ARTICLE BY Gabe Filippa

The Best Air Jordans of 2021

Best Air Jordans 2021

What goes up, doesn't always come down. While competitors constantly attempt to jump over the Jumpman, one thing’s become crystal clear over the Jordan Brand’s illustrious history: the gravity-defying flight path is inimitable. From retailers to brands, it seemed that everyone in the footwear industry wanted to take flight. While models like the Air Jordan 1 continue to occupy the airspace, we’ve also seen plenty of reimagined styles and underrated silhouettes step into the limelight too.

So, without further ado, these are the Jordan Brand releases of 2021 that really captured the ethereal hang time of His Airness.

A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3

One of the most luxurious Jays in recent years, Atlanta-based boutique A Ma Maniére delivered a home run with their inaugural Jumpman collaboration in May.

Revolving around their central ethos 'Raised by Women' they really focused on female sneakerheads, and actually gave them first dibs at securing a pair of Air Jordan 3s.

Owner James Whitner originally said of the release: ‘It has been our priority all along to ensure women, especially Black women, have access to this very special project as it launches. Our team has worked hard to ensure we are able to change the narrative on special launches and we are here to redefine what it means to serve Her first.’

A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3
A Ma Maniére

Air Jordan 5 'Shattered Backboard'Air Jordan 5 'Shattered Backboard'

A beloved colourway from the catalogue, the ‘Shattered Backboard’ palette has been seen on numerous models since its debut in 2015 (on the Air Jordan 1).

This year it shattered even more glass with the Air Jordan 5, the in-line colourway landing in October (after multiple delays). Again donning the classic orange, black and white blocking, the most salient aspect of the AJ5 ‘Shattered Backboard’ was actually the material choices, with the mesh extended all the way to the ankle collar.

Air Jordan 5 'Shattered Backboard'
@yankeekicks

Off-White x Air Jordan 2Off-White x Air Jordan 2

If anyone has the potential to exhume the Air Jordan 2, it’s Off-White. Already applying his Midas touch to various Jumpman models over the years, Virgil Abloh’s reconstruction of the AJ2 was surely one of his most formidable challenges.

Taking real-world aesthetic cues from a crumbling pair of AJ2s, Virgil went all-in on this collaboration, even including MJ’s signature on the uppers.

It looks like the Off-White-effect is already making an impact, with Union LA and J Balvin AJ2 collaborations already lined up for 2022!

Off-White x Air Jordan 2
@atmos_tokyo

Aleali May x Air Jordan 14Aleali May x Air Jordan 14

The Air Jordan 14 generated some real heat in 2021 thanks to some high-end collaborations with Aleali May and Edison Chen’s CLOT. A self-professed sneakerhead (May’s collection spans over 300 pairs), the LA designer’s Fortune collection again took cues from her heritage, looking to Jade jewellery and motorbike culture for inspiration.

Aleila May x Air Jordan 14
Jordan Brand

Air Jordan 6 'Carmine'Air Jordan 6 'Carmine'

A legendary sneaker, the Air Jordan 6 ‘Carmine’ returned to much fanfare in 2021. Despite now being two decades old, the AJ6 is forever young, originally appearing during Michael Jordan’s 1991-92 season.

Appearing on the feet of His Airness with classic Chicago Bull hues of black and red, the latest iteration features signature ‘Nike Air’ logos on the heel while, down below, we’ve got some of the most iced outsoles we’ve seen in a hot minute.

Air Jordan 6 'Carmine'

Union Air Jordan 4 'Taupe Haze' and 'Desert Moss'Union Air Jordan 4 'Taupe Haze' and 'Desert Moss'

One of the more creative renditions of the Air Jordan 4 we’ve seen in recent years, Union LA again knocked it out of the ballpark this year with the outdoors-inspired ‘Taupe Haze’ and ‘Desert Moss’ colourways.

Once again fuelling a rabid custom sneaker community, the Union x AJ4 enjoyed major hang time on Instagram, the duo of releases a follow-up to 2020’s ‘Guava Ice’ and ‘Off Noir’.

A stalwart of the streetwear scene in NYC and LA, Union first threw open their doors in 89, the very same year Michael Jordan laced the iconic Air Jordan 4.

Union LA x Air Jordan 4

CLOT x Air Jordan 14 'Terracotta'CLOT x Air Jordan 14 'Terracotta'

Another Air Jordan 14 gem this year, Edison Chen’s CLOT paid homage to the Terracotta Army's clay warriors that stood watch over China’s Emperor at his burial site in 213 BC. A follow-up to CLOT’s x Air Jordan 13 Low 'Terracotta' (2018), the collaboration again emphasised Chen’s incredible storytelling acumen.

