When it came to Nike’s Michael Jordan-branded shoes, the Air Jordan 3 was the first of its kind in terms of style and technology, and it quickly became one of the most sought-after models in the franchise’s history. The sneaker combined a high level of elegance with a sleek design, much like the previous Air Jordan 2.
Peter Moore, creator of the original two Air Jordan styles, and Nike marketing VP Rob Strasser both departed the business in 1987 to launch their own brands, Van Grack and Strasser’s Strasser Strasser. Consequently, Nike’s progress on the Air Jordan 3 was hampered as a result of the added complexity. To add insult to injury, Jordan’s original contract with the company came up for renewal. As a result, Tinker Hatfield’s legendary status as the creator of the series’ third edition marked a significant step forward.
The third installment debuted in 1988 and included the first use of visible Air signs, the now-iconic Jumpman emblem, and an elephant pattern. It was also during the 87-88 NBA season that Jordan wore these shoes when he was named the league’s most valuable player for the first time. Additionally, they supported Michael Jordan’s feet as he dunked the ball from the free throw line in the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest, further increasing the anticipating and hype around future colorways.
There were originally four colorways of the Air Jordan 3: “Black Cement,” “White Cement,” “Fire Red,” and “True Blue.” Unsurprisingly, the original color schemes are still the most sought-after even though there are several more to choose from. Jordan Brand re-released the “True Blue” in 2001 and introduced the first non-OG hue, “Mocha,” in the same year. Both featured a Jumpman Air logo in place of Nike’s Air unit on the heel. Even the “White Cement” and “Black Cement” retros from 2011 were updated with the Jumpman heel.
Since its debut, the Air Jordan 3 has been offered in a multitude of colorways. In addition, Nike also partnered with international powerhouses like Interscope Records and pop stars like DJ Khaled whilst letting loose a slew of university-inspired releases as well. Ahead, we rounded up some of the most iconic colorways to date—feel free to scoop a pair up via reseller platforms such as GOAT and StockX.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Fire Red
Tinker Hatfield’s original Air Jordan 3 model returns in its original colorway, “Fire Red,” for 2022. The sneaker, which debuted in 1988, is distinguished by its white leather upper and dark grey elephant-print overlays at the forefoot and heel.
The polyurethane midsole has a visible Air-sole unit in the heel and is topped off with red accents that match the perforated leather collar and molded eyelets. All of the sneaker’s markings, from the embroidered Jumpman emblem on the tongue to the stamped “Nike Air” on the heel, are done in a matching shade of the titular to set it apart.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Racer Blue
The “Racer Blue” Air Jordan 3 takes a traditional sneaker design and updates it with a white, blue, and cement gray color scheme. The shoe comes with a matching shoebox and has a leather upper that has been tumbled and is decorated with a 3M reflective elephant pattern, smooth white leather, and perforated hits of blue and gray. The shoe’s blue contrast is carried over to the eyelets and branding, while the shoe’s other features—including the gray sockliners, printed insoles, white and blue Air-assisted midsoles, and gray rubber outsoles—are all complemented by the hue.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Rust Pink
Among one of the most sought-after women’s-exclusives, the Jordan 3 “Rust Pink” made major waves upon release in 2021. In terms of the unique upper material, it’s on par with Aleali May’s “Millennial Pink” Air Jordan 6.
On the upper, Nike used buttery nubuck instead of tumbled leather. Though the majority of the shoe is colored in “Rust Pink,” it’s complemented with deeper pink details and hints of sail. The pair is decorated with the classic elephant pattern and has the Jumpman logo to round off the design.
