Following the release of the Air Jordan III in 1988, designer Tinker Hatfield was once again assigned with bringing the next Jordan signature sneaker to life, the Air Jordan IV. The preceding Air Jordan III was a seminal moment in Jordan and Nike’s collaborative partnership. The Bulls’ superstar’s sneaker deal was up for renegotiation, and Jordan was openly frustrated with his first two signature sneakers. Hatfield needed to deliver.

Hatfield did just that. He met with Jordan, and paid close attention to his demands for a sneaker that was less restrictive compared to the high-tops he was currently wearing. Jordan wanted a shoe that was lighter and did not compromise on either style or performance. With Jordan’s prerequisites in mind, Hatfield returned with a mid-top sneaker that featured fake elephant skin, tumbled leather, the Jumpman silhouette on the tongue and the Nike Air bubble on the bottom. When Jordan was shown the sneaker for the first time, he smiled and immediately started brainstorming different colorways. Over three decades later, the Jordan III was clearly a success.

The Air Jordan III helped convince “His Airness” that Nike was the only sneaker brand to partner with. The Air Jordan IV then, was about establishing longevity. Instead of replicating the success of the Air Jordan III, Hatfield designed a completely different shoe. While the Air Jordan IV features some qualities from its predecessor, including the sculpted midsole, visible Nike Air unit and a padded tongue, it made notable changes to several elements, creating an entirely unique silhouette. The IV introduced a nubuck upper, mesh side panels lean triangular plastic piece attached to the heel which connected to a plastic lace lock. For the first time, Nike’s “Flight” concept was present on an Air Jordan.

The Air Jordan IV debuted in 1989, in four wildly popular colorways that helped cement the sneaker—and the Jordan line in general—as one of the best in the market. 30 years after its original release, the Air Jordan IV is still widely considered one of the greatest Jordans ever made—and to many one of the best looking sneakers around. From iconic colorways to the first ever Jordan collaboration, the IV is central to both Air Jordan lore and sneaker culture itself, just as important today as it was when it first dropped. Below, we present a selection of the most influential Air Jordan IV models and collaborations of all-time.

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