A heritage design, durable framing, extreme versatility in its shape and style — the Air Jordan 4 stands as one of the most coveted sneakers in history. Evolving from its roots on the basketball court to the realm of streetwear, the silhouette has become a cornerstone of the industry, culture and fashion. With demand for the shoe at an all time high thanks to a series of influential collaborations, fans are now beginning to question whether the AJ4 will take the crown of sneaker of the year. Here, we take a look back at the Jordan 4’s history, its relentless staying power and how it came to be the next go-to shoe.

Created by Nike legend Tinker Hatfield in 1989, the Air Jordan 4 was originally designed as a functional basketball trainer. Set apart from its predecessors, the silhouette introduced visible Air cushioning in the sole, plastic wing eyelets and mesh panels on the sidewalls. First seen on the feet of Michael Jordan during the 1988-1989 NBA season, the AJ4 played a significant role in his career when he made “The Shot,” a winning play over the Cleveland Cavaliers whilst donning the shoe.

In the ‘90s, the Air Jordan 4 became a staple of the music scene, featuring in videos of well-known artists like LL Cool J, Ice T and Eazy E. Years later, the silhouette secured its place as a cultural icon by entering a new era of demand. Spike Lee harnessed its appeal with global adverts and films, while new colourways — including Oreo and Columbia — further cemented the sneaker’s endurance. It wasn’t long before Jordan Brand took the style to new heights, collaborating with A-list celebrities and tastemakers that captivated a fresh wave of sneaker enthusiasts.

Today, the AJ4 remains a firm fixture of the industry. The collection continues to break boundaries and dominate the market, whilst remaining true to its sport-led roots. Although the shoe has never lost its must-have status, it has surged in popularity once again.

Retro releases are a driving force behind the sneaker’s overwhelming demand. This year has already seen some of the most coveted releases from the Jumpman brand. The Air Jordan 4 Thunder (2023) reintroduced an iconic colour scheme from 2006, while the Air Jordan 4 Retro Red Cement borrowed key details from the OG models. With more vintage-inspired arrivals expected before the end of 2023, the silhouette has proved its unwavering ability to stand the test of time.

However, the key to the Jordan 4’s success is long-standing and all-new collaborations. Partnerships with the world’s biggest names — like Travis Scott and Off-White — have drawn in a wider audience and exposed the shoe to a whole new demographic. This year’s Nike SB x Air Jordan 4 Pine Green effortlessly fused streetwear and skateboarding style, while A Ma Maniére’s rendition helped establish the sneaker in the luxury sphere. 

And with the end of 2023 drawing ever closer, the Air Jordan 4 continues to be a front runner in fashion. A testament to the steadfast appeal of classic styles, the silhouette looks to overtake other crowd favourites — including the AJ1 and Nike Dunk. Predicted to top wishlists for the foreseeable future, the Jordan 4 is an icon that’s here to stay.