Debuting during the 1986-87 NBA Season, the Air Jordan 2 arrived as the anticipated sequel to 1985’s trailblazing Air Jordan 1.
Designed by Bruce Kilgore of Nike Air Force 1 fame, with assistance from Nike creative director and Air Jordan 1 designer Peter Moore, the Air Jordan 2 leaned into luxury and elevated cushioning. Original pairs of the Air Jordan 2 were made in Italy and retailed for $100 — a significant jump from the $65 starting price of the red-hot Air Jordan 1. While the Air Jordan 2 did not have the NBA banning buzz or Rookie of the Year newness that were tied to its pioneering predecessor, the Air Jordan 2 did coincide with a pair of firsts for Michael Jordan: winning the Slam Dunk contest and NBA scoring title.
The Air Jordan 2 released in four original takes: a “White/Black” scheme and “White/Red” rendition, both launched in high and low cuts. Each of the four styles was worn by Jordan in NBA action or public appearances over the course of their retail run, adding appeal and visibility to the second signature silhouette for the game’s greatest rising star. Aside from the four original colorways that were released at retail, MJ also appeared in player-exclusive pairs of the Air Jordan 2 and Air Jordan 2 Low when playing in alumni games for the University of North Carolina.
From a technical standpoint, the Air Jordan 2 was a major step up from the seminal Air Jordan 1. TPU heel counters, padded Italian leather and upgraded Air soles all provided a plusher performance ride for fans and players alike. By sourcing materials from overseas and adding a lizard aesthetic to the leather upper, the Air Jordan 2 attempted to appeal to a more aspirational audience than the line’s rebellious debut. At $100, the Air Jordan 2 served as a status symbol though it sold slower because of its heavier price tag.
To celebrate Jordan’s 10 years in the NBA and decade with Nike, the Air Jordan 2 Retro released for the first time in 1994. At this point in time, MJ was retired from basketball and Nike was putting most of its Air Jordan energy into the design and release of the Air Jordan 9 and Air Jordan 10. The Air Jordan 2 Retro released in the original “White/Black” colorway in commemorative packaging in both high- and low-top form. At the time of arrival, the Air Jordan 2 Retro was not incredibly popular, as the market was yet to warm up to the idea of re-issuing archival models from the Air Jordan collection. Rather, fans were more excited about the novelty of newness and innovative performance technology.
In 2004, the Air Jordan 2 Retro returned to stores in both high- and low-top form. By this point in time, retro releases from Jordan Brand were much more popular than that of their arrival in 1994. In 2004 alone, the Air Jordan 2 Retro returned the original “White/Black” colorway, while also introducing various new color palettes in both high and low cuts. A high-top “Chrome” pair introduced the first black-based Air Jordan 2 release, while a limited “Melo” launch paid tribute to Jordan Brand’s newest marquee athlete, Carmelo Anthony.
Through the 2000s, the Air Jordan 2 Retro lived in both basketball and lifestyle worlds. Jordan Brand athletes such as Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, Mike Bibby, Rip Hamilton, Chris Paul, Joe Johnson and others were given player exclusive Air Jordan 2 Retros in correspondence with their NBA team colorways. On the lifestyle front, the Air Jordan 2 Retro rolled out in creative color palettes made specifically with a female audience in mind, as well as a collaborative colorway for rap superstar Eminem.
Despite its 1986 arrival, the Air Jordan 2 remained relevant as a retro release in the 2010s and into the 2020s. Historically, the Air Jordan 2 has not proven as popular as the Air Jordan 1 or Air Jordan 3 in original or retro form. However, highly coveted collaborations with Vashtie Kola, Don C, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White label and California-based boutique Union LA have all added cache to MJ’s second signature model.
Like other silhouettes from the Jordan Brand archive, the Air Jordan 2 is now available in retro form in all shades and sizes. The luxury roots, streamlined design and nostalgic use of the Wings logo make the Air Jordan 2 a cult classic to fans of footwear in both hemispheres.