Air Jordan 3 Retro OG Black Cement
Michael Jordan and Tinker Hatfield’s collaboration on the Air Jordan 3 was groundbreaking. This signature shoe marked a number of firsts: the first time they collaborated on a sneaker, the first time the elephant pattern was used on a sneaker, and the inaugural moment the Jumpman emblem appeared on the tongue with the standard “Nike Air” stamp on the heel. Uppers are made of black leather that has been both tumbled and smoothed, and they have all the classic elements that sneakerheads remember from the ’80s.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Varsity Royal
The Air Jordan 3 Retro “Varsity Royal” is styled like the original model and has iconic design elements that pay homage to the brand’s illustrious past. They have grey elephant-print overlays at the toe and heel, and the Jumpman logo is stitched on the tongue. The upper is made of tumbled leather and finished in a royal blue color that hasn’t been seen much in the Jordan 3 but has been featured heavily in the franchise’s lore. To complete the shoe, the molded heel section has an additional Jumpman logo.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Pine Green
In 2021, the Jordan Brand released a number of eye-catching colorways, including the Air Jordan 3 “Pine Green.” The soles of these shoes are not made of leather, but rather a suede material that has been dipped in a striking black color.
Cement-printed overlays maintain the standard gray and black color scheme, but “Pine Green” accents are seen on the collars, liners, Jumpman emblems on the tongues, midsoles, and eyelets. The Jumpman logo on the heel, which is also gray, stands out against the black background of the heel counter. More so, the tongue emblems are framed by a thin border of gold.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Powder Blue
Michael Jordan’s third trademark sneaker, the Air Jordan 3 Retro “Powder Blue,” has a blend of leather and suede for the top and is dressed in a vivid dark blue. Contrasting with the black upper and white Air unit is the elephant pattern at the toe and heel. Bringing the design to a close, the grey color scheme continues onto the interior and outsole.
Air Jordan 3 Retro SE Muslin
While it would be simple for Jordan Brand to keep releasing its throwback styles in their original hues, doing so would limit the progression of the brand’s assortment each year. The Air Jordan 3 “Muslin” was among the most-anticipated of Jordan’s updated shoe designs for 2022.
Tumbled leather uppers and cement print overlays are hallmarks of the Tinker Hatfield-designed model, but for this release, the designer opted for a fresh combination of materials. The majority of the shoe is constructed from canvas material colored in its respective color, and the overlays above the toe tips and heels are made of elephant-free cement grey suede. Red accents at the eyelets and Jordan branding at the tongues and heel counters pay homage to #23’s time spent with the Bulls, while the sail-colored midsole units create a retro look.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Laser Orange
The Air Jordan 3 Retro “Laser Orange” is a throwback to the originals with a monochromatic color scheme that incorporates a flash of orange. The shoe’s upper is constructed from white tumbled leather and detailed with laser orange, making it ideal for the warmer months.
The most noticeable splash of color is located at the back of the heel, behind the model’s signature elephant pattern in cement grey. The “AIR” hangtag, eyestays, and sockliners, as well as the Jumpman emblem on the tongue, all make use of the vivid hue as well. The Jordan 3 sticks to a tried-and-true design everywhere, but retro-styled branding replaces the classic ’88 version on the shoe’s heel and sole.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Black Cat
Air Jordan 3 “Black Cat” has an upper made of nubuck, elephant print, and patent leather overlays. Nearly every single part of the sneaker is black, with the single exception being the white Jordan logo on the bottom. The traditional elephant print design is even embroidered into the laces to give the otherwise simple colorway some variation. To no surprise, this all-black staple also appeared on the Air Jordan 4 some years later.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Desert Elephant
Both the materials and color blocking of the Air Jordan 3 Retro “Desert Elephant” is faithful to the shoe’s original 1988 release. The top features black tumbled leather with unique brown elephant pattern overlays. The tongue, collar, and eyestay all have the same neutral coloration, with the tongue receiving a pop of color from the Jumpman emblem in bright red. A white polyurethane midsole with an exposed Air-sole unit in the back of the heel provides cushioning for the upper.
Air Jordan 3 Retro Dark Iris
The “Dark Iris” colorway of the Air Jordan 3 Retro breathes new life into the basketball staple that debuted the brand’s signature visible Air technology. The shoe’s upper is constructed from white tumbled leather with dark grey elephant pattern overlays. The back of the polyurethane midsole, the eyelets, and the perforated collar are all accented with a violet color. Branding hits from Jumpman are placed on the leather tongue and the sculpted heel overlay. Grey rubber can be seen underfoot on the outsole for long-lasting grip.