The landscape of Air Jordans in 2023—which are the best and which don’t quite make the cut—may be more interesting and notable for the latter group more than the former. The group overall is not too surprising, it includes a mixture of returning originals, new colorways of retro models, and time-tested collaborations that always hit the mark. But there are certain pairs on paper that feel like they should have been hits that ended up missing the mark.
One perfect example is the Air Jordan 1 “Royal Reimagined”—a remix of materials for an iconic and original colorway beloved by many. The concept didn’t quite translate, though, and the sneaker has sat on shelves, unlike other popular “Reimagined” retros like the “White/Cement” Air Jordan 3. What else is left off here? Sneakers that didn’t get a proper retail release were omitted, and some of the more ubiquitous general releases that just didn’t feel special enough (“Thunder” Air Jordan 4s, we see you) were left out on the bubble.
Enough about what didn’t work, though, and more on what did. Jordan Brand’s biggest pop culture partners like J Balvin and Travis Scott are still cranking out releases, to varying degrees of success. Jordan Brand still knows how to step up and flawlessly execute a retro bringback, or tweak it when said retro has become all too familiar. