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Air Jordan 3: culture, colorways and collaborations

Jordan 3 sneakers on the free throw line
Air Jordan 3 'Free Throw Line'

As we approach the 35th anniversary of the Air Jordan 3, we’re already seeing glimpses of what Jordan Brand may have in store. So far, it’s the 'Reimagined' White/Cement 3 that has everyone licking their lips. With the Jordan 2 receiving the full treatment in 2022, we’re hoping it’s a sign of things to come for the Jordan 3 in 2023. If it is, we’re in luck.

The AJ3 is a model that regularly sits atop ‘Best Jordans of All Time’ lists and is heralded as one of the best sneakers ever designed - the word ‘iconic’ is regularly used to describe it, and it’s not wrong. Ask most sneakerheads which shoe they think anyone worth their salt should own, and invariably the response is the Jordan 3. With its unique history and ground-breaking elephant print, there’s plenty of reasons to love this iconic model.

Under Pressure

As the story goes, it was produced in 1987 just as Michael Jordan was ready to part ways with Nike. His first sneaker deal was coming to an end; a deal that saw him receive $500,000.00/year, 5% royalties and his own line of sneakers. An incredible deal to receive as a rookie - but his eyes were wandering - so it was going to take something special for him to stick with the Swoosh. In came Tinker Hatfield.

Tinker was assigned the enormous task of holding on to one of the giants of the game, and having only the Air Max 1 and Air Trainer 1 to his name, had his work cut out for him. As if this wasn’t enough, Jordan was hoping adidas would put an offer on the table as well. He was such a fan of adidas that he used to train in them in college, even though the Tar Heels were sponsored by Converse.

Luckily, Tinker was up to the task, and knew he had to pull something out of the bag. He took it back to basics, and simply asked Michael what he wanted; the answer was ‘mid-cut and light weight’. They discussed Jordan’s interests, and exotic animals came up in conversation. Tinker then had a moment of genius and decided to incorporate faux elephant print, providing a more luxurious look. He didn’t stop there; throwing in visible air units and a sizeable personalised logo on the tongue. A logo that was allegedly inspired by a LIFE Magazine photoshoot for the 1984 Olympics - in which Jordan was actually wearing the New Balance BB480.

Clearly Nike were happy too, as Tinker Hatfield would go on to design the next 12 Jordan models.

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