Fire Red’ (1989)
Think of the ‘Fire Red’ Air Jordan 4 as a Chicago Bulls–centric alternative to the White/Cement release. Like those, this OG look came clad in white leather, but was highlighted by black and red accents throughout. Aside from the Black/Cement colourway, this is the pair Jordan himself wore most on-court back when they debuted. The pair also served as the basis for a couple of the 4’s more popular retros: 2005’s ‘Laser’ and 2006’s ‘Mars’.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Military Blue’ (1989)Air Jordan 4 ‘Military Blue’ (1989)
Rounding out the OG looks, here’s a pair that never made an on-court appearance on Jordan’s feet: the ‘Military Blue’ colourway. This was the lone iteration of the original AJ4 that didn’t feature a Chicago Bulls–inspired colour scheme. Instead, these opted for white leather and a light grey mudguard with ‘Military Blue’ accents throughout. The result? Seemingly an unofficial nod to MJ’s days as a Tar Heel.
Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 (2018)Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 (2018)
One of the most recent entries on our list, Travis Scott’s Air Jordan 4 collaboration dropped back in the June of 2018, and set the stage for his 2019 AJ1 re-work. Featuring subtle co-branding on the interior tongue labels and the Cactus Jack logo on the left heel, the kicks were a nod to the bygone Oilers of Scott’s native Houston, and sported the defunct NFL squad’s signature baby blue, red, and white.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Cool Grey’ (2004)Air Jordan 4 ‘Cool Grey’ (2004)
Sneakerheads, rejoice: 2004’s ‘Cool Grey’ Air Jordan 4 is finally making a return in 2019 and, as such, earns a place on our list of best-ever AJ4s. The kicks are one of the more underrated Jordans out there, and one of the most versatile – you can rock the ‘Cool Grey’ look with just about anything. These also hold the distinction of being the first 4s to ever sport any yellow – something that would go on to highlight a couple of the silhouette’s best retro colourways.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Thunder & Lightning’ Pack (2006)Air Jordan 4 ‘Thunder & Lightning’ Pack (2006)
Speaking of yellow, it was the colour of choice for the Jumpman’s unique ‘Thunder & Lightning’ pack in 2006. As a precursor of sorts to some of today’s most high-profile releases, these were only available online – those hoping to cop had to be Team Jordan members and sign in to purchase via jumpman23.com. While the ‘Thunder’ look came with a special jacket, the ‘Lightning’ version was packaged with a ‘Rare Air’ t-shirt. These days, the ‘Lightning’ colourway – which was never been retroed – remains one of the most-coveted AJ4s around, and still regularly commands $2,000 USD or so.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Ginger’ (2016)Air Jordan 4 ‘Ginger’ (2016)
The Air Jordan 4 ‘Ginger’ is far and away the best of the Jumpman’s luxury-inspired takes on the classic Tinker Hatfield design. The 2016 drop not only came clad in premium ‘Ginger’-coloured leather, but sported a monochromatic upper and rawhide laces to boot. Completing the package? A classic gum rubber outsole.
Air Jordan 4 ‘Toro Bravo’ (2013)Air Jordan 4 ‘Toro Bravo’ (2013)
Inspired by the corresponding Spiz’ike and Air Jordan 5s that had come before it, 2013’s ‘Toro Bravo’ edition of the AJ4 put a new, bolder spin on the familiar ‘Bred’ look. The result was an AJ4 covered in bright red nubuck with black, grey and white accents throughout.
Undefeated x Air Jordan 4 (2005)Undefeated x Air Jordan 4 (2005)
Undefeated’s Air Jordan 4 collaboration isn’t just one of the best AJ4s – it’s one of the best sneakers ever. A nod to the timeless MA-1 flight jacket, the design sported clear military inspiration and paired an olive green suede upper with black and orange accents, a splash of white on the midsole, and Velcro tongue badges. Only 72 pairs of the kicks were released in 2005, all by raffle, thus making this one of the rarest and most beloved Jordans of all time.
Header image via Jordan Brand.