In 1985, 54 of the 75 posters put up in New York City bus stations to advertise the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ were stolen. The level of hype that surrounded this release had never been seen before, and arguably has never been seen since. Widely acknowledged as the sneaker that started everything, the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ set the precedent for all sport-lifestyle shoes to follow. Ahead of its ‘Reimagined’ restock in October, we’re taking a look at why this coveted AJ1 is the most iconic Jordan of all time. 

Designed by Nike legend Peter Moore, the AJ1 ‘Chicago’ was specifically made to challenge the traditional sneaker styles worn in the NBA. “The whole idea of the shoes was to bring colour into basketball,” Moore notes. Prior to the advent of the more colourful Jordan 1s, NBA policy insisted that players “must wear shoes that not only match their uniforms but match the shoes worn by their teammates,” this led to the famous 51% rule – this advised that player’s shoes must be at least 51% white. After initially causing a stir with the notorious “Banned” Jordan 1 (a black-and-red sneaker that cost Nike and Michael Jordan $5000 every time MJ wore them during a game), Michael Jordan played nice, creating the ‘Chicago’ colourway that donned the Chicago Bulls’ red, white and black hues in all their glory. 

Although Jordan himself didn’t offer much design input, he told Moore he wanted ”something different, something exciting and something low to the ground.” Following this guidance, Moore stated: “Those were the directives. I decided colour would be the way to create something different and exciting. The colours were dictated by the Bulls colours, which were red, black, and white. That meant that we could have three colours on a single shoe, which in 1985 was unheard of in basketball shoes.” 

After becoming Michael Jordan’s most-worn sneaker, the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ first saw public release in April 1985. Retailing at $65 ($176 in today’s money), the industry’s first ever resellers were selling their pairs for $100 right outside the store, marking a brand-new era for sneakers in fashion. After this initial release, Jordans flooded the market and supply eventually outweighed demand. High stock levels led to discounted prices, which eventually attracted new customers with different needs. Thanks to the durability and high grip of the shoe, skaters began replacing their trusty Vans with the Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’. Calling them “the best kicks to skate in”, Dante Ross is one of many skaters that took to the streets of NYC in Jordans thanks to their traction and previously unseen eye-catching aesthetic. 

While no updated iteration of the AJ1 ‘Chicago’ can touch the industry-defining success of the first, each new offering brings with it a sign of the times. In 2017, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White put its spin on the iconic sneaker, including it in the legendary capsule: “The Ten”. A collection of ten sneakers, Abloh updated only Nike’s most history-defining silhouettes with his signature typography, deconstructed detailing and playful stitching. Among these silhouettes was the ‘Chicago’, which arrived in its famous red, white and black colour scheme, but was elevated with a 3D Swoosh, “AIR” lettering on the midsole and its original year of release – “85” – neatly tucked behind the ankle flap. With another restock of the Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ just around the corner, the “Reimagined” iteration boasts more similarities to the 1994 restock than it does the 1985 original, but is no doubt an essential addition to every rotation.

Proof that the Air Jordan 1 ‘Chicago’ has truly aced the test of time, every generation has received and adored its own version of MJ’s beloved kick. In an interview with Complex, Peter Moore said: “I am somewhat surprised by the staying power of the Jordan 1. It seems every new generation of kids has to try it, almost as if they discovered it. When I look at the shoe today I don’t see old, especially in the upper—the cup sole is the thing that dates it—but the upper is almost timeless at this point.” So, when that October restock finally lands, get your hands on the Air Jordan 1 “Chicago Reimagined”, a timeless style with endless staying power.