So, when did Jordan 4 come out? The Jordan 4 came out in 1989. It followed the hugely popular Jordan 3. It sported four colorways i.e. ‘White Cement’, ‘Black Cement’ and later that year, ‘Military Blue’ and ‘Fire Red’. The sneakers retailed for $110. The Jordan 4 was the first Air Jordan released globally.
The Jordan Debut
Designed for the legendary Michael Jordan, it debuted February 1989 during the season’s All-Star Game that took place in Houston. However, fans had been treated to a sneak peek in a November 1988 Sports Illustrated release where Nike co-founder Phil Knight is pictured holding up a ‘White Cement’ Jordan 4 while seated next to a ‘Black Cement’ Jordan 4.
The Jordan 4 was a massive hit. They became particularly famous as the shoes Michael Jordan wore when he made the winning buzzer beater for the Chicago Bulls over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 NBA Playoffs. The Cavaliers were up 100-99 with just three seconds to go. Wearing ‘Black Cement’ Jordan 4s, Michael Jordan hit ‘The Shot’ to send the Bulls into the next round.
That same year, Jordan 4s had a place on the big screen when the ‘White Cement’ Jordan 4s were featured in Spike Lee’s 1989 film, Do The Right Thing. Worn by Mookie, one of the more memorable moments involved a bicycle scuffing a new pair of Jordan 4s.
Spike Lee would again work with Nike and Michael Jordan to create commercial content promoting the Jordan 4 including the unforgettable ‘Can/Can’t’ commercial.
Designer Tinker Hatfield had the herculean task of topping the Jordan 3’s success. To do that, he retained many of the features of the Jordan 3.
Thus, the Jordan 4 featured an enlarged tongue, a visible Air Max cushion, and a ‘Nike Air’ logo at the heel. The Jumpman remained on the tongue but this time had the word ‘Flight’ as well. Hatfield placed a visible Air unit on the sneaker’s heel and had an encapsulated Air unit in the forefoot. The first colorways were ‘White Cement’ and ‘Black Cement’.
However, Hatfield introduced urethane-coated netting on the shoe upper. These were meant to make the shoe more breathable than leather-paneled predecessors. Plastic lace eyelet wings are a means of reducing the sneaker’s overall weight. Weight reduction is a common theme that appears across Hatfield’s sneaker designs.
Hatfield added Durabuck, a synthetic leather, to the sneaker upper. Durabuck is not only animal-friendly but also cost-effective. The Jordan 4 had multiport lace locks as well as wings with extra holes on either side of the shoe for a more solid fit. This allowed the shoe wearer to lace the sneaker in diverse patterns.
‘Air Jordan’ was stitched upside down on the tongue’s inside so that it read right side up when you flipped the tongue down.
Overall, the Jordan 4 had that ‘return to work’ personality and sought to depart from the emphasis on sophistication and elegance the Jordan 3 had become known for. This reflects Hatfield’s efforts at making the Jordan 4 a more performance-oriented sneaker.
Incidentally, Michal Jordan had just become a husband and father for the first time so this theme was in keeping with changes to the superstar’s own life.
The Jordan 4 would not show up in stores again until 1999 which was about a year after Michael Jordan retired from playing for the Chicago Bulls. The newly formed Jordan Brand, released the retro Jordan 4. It came back in the two original colorways (‘Black Cement’ and ‘White Cement’ but also introduced two lifestyle (LS) models, ‘Columbia’ and ‘Oreo’ (and the ‘Bling Bling’ too in the 2000s).
The LS models had a Jumpman logo on the heel as well as leather panels instead of the netting. This seemed to be a response to the growing popularity of Air Jordans as a casual lifestyle sneaker. The sneakers retailed at $100.
Two new colorways emerged in 2004 – ‘Classic Green’ and ‘Cool Grey’.
2005 came with the limited black and white ‘Laser’ models and 2006 the ‘Thunder’ and ‘Lightning’ editions. In the Fall of 2006, the sneaker returned to the masses in two more of its original colorways – ‘Military Blue’ and ‘Fire Red’ – as well as a fresh set of colorway options.
Whereas the Jordan 4 remained popular among fans, a significant number were disappointed by the absence of the ‘Nike Air’ logo. There were also concerns about the lower quality including an incorrect toe shape and cracking paint on the midsole.
After 2006, Jordan 4 releases largely ceased with a few exceptions such as the ‘Countdown Pack Black Cement’ of 2008 and the ‘Thunder’, ‘Quai 54’ and ‘Cavs’ of 2012. Original ‘Nike Air’ heel branding returned in 2016 with the new release of a ‘White Cement’ edition.
The Jordan 4’s ‘Red Thunder’ is expected before the end of 2021. This latest retro is centered around a mix of Black, Red, and White and shares a striking similarity to the ‘Thunder’ release.
‘Red Thunder’ has a black nubuck upper that is accented by contrasting red elements as choice branding toss in hits of white. A red midsole elevates the shoe and is assisted by black rubber outsoles as well as Air units. It is priced at $190.
Jordan Rare Releases
There have been several exclusive releases of Jordan 4s. Like the 2005 collaboration with UNDEFEATED that saw just 72 pairs produced and a single pair sold for $18,500 in 2016.
Eminem’s Jordan 4 ‘Encore’ was restricted to 50 pairs. In partnership with StockX, he released another exclusive retro Jordan 4 in 2017 that created 23 pairs. Jordan Brand teamed up with KAWS for a gray suede Jordan 4 that had a glow-in-the-dark outsole.
The Jordan 4 remains one of the most popular designs of the Air Jordan line and is in circulation in a variety of styles and colorways. It is frequently ranked among Tinker Hatfield’s best sneaker designs. Michael Jordan regularly sported the shoe as he continued to dominate the NBA. Few sneakers within the Air Jordan line or outside of it can boast the recognizability of the Jordan 4.