Nearly every iconic Air Jordan silhouette is tied to a pivotal moment in Michael Jordan’s career. The Air Jordan 1 has the “Banned” story. The Air Jordan 12 has the “Flu Game”. And the Jordan 4 has “The Shot”.
To close out the first round of the 1989 Playoffs, Michael Jordan took the game into his hands and, as the final second ticked off the clock, hit the game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Shot advanced the Chicago Bulls into the Semi-Finals, proving that MJ could lead his team toward a championship. All eyes were on Jordan, and of course, his Air Jordan 4s. From that point on, the Air Jordan 4 has been embedded in pop culture.
The Shot imbued the Jordan 4 with cultural and historical significance, and countless new colorways and collaborations have kept it relevant throughout the years. Travis Scott, Eminem, Union LA, KAWS, Levi’s – the Jordan 4 has been the springboard of some of Jordan Brand’s biggest and most meaningful releases, each one introducing the design to new audiences and bolstering its storied status in the sneaker world.
It’s clear that the Jordan 4 isn’t leaving any time soon, so it’s important to know more about the sneaker that has stayed relevant for over three decades. We put together a comprehensive buyer’s guide to the Air Jordan 4, from the history and pricing to how they fit into your wardrobe.
Here is everything you need to know:
A Brief History
For Michael Jordan’s fourth signature sneaker, Nike designer Tinker Hatfield looked to the successes of the Air Jordan 3 to create a new, high-performance basketball shoe. The Jordan 3 jump-started Hatfield’s career with Jordan Brand and was heralded as a true differentiator in the basketball sneaker industry. Hatfield had a good thing going, so it made sense to build off of it.
Named the Air Jordan 4, Hatfield’s new design was similar to the Jordan 3 in many important respects: it had a mid-top silhouette, a visible Air unit in the sole, and both Nike and Jumpman branding. In other ways, however, the Jordan 4 was an innovative leap forward, especially in performance.
While the Air Jordan 3 was rich in its luxe aesthetic, it was a bit on the heavier side and lacked breathability. So for the Air Jordan 4, Hatfield added a molded layer of urethane-coated mesh netting for added breathability. For the Black/Cement Grey colorway, he also introduced a new material called Durabuck. Similar to Nubuck leather, Durabuck was a lighter and more durable synthetic variant, ideal for a performance sneaker designed to endure active play on the court. Plus, Durabuck was less expensive and more sustainable for Nike.
From a design perspective, the Jordan 4 was a trailblazer. But its historic significance is as much about culture as technology. We know about “The Shot”, but the The Air Jordan 4 gained notoriety on the silver screen as well. In Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, which hit theaters just months after MJ hit his buzzer-beater, Giancarlo Esposito’s character, Buggin’ Out, gets his Air Jordan 4s scuffed by a Boston Celtics fan. Like most people who love their sneakers, he was furious. This conflict became a legendary and relatable sneaker moment in cinema.
Air Jordan 4 Colorways
The Air Jordan 4 released in 1989 with four colorways: White Cement, Black Cement, Fire Red, and Military Blue. The White Cement and Black Cement colorways were the first to release, as they complemented the Chicago Bulls home and away color schemes, while the other two colorways, the Fire Red and Military Blue, released later in the year. Michael Jordan wore all but the Military Blue colorway on the court that year, most likely because it was the only one not representative of the Bull’s black and red colors.
All original Air Jordan 4 colorways have each received at least two re-issues over the years, and some have re-released fairly recently. The Air Jordan 4 Black Cement received a retro in the fall of 2019 and again last year, while the Air Jordan 4 Fire Red re-released as part of Jordan Brand’s 2020 holiday collection.
From Off-White to Union LA to Travis Scott, collaborations in the Jordan line are common. But it wasn’t always like that. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Jordan Brand kept creative decisions in-house, which limited the scope of design innovation. The only way a special iteration of an Air Jordan design was created was if a Jordan athlete wanted a Player Exclusive. Eventually, Jordan Brand expanded their collaborative spirit, starting with the Jordan 4.
The Air Jordan 4 was the first Jordan silhouette to ever fall into the hands of an outside collaboration. In 2005, LA sneaker mainstay Undefeated released an exclusive Air Jordan 4 colorway inspired by vintage flight jackets. Only 72 pairs were produced, and they were only available to purchase by either auction or raffle.
Later in that same year, Eminem received his own Jordan 4 with the Air Jordan 4 Eminem Encore. The pair was also extremely rare. It was limited to 50 pairs and never publicly released, only gifted to friends and family of Slim Shady himself. Today, both the Undefeated and Eminem 4s rank among the rarest Jordans of all time.
How Do Jordan 4s Fit Into Your Wardrobe?
Initially designed for high performance on the basketball court, Jordan 4s are now an ideal shoe for the streets. Simple colorways like the Air Jordan 4 Metallic Green are prime for everyday wear. Other, more sophisticated colorways like Air Jordan 4 Retro SE Sashiko are loud enough on their own to be a statement piece (especially if you bleach them). No matter what you are trying to go for with your look, there is a Jordan 4 that can assist you.
How Much Do Jordan 4s Cost?
At the retail level, Air Jordan 4s usually cost $200 right now, making them one of the more expensive pairs in the Jordan line. But even at this price, they still typically sell out. The real value of Jordan 4s is then left to buyers and sellers on the secondary market. Over the past year on StockX, the average Jordan 4 traded for $340, or 70% above retail.
Jordan 4s don’t just sell at high premiums. They also gain value over time. For this analysis, we created an index of Jordan 4s that released before 2020 to see how their value has appreciated or depreciated over time.
As you can see from the chart above, older Jordan 4s have appreciated tremendously in the past year. Up until April 2020, the average Jordan 4 in our index was trading for around $200. If you missed out on a pair at retail, there might have been a good chance you could buy them on StockX for about the same price. Then ESPN’s The Last Dance premiered.
The docuseries highlighting Michael Jordan’s monumental final season had a major impact on the entire Jordan category. After it aired, many Jordan silhouettes saw significant price spikes, including the Air Jordan 4. In just one year, the Jordan 4s in our index nearly doubled in value, rising to an average of almost $400.
The growth shown in the past year proves that the Air Jordan 4 is currently a viable investment for the long term. If you don’t plan on lacing them up, our data suggests that by simply keeping them on a shelf for a year, there is a good possibility that they will become more valuable.
The Air Jordan 4 represents an important milestone in Jordan Brand’s history. Its innovative design shaped the future of the line and engaged in a collaboration strategy that continues to this day. Its prominence in pop culture and general popularity make it a smart choice for savvy collectors and investors, with many releases gaining value over time. Whether you decide to make the Jordan 4 your everydays or keep them stocked for a prosperous future, you now have the information you need.