CLOT x Air Jordan 14

Trophy Room x Air Jordan 1Trophy Room x Air Jordan 1

When you’re the son of the GOAT, there’s a lot of pressure to deliver one of the best Air Jordan 1s of the year, but that’s exactly what Marcus Jordan and Trophy Room did! One of the most coveted – and controversial – Jordan Brand releases in recent memory, the colourway pays homage to the classic ‘Chicago’ scheme, with more than a few nods to Michael Jordan’s legendary past.

Trophy Room x Air Jordan 1

Air Jordan 5 'Moonlight' (AKA 'Oreo') Air Jordan 5 'Moonlight' (AKA 'Oreo')

Originally hitting shelves in 2013, the Jordan Brand unexpectedly hit us with a retro of the Air Jordan 5 ‘Oreo’ this year, albeit with a name change. A release that certainly had sneakerheads salivating, the ‘Oreo’ was a nostalgic reminder of all the legendary predecessor colourways we’ve seen over the years.

Air Jordan 5 'Oreo'
@footpatrol_lndn

Air Jordan 11 'Animal Instinct'Air Jordan 11 'Animal Instinct'

There's no better time than now to get in touch with your animal instincts. A premium women’s-only exclusive, the Air Jordan 11 carried an aesthetic similar to the Air Jordan 3 ‘Animal Instinct’ from 2019, the faux fur overlays an example of animal print done right.

Forming part of the Jumpman’s 2021 holiday lineup, the AJ11 ‘Animal Instinct’ is one you need to see in the flesh.

Air Jordan 11 'Animal Instinct'

Air Jordan 4 'Lightning'Air Jordan 4 'Lightning'

The Jumpman threw their weight behind the Air Jordan 4 this year after Union LA again impressed the market with their duo of ACG-like releases. Clean in-line colourways have been the MO ever since, the ‘Lightning’ iteration finally striking shelves after a long 15 years lying dormant in the vault.

Still zapping retinas all these years later, the Air Jordan 4 ‘Lightning’ (also known as ‘Tour Yellow’) first arrived in 2006.

Yes, sometimes lightning really does strike twice!

Air Jordan 4 Lightning

Aleali May Air Jordan 1 Zoom CMFT Aleali May Air Jordan 1 Zoom CMFT

Continuing her hot streak in 2021 – Aleali May's fourth Jordan Brand sneaker – the Air Jordan 1 collaboration paid homage to the classic American varsity jacket, the chenille details adding a well-executed nostalgic edge.

One of the best Air Jordan 1s we’ve seen in recent times, the Aleali May x Air Jordan 1 certainly reinforced her credentials as one of the strongest collaborators in the game.

A force to be reckoned with in the sneaker industry, we’re expecting plenty more fire from May in 2022.

Aleila May x Air Jordan 1

Air Jordan 11 'Cool Grey'Air Jordan 11 'Cool Grey'

How can you ignore the Air Jordan 11 ‘Cool Grey’? Ultra cool, all the time, the AJ11 ‘Cool Grey’ is the first retro we’ve seen of the classic colourway in over a decade, the previous release dating back to 2010. First arriving on shelves in 2001, the 2021 is a damn faithful rendition of the OG, making this undoubtedly one of the best Jumpman iterations this year.

Air Jordan 11 'Cool Grey'
@yankeekicks

Air Jordan 1 High OG 'Pollen'Air Jordan 1 High OG 'Pollen'

Sometimes, the Air Jordan 1 just stomps in its simplicity. Recalling the OG ‘Iowa’ Dunk colourway, the Air Jordan 1 High OG ‘Pollen’ didn’t trigger any allergies, but there were plenty of tears as the August release was one of the toughest cops this year.

Air Jordan 1 High OG Pollen,
@yankeekicks

Air Jordan 1 High 'University Blue'Air Jordan 1 High 'University Blue'

Following an extended build-up, the release of the Air Jordan 1 ‘University Blue’ once again proved that MJ’s first signature is still a hot commodity among casual sneakerheads and hype fiends alike. It may have technically been a GR drop, but that didn’t stop it from selling out in quick time. It’s easy to see why. Classic colours on a classic silhouette – you can’t go wrong with that!

Air Jordan 1 University Blue
@43einhalb
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