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Air Jordan 1 Chicago

When the Jordan 1 was first created in 1984, its use of a primarily black upper with red overlays contravened the rules of the NBA, bringing the high-top sneaker masses of hype and attention as Nike adopted a rebellious attitude that took advantage of the shoe being banned. This made it incredibly popular on release, and it wasn’t long before the brand brought out new colourways of Michael Jordan’s signature basketball trainer. In total, 13 were produced in the shoe’s first year, many of which have gone on to become iconic designs. Perhaps the most notable of these is the Air Jordan 1 Chicago – a sneaker with the red, black and white tones of Jordan’s team, the Chicago Bulls.

The original release date for the Jordan 1 Chicago was 1985. At the time, Jordan was beginning to make a name for himself in the NBA, and his success transferred itself onto the shoe, making it a big part of not only basketball culture, but the wider world of sneakers as well. This strong heritage has seen the Chicago re-released many times over the years, with some models closely resembling the original and others reworking its look to create exciting new designs for men, women and kids.

One of the first to alter more than simply the colour palette of the shoe was the Air Jordan 1 KO. Instead of a smooth leather upper, it has soft canvas throughout, and there is no red heel overlay, meaning that the white midfoot section extends all the way around the back of the heel. While it features the Wings logo on its lateral side, the letters “AJKO” have been written into its banner rather than the usual “Air Jordan” text. This design was a success in its own right when it was launched in 1986 and has been retroed more than once, just like the leather-clad original, most notably in 2021.

Despite the initial popularity of the Jordan 1, it wasn’t officially re-released until 1994. This Air Jordan 1 Retro was itself highly sought after and precipitated the launch of yet more Chicago releases. One which changed the material construction of the Jordan 1 was 2003’s Mid colourway, the Chicago Bulls Patent. While its tonal makeup is largely the same, it employs glossy patent leather on its overlays, and its Wings logo has been cut into the lateral overlay on the mid-top collar. A decade later, in 2013, the Jordan 1 High Chicago was released once more, but this time it had undergone some subtle modifications, with a Jumpman logo on the tongue and heel that were not present on the 1985 model. This was followed up by another Retro in 2015 which stayed true to the original in all aspects, from the white leather toe box and midfoot to the black collar and swooshes to the red overlays and the traditional Nike Air text on the tongue label. Later, in 2016, the Jordan 1 Low Chicago was re-released, offering contemporary sneaker fans a chance to get their hands on another retro version of the classic shoe.

Collaborations have been a big part of the history of the Air Jordan 1, and the Chicago colourway is no different. In fact, it was responsible for one of the most sought after collaborative sneakers in Nike’s history – 2017’s Off-White x Air Jordan 1 Chicago ‘The Ten’. One of a series of classic shoes that were deconstructed by designer Virgil Abloh, it reworked the original with features like a paragraph of text on the medial sidewall and a floating swoosh attached to the lateral side with minimal blue stitching. Arriving in the same year was the Jordan 1 Golf, whose upper has been waterproofed and whose specialised sole unit is made for golfers.

2018 saw the Air Jordan 1 Chicago reach Hollywood as character Miles Morales wore a pair in the animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Jordan Brand released a sneaker known as the Origin Story, which mirrors the one seen on screen. It has been adjusted to match the look of the superhero’s outfit, with a translucent blue outsole, reflective spots on the red overlays and a blue tongue label and insole. The Jordan 1 Mid Chicago was also retroed in 2018, though with more red across the upper, leaving white only on the swooshes, toe box and collar, and black on the tongue and inner lining. Another captivating sneaker to be released that year was the Homage to Home. Featuring a split design, it brings together two of the most iconic AJ1 colourways, with a Bred-inspired lateral half and a medial half based on the Chicago. The Rebel XX Chicago was also produced in 2018, its unique lacing system giving the model a whole new look as it twists from one side of the shoe to the other, rather than going straight up over the top of the foot. Bold Nike Air branding and a zip down the medial flank completes its unconventional construction.

One year later, in 2019, Jordan Brand put out another women’s model known as the Low Slip Chicago. It displays the classic white upper with black highlights and Varsity Red overlays but has also had the laces removed to make it easier to slip on and off. Not long after, a more traditional mid-top known as the White Chicago was released. As its name suggests, white is the prevailing tone, covering the entire sole unit and the front portion of the upper. Black and red details remain, the former across the swooshes, tongue and inner, the latter on the heel overlays and Jumpman branding. Later in the year, the famous colourway was converted into a TD Cleat for American Football, its Lunarlon sole adapted to the rigours of the football field, and the Fearless model merged the iconic UNC tones that honour Jordan’s college years with those of the Chicago Bulls.

In 2020, the Chicago Black Toe became another popular mid-top release, its colour scheme echoing the original in every way apart from its black toe box. Around the same time, a kids model called the Sky Jordan 1 was given the Chicago colours, before a further AJ1 Mid with a white heel counter and overlays in the slightly different tone of Gym Red came out. New Jordan 1 Chicago sneakers were becoming more and more common around the early 2020s, and 2021 heralded yet another model. It was named the Trophy Room Chicago for its association with Michael Jordan’s son, Marcus Jordan, whose sneaker boutique, Trophy Room, worked with Jordan Brand on the design. It honours the famous 1985 NBA All-Star game in which Jordan’s teammates refused to pass to him as a way of teaching the young rookie a lesson, and is covered in commemorative elements such as the player’s signature on the lateral heel.

2022 was a big year for the Air Jordan 1 Chicago, with many sneakers being added to the lineup. There was the Jordan 1 Low Golf Chicago, which offers a low-top option alongside 2017’s high-top model, and a red, black and white version of the Zoom CMFT, which gives fans of the Chicago style a shoe containing Nike’s lightweight Zoom Air cushioning. Then there was the Mid SE Wear-Away – a retro-looking design with an aged midsole and a worn finish on its reddish black overlays. Several other models were released to honour aspects of sneaker culture from the 80s. The Air Jordan 1 OG Lost and Found, which was made as part of Jordan Brand’s Reimagined line, celebrates a time when sneakers would get lost in stock rooms only to be found again months or even years later in different states of wear. It has unique design details, such as a weathered ankle collar and an aged midsole, to reflect this.

Two other Chicago models released in 2022 opted to rearrange the colour palette of the 1985 shoe while keeping its core aesthetic. The Heritage has white leather that starts around the toe and carries on through to the midfoot and eyestay, with red on the toe box, swooshes and heel wrap. Meanwhile, the Jordan 1 Mid Reverse Chicago changes things up even more, doing away with any signs of black colouration and filling out the majority of the shoe in white before finishing with a few red highlights on the swooshes, toe box and collar.

New releases continued into 2023, when the Jordan 1 Chicago returned to the Marvel Universe in the next instalment of the animated Spider-Man movies. The success of the first film meant that the second was highly anticipated, and the same could be said about the shoe, which is known as Next Chapter. To reflect the multidimensional world depicted in the films, its Chicago-like upper has been divided into a patchwork of different materials and graphics that reference the design of Spider-Man’s clothing.

Since 1985, there have been countless Air Jordan 1 colourways. The Jordan 1 Chicago stands out amongst them as a classic design that has remained at the forefront of sneaker culture for many years. Though inspired by the original black, red and white model, it went on to establish its own unique identity, and today it is one of the most renowned of all Jordan colourways.

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