Tinker Hatfield, the designer of the Air Jordan 3, had to deal with the pressure of following up on the success of one of the most highly-coveted sneaker designs in history after the shoe’s massive popularity helped salvage Nike’s Jordan project. The solution was straightforward: update the look and feel while maintaining the basic structure.
Hatfield maintained many of the same features in the design of the Air Jordan 4. Again, the “Nike Air” branding appeared on the back of the shoe. It didn’t take long for the Jumpman to return to the vocabulary, this time accompanied by the term “Flight.” Both the heel and forefoot featured Air cushioning, with the heel unit being exposed and the forefoot unit being encased. And the first two colors had the same cement gray accents on either a white or black background.
There was absolutely no doubt that the fourth installment of the Jordan brand would be a huge success, and that’s exactly what happened. It’s the same style Michael Jordan wore when he hit the game-winning shot to upset the Cleveland Cavaliers and win the series for the Chicago Bulls. After Jordan left the basketball team for good in 1998, the sneakers came back to retailers the following year.
Nike has a rich history of re-releasing products, and the “White Cement” and “Black Cement” hues are only two examples. However, the footwear giant has certainly graced fans with a handful of new colorways, including collaborative efforts with the likes of KAWS, Travis Scott, and Off-White among others. To celebrate the sneaker, we rounded up some of the best colorways to date.
Air Jordan 4 Retro OG Fire Red
The 2020 “Fire Red” Air Jordan is a faithful recreation of the original model that debuted in February 1989. It’s the third retro release of this iconic sneaker, after 2006’s Mars Blackmon version and 2012’s Jumpman-adorned variant.
The “Fire Red” also has a high-heat color palette that combines a white leather base with powerful black and red highlights beyond the purist-pleasing heel decoration. Underneath the white mesh netting on the upper part, black is seen on the quarter panel and neck. It also dresses the heel tab, the inner tongue patch, and the iconic Wings. Red is included on the sockliner, tongue liner, and the aforementioned Nike Air symbol on the heel, and it often complements the black accents seen elsewhere on the shoe.
Color-blocking of white, red, and black occurs on the huge fabric tongue tag and Air Max-equipped midsole, while a combination of white, red, and gray on the outsole with one last Nike Air hit completes the design.
Air Jordan 4 Retro OG Bred
Jordan Brand brought back the original “Bred” Air Jordan 4 colorway for the shoe’s 30th anniversary. Michael Jordan’s iconic slam dunk in the 1989 NBA Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers while wearing the Tinker Hatfield-designed shoe popularized the style yet again.
Style-wise, it’s a dead ringer for the original, with a black nubuck upper, translucent Air-Sole cushioning, and Nike Air branding on the back of the heel. More than two decades have passed since the silhouette last sported the now-iconic “Nike Air” logo on the heel tab, but that all changed in 2019.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Motorsports
The Air Jordan 4 Retro “Motorsports” takes its design cues from a colorway that was released in 2006 to celebrate the fourth anniversary of Michael Jordan’s Motorsport Racing team. The shoe, which reached stores in March 2017, has the team’s colors of white, black, and varsity royal blue but does away with the original heel accent from the 2006 version. There was also a black version of the Air Jordan 4 Retro, called the “Motorsports Alternate,” that dropped a few months after the original.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Lightning
The Air Jordan 4 Retro “Lightning” saw a re-release in 2021, bringing back a highly sought-after hue that debuted in 2006 with the “Thunder” colorway, both of which were inspired by Michael Jordan’s Motorsports team. The nubuck top is saturated with a vibrant yellow color, which is set off by the black netting and dark grey structural wings. Moreover, the woven tongue tag, the internal tongue, and the Jumpman insignia on the heel are all done in a matching shade of grey. White PU provides the midsole, while a noticeable Air unit in the heel provides additional cushioning over a dark grey herringbone rubber outsole.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Black Cat
The all-black colorway of the iconic Air Jordan 4 Retro “Black Cat” model, which takes its cue from one of Michael Jordan’s many nicknames, returned in 2020. This pair, like the original from 2006, has an all-black suede top and contrasting black midsole. The only noticeable distinction in the design is the Jumpman insignia on the woven tongue tag, which is done in a light grey.
Air Jordan 4 Retro OG White Cement
One of the four original colors, the Air Jordan 4 Retro OG “Cement” debuted in 1989. The sneaker’s original white, fire red, black, and grey color scheme returns in this 2016 iteration, and it’s accented with the speckled cement grey that earned it its moniker. The shoe was first re-released in 1996, with further retro releases occurring in 1999 and 2012. However, only the ’99 and 2016 editions of the retro retain the “Nike Air” branding seen on the heels of the 1989 originals.
