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The Complete Guide to the Air Jordan 4

Michael Jordan had an MVP trophy, scoring title and the honor of the game’s greatest defender when the Air Jordan 4 arrived.

Debuted by the NBA icon during the 1989 NBA All-Star Game, the Air Jordan 4 outfitted the greatest player in the game as one decade ended and another began. Crafted by Tinker Hatfield, the Air Jordan 4 followed up where the Air Jordan 3 left off, once again leaning into a 3/4 cut, visible Air cushioning and Jumpman branding. More agile and aggressive, Hatfield employed mesh ventilation for greater breathability and an improved midsole for more flexibility. In addition, the Air Jordan 4 featured “Flight” script branding on the tongue, signaling accordance with Nike’s range of lightweight, guard-oriented basketball shoes released in that era.

Air Jordan 4 White/Cement, history of air jordan 4 sneakers
Air Jordan 4 “White/Cement.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

The proof was in the pudding on the court as Jordan once again led the league in scoring while also making the NBA’s First Team All-Defense. Both “White/Cement” and “Black/Cement” colorways carried Jordan on court for the back half of the 1988-89 NBA Season, with the latter lacing the Chicago Bulls shooting guard through the postseason. Famously, the baller hit “The Shot” against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the “Black/Cement” Air Jordan 4. Also of note, the “White/Cement” Air Jordan 4 appeared on the big screen in the Spike Lee classic film, “Do the Right Thing.”

Aside from arriving in both “Cement” styles, the Air Jordan 4 released in “White/Black-Fire Red” and “White/Military Blue” renditions over the course of the model’s original run. Per usual, the “Fire Red” rendition was worn by Jordan to begin the 1989-90 NBA season. Not matching the Bulls uniforms, the “Military Blue” makeup was not worn on court by Jordan.

Air Jordan 4 Black/Red, history of air jordan 4 sneakers
Air Jordan 4 “Black/Red.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

In tooling, cut and styling, many fans will note that the Air Jordan 4 is remarkably similar to that of the Nike Air Flight 89. Both basketball shoes released by Nike in 1989 feature the same midsole and a similar shape. While MJ wore the Air Jordan 4 on court in Chicago, eventual teammate Ron Harper endorsed the Nike Air Flight 89 in Cleveland Cavaliers.

After a decade in the vault, the Air Jordan 4 returned in retro form in 1999. The release not only coincided with the 10-year anniversary of the famed model but also Jordan’s second retirement and the early days of the newly-formed Jordan Brand. Once returning in 1999, the Air Jordan 4 Retro released in both “White/Cement” and “Black/Cement” colorways. Additionally, the Air Jordan 4 Retro broke the mold by being the first archival model to come back in new makeups. Both “Oreo” and “Columbia” colorways introduced new palettes to the silhouette, re-engineered with leather wings, ventilated leather sidewalls and Jumpman branding on the heel. This trend continued in 2000 when Jordan Brand released the timely Air Jordan 4 Retro “Bling” with an all-white leather upper and metallic silver accents.

Over the course of the 2000s, the Air Jordan 4 Retro would remain in and out of rotation at retailers. Original colorways including the “Military Blue” and “Fire Red” renditions would return for the first time in the new millennium, while new motifs such as “Cool Grey,” “Classic Green” and “Black Cat” caught eyes. Additionally, the Air Jordan 4 Retro would take on LS or Lifestyle availability through limited launches such as the “Lightning,” “Thunder” and “Tour Yellow” installments. For the first time in 2006, the “Sand” Air Jordan 4 Retro would introduce a colorway of the model exclusively released in women’s sizes.

Air Jordan 4 Where the Wild Things Are, history of air jordan 4 sneakers
Air Jordan 4 GS “Where the Wild Things Are.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

On top of all the new colorways introduced to the Air Jordan 4 Retro in the 2000s, the model would also take on coveted collaborations and exclusive form. Sneaker boutique Undefeated would dress the Air Jordan 4 Retro in a flight jacket motif for the first collaboration between a shoe store and a retro Air Jordan release. Multiplatinum rapper Eminem would see his own version of the Air Jordan 4 Retro gifted to his friends and family as a celebration for his album Encore. Laser-etched iterations of the Air Jordan 4 Retro would also be released in the 2000s, as would Air Jordan 4 Fusions that featured the Air Jordan 4 upper atop a Nike Air Force 1 sole unit.

In the 2010s and beyond, the Air Jordan 4 Retro remains one of the most revered models amongst sneakerheads. Fashion-forward boutiques such as Union LA have redressed the 1989 favorite as have modern music stars including Travis Scott and Drake. Now available in sizes for the full family and countless colorways, the Air Jordan 4 stands the test of time as one of the most popular Air Jordan models ever made.

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