History of the Air Jordan 2
Originally released in 1986, the Air Jordan 2 is an often-overlooked silhouette in the Air Jordan lineage, but it’s a worthy shoe, nonetheless. While it wasn't as monumental as the Air Jordan 1 that preceded it or as culture-shifting as the Air Jordan 3 that followed, the Air Jordan 2 was undoubtedly ahead of its time.
The silhouette embodied luxury decades before there was a steady demand for designer-quality shoes from sportswear brands or full-on collaborations like the recently released Dior x Air Jordan 1.
Collaborative Design Leads to Upgrades
Living up to the success of the Air Jordan 1 was no small task, so Nike enlisted two of its most accomplished designers, Bruce Kilgore and Peter Moore, to collaborate on the newest Air Jordan design.
Kilgore, who created the Air Force 1 in 1982, and Moore, who designed the Air Jordan 1, decided to develop a shoe that could perform on the court and still look great with a suit.
Nike was able to achieve the elegance of the Air Jordan 2 by producing them in Italy using premium Italian leather and faux iguana skin. They also eliminated the large Swoosh logo for a cleaner look. Although the Nike signature appears on the heel and the outsole, this was the first sneaker to feature Air Jordan as the primary branding with the iconic Wings logo on the tongue.
The new Air Jordan design also underwent performance upgrades, including a speed lacing system, foam midsoles, larger air units in the heel for more support and a large heel cup wrapping the rear of the shoe for stability.
AJ 2: A Steeper Price to Pay
The artisanal approach to production and improved performance made the Air Jordan 2 unlike any other basketball shoe Nike had produced—and the price reflected that. The Air Jordan 2 retailed for $100, which might sound modest by today's standards, but it was a significant jump from the Air Jordan 1, which retailed for $65.
Air Jordan 2 OG Colorways
In stark contrast to the Air Jordan 1 that released in nearly 20 color variations, the original run of the Air Jordan 2 only included two colorways, available in both a high-top and a low-top. Each pair featured a white-based upper—the first colorway with red accents, black midsoles and black laces, and the other with red accents, white midsoles and white laces.
The black-accented sneakers became known as "Chicago" 2s, while the white and red shoes were simply called "White/Red" 2s.
Collectability of the Air Jordan 2
For the first 17 years of Air Jordan 2's existence, colorways were scant. After the first four releases in 1986 and 1987, Nike only revived the high-top and low-top "Chicago" 2s in 1994. Then, from 2003 to 2005, there was a wave of Air Jordan 2 releases that finally brought some much-needed variety to the silhouette.
In 2003, the Jordan Brand released the Nu Retro Air Jordan 2 , a modernized version of the original with updated tooling that only existed because the brand had lost the molds for the earlier soles.
As fate would have it, the original molds were recovered the following year. In 2004, fans saw releases for the following Air Jordan 2 models:
A black-based shoe with metallic silver accents
A Denver Nuggets-themed colorway and initially an exclusive pair for Carmelo Anthony
A "UNC" colorway
Retros of the "Chicago" and "White/Red" lows
In 2005, the Jordan Brand served up two more pairs of lows—a primarily white colorway and a white and pink combo for women.
Fast forward to the present day, where there are quite a few Air Jordan 2s, many of which are collectible. These include:
- The Vashtie x Air Jordan 2, the first Jordan sneaker designed by a woman
- The Doernbecher x Air Jordan 2, which was the first Air Jordan to be used in a Doernbecher Freestyle Collection
- The ultra-elusive—and expensive—styles like the "BIN 23" and "Eminem" Air Jordan 2s
The Air Jordan II Reconnects With its Roots
In 2015, Chicago native and designer Don C collaborated with the Jordan Brand on the Just Don x Air Jordan 2 . Coming in an all-blue colorway, it featured super-premium, diamond-quilted leather on the upper and insole, suede accents, waxed laces and gold flake Nike lettering on the heel.
Although this standalone style looked nothing like the original Air Jordan II, it was a clear nod to the silhouette's luxurious origins. The model was so well received that Just Don x Air Jordan 2s were released in "Beach" and "Arctic Orange" colorways in 2016.
Cultural Significance of the AJ 2
The initial impact of the Air Jordan 2 might be viewed as a failure, but that's only because the release paled in comparison to the Air Jordan 1. In 1986, the Air Jordan 1 was still accessible on sales racks for under retail, making the $100 Air Jordan 2 a hard sell to the average consumer.
Sales and numbers aside, the Air Jordan 2 paved a new path for performance footwear. The notion of taking a shoe that was meant for action and elevating it with high-end materials can largely be attributed to the Air Jordan 2.
Even though it's one of the less appreciated Air Jordan models, every collector or die-hard basketball fan should consider owning at least one pair. After all, Michael Jordan wore the Air Jordan 2 during the 1986-1987 season, where he won his first scoring title, one season after recovering from a broken foot. That was just the beginning of MJ asserting his dominance in the league.