#6 – AIR JORDAN 1 AJKO
By now, we’ve seen just about every significant Air Jordan colorway get a second life (at least) with a Retro release. The Bordeaux Air Jordan VII’s will re-release in 2011, marking the last true classic to finally receive its Retro due. But while everybody remembers the Bordeauxs, earlier this year, Jordan Brand brought back another forgotten gem from the arsenal, and this time, it was a shoe that many so-called Jordan experts may have never even known existed. In the midst of a year packed with releases celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Air Jordan line, JB brought back a hidden treasure from 1985, that until the re-release was a shoe that people had heard about and maybe seen pictures of, but very few had actually held an OG pair in their hands any time recently.
The Nike AJKO (Air Jordan Knock Out) was released back in ’85 alongside the original Air Jordan 1 as a canvas alternative, making it a rarity at the time among the almost strictly leather counterparts that dominated the basketball sneaker market back in the early and mid-80′s. The shoe featured a nearly identical makeup to the standard leather version of the Air Jordan 1, with the major variations being the simplified heel design and “AJKO” replacing “Air Jordan” on the Wings logo that graces the ankle section of the upper. At the time, compared to the monumental game-changing Air Jordan 1, the AJKO edition just became a foot note on the shoe’s legacy, with only true collectors and sneaker historians keeping its legend alive through word of mouth and image sharing on the web.
The AJKO’s return last March was truly an unexpected, but welcome curveball from Jordan as an extra nod to the 25th anniversary of the Air Jordan legacy and a nice tribute to the golden age of the Jordan signature takeover. For the 2010 Retro version, JB stayed true to the original in just about every way. The only noticeable changes were an expected Jumpman replacing the “Nike Air” tongue label and the addition of a “vintage” treatment on the midsole to give the shoe that “just out of a 25 year old box” look. The vintage sole was not appreciated by a lot of Jordan supporters, but once people started getting their hands on some early pairs, word began to spread on sneaker forums that the yellowed dirty sole was easily cleanable with a variety of commonly found household products.
For those who weren’t feeling the vintage touch, a simple wipe-down produced a clean white sole and a crispy new pair of a shoe that some have been waiting over 20 years to cop and others just learned about as a result of the 2010 revival. The old-school heads were rewarded and the new-school heads were educated, and at the end of the day, the AJKO Retro was a resounding success all around. Despite the high ranking on our Top 30 list, the AJKO was a relative sleeper in comparison to some higher profile Air Jordan Retros from 2010 – the type of shoe that might not seem like an auto-cop at first, but a month after they’ve all disappeared, you kick yourself for not snatching up a pair when you had the opportunity. There’s probably a good chance that we won’t be seeing these again for a while, so hats off to those who had the good sense to grab their piece of Air Jordan history.