Travis Scott x Air Jordan 4 Retro Cactus Jack
In 2018, after months of cryptic hints, Travis Scott’s highly anticipated joint release of the Air Jordan 4 with Nike finally dropped. Jordan Brand and the Houston rapper created a bright new colorway of the classic Air Jordan called “Cactus Jack,” which has a variety of branding throughout.
An official glance at the sneaker exposes its baby blue nubuck and black netting underlay panels and waxed laces. Notable design elements include the speckled wings on the upper, as well as Travis Scott’s “Cactus Jack” and Jordan Brand’s Jumpman logos on the tongue, heel, and insoles.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Infrared
Jordan Brand continues to expand its catalog of hard-hitting sneakers, and the “Infrared” colorway of the Air Jordan 4 has attracted the attention of sneakerheads all around the world. Even though it was previewed several times prior, we finally got our hands on the sneaker in 2022.
All of the design elements, including the charcoal gray nubuck uppers, lighter gray forefoot overlays, solid black netting, laces, and heel counters, and brighter-toned heel insignia, are carried over from the original. Meanwhile, the midsoles use more monochromatic color palettes. A glossy black mold divides the upper and lower halves, while a winged unit lies on the bottom, concealing a transparent Air unit.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Red Thunder
Inspired by the highly sought-after “Thunder” colorway that debuted in 2006 and was relaunched in 2012, the Air Jordan 4 Retro “Red Thunder” offers a classic color-blocking design. The mid-top swaps the yellow highlights of its predecessor for a black nubuck upper with contrasting red bursts. The shoe has molded eyelets, an insulated tongue, a quarter panel, a neck, and a midsole with visible Air-sole cushioning in the heel. Furthermore, both the tongue tag and the heel have the Jumpman logo in white.
Air Jordan 4 Winter Loyal Blue
Designed to withstand the chilly weather, the Air Jordan 4 Winter is a tough take on the classic shoe. This limited version, debuting in December 2019, has a blue nubuck upper, laser-cut insets, and a rubberized tongue. Furthermore, the inside is lined with bright red fleece for warmth. The signature hardware consists of a tonal TPU heel panel, a contrasting lacewing, and a branded tongue tag. Support and grip are provided by the same Air-filled midsole and herringbone-patterned rubber outsole.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Black Canvas
In keeping with its name, the Air Jordan 4 “Black Canvas” is constructed from an all-black canvas upper, netting, and suede mudguards. The rear has Jumpman logos and eyelets in a lighter shade of gray for contrast. Tongue tags, insole prints, and a mirrored “Air Jordan” tag provide even more branding. The shoe is completed with a segmented rubber outsole and an Air-cushioned midsole in black, white, and gray.
KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro Cool Grey
Brooklyn-based graffiti artist KAWS and Jordan Brand partnered together to create the KAWS x Air Jordan 4 Retro—undoubtedly one of the most expensive models to date. The classic acrylic details have been scrapped in favor of a quality grey suede upper and midsole.
The shoe is given an extra distinctive touch with the inclusion of KAWS’ ‘XX’ marking on the heel tab. Along with the sneakers, jacket, hoodie, t-shirt, and hat were launched as part of a limited-edition capsule collection that dropped in March 2017. There was so much anticipation for this launch that sneakerheads hacked onto Donnelly’s website and the police in London shut down an in-store giveaway at Patta.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Military Black
The Air Jordan 4 Retro “Military Black” is based on the original “Military Blue” colorway from 1989 and has the same color blocking and materials. The upper is constructed from soft white leather and is accented with a grey suede overlay at the ball of the foot. The TPU eyelets, the heel tab, and the woven tongue tag that bears the Jumpman emblem are all a contrasting black. To round out the design, a two-tone polyurethane midsole and a visible Air-sole element in the heel provide lightweight cushioning.
Air Jordan 4 Retro Alternate 89
As part of their “Alternate Collection” initiative, Air Jordan envisioned what MJ Player Exclusive hues for vintage Air Jordans may look like. Design-wise, the Air Jordan 4 Retro “Alternate 89” was inspired by the white and red of the Chicago Bulls home jersey. It’s a simple colorway that was part of a three-shoe set that also included the Air Jordan 2 “Alternate 89” and the Air Jordan 5 “Alternate 90,” all of which dropped in January of 2016.