History of the Air Jordan 3

April 15, 2021 by Josh Ford

History of the Air Jordan 3

air jordan 3 

It was 1987, and Michael Jordan was on the verge of leaving Nike, with a number of suitors chasing his signature.

Nike’s relationship with Jordan was on the line – its Vice President, Rob Strasser, and Creative Director/lead shoe designer, Peter Moore had walked out of the door just weeks before – leaving the design of the next Jordan shoe in the hands of a sneaker designer by the name of Tinker Hatfield.

The rest, as they say, is history.

As the story goes, Hatfield flew out to meet Jordan, he wanted to get a clearer understanding of what he was about, as well as an insight into what he wanted in a basketball shoe. 

Air Jordan 3 elephant print

Jordan wanted something less restrictive than the previous two iterations (Air Jordan 1, and Air Jordan 2) something lighter – and with Jordan’s newfound burgeoning interest in suits and high-end leather shoes – Hatfield had the perfect idea.

In crafting the shoe, Hatfield discovered the material that would later come to be known as the iconic “Elephant print” detailing around the toe box and heel overlays of Jordan 3 models.

Hatfield also chose to construct the shoe using tumbled leather over regular leather. This was a move that had never been done before on athletic shoes, and was a nod to Jordan’s love of fashion. This meant that not only was MJ able to wear a new pair of sneakers every game – something he was keen on – it also meant that he wouldn’t have to break them in.

“MJ told me straight away that he wanted to be able to wear a new pair of shoes for every basketball game. He wanted a broken-in, soft, comfortable, out-of-the-box experience.” Says Hatfield.

michael jordan poster

While searching for inspiration, Hatfield stumbled across some prototype designs belonging to former Nike Creative Director, Peter Moore. This is when he came across the signature Jumpman logo (this hadn’t been intended for use on apparel) – excited by this, Hatfield placed it on one of his first Air Jordan 3 designs – it was the first time the emblem would see the light of day.

After getting Jordan’s approval, the Air Jordan 3 hit shelves in February 1988, where they retailed for $100. Three OG colourways led the line for the new Jumpman model: White Cement, Black Cement, and True Blue.

Jordan had an incredible 1987-88 NBA season wearing the Air Jordan 3, picking up a number of awards along the way, including: The NBA All-Star, NBA Most Valuable Player, NBA All-Star Most Valuable Player, NBA Scoring Champion, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Steal Champion, and, perhaps the most memorable of all – the NBA Slam-Dunk Contest Title – which Jordan famously won flying from the free throw line to the rim.

Michael Jordan NBA Slam Dunk Content

The Air Jordan 3 has seen a myriad of colourways released over the past three decades, as the shoe continues to cement itself into sneaker history as one of the most iconic trainers ever to release. 

1994 saw the first retro re-release of the white and black cement OG colourways, however, by this time, Jordan had retired from basketball and there wasn’t much demand for the older silhouettes. This though, would all change in 2001, when the black cement released again, alongside the OG ‘True Blue’ and ‘Mocha’ colourways.

Jordan brand would go on to release even more iterations throughout the years that followed – with the Nike Air Logo seen on the heel of earlier releases, replaced with the iconic Jumpman motif. That is, until 2013 when Jordan released the Air Jordan 3 White/Cement ‘Retro 88’.

Air Jordan 3 Georgetown Midnight Navy

Due to its unrivalled and ever-increasing popularity, the Air Jordan 3 has seen a number of newer takes on its design in recent years, including the Air Jordan 3 ‘Georgetown’ (pictured), Fragment Design x Air Jordan 3, an Air Jordan 3 ‘Katrina’, as well as a ‘Cool Grey’ colour scheme, and collaborations with Justin Timberlake and DJ Khaled.

Hatfield has undoubtedly solidified himself as one of the greatest sneaker designers of all time – his Air Jordan 3 design changed the game, and was an important catalyst in Jordan’s decision to stay with Nike. The shoe was the beginning of a long and successful run at the Oregon-based sportswear brand – and saw Hatfield work on a number of other lauded Jordan models throughout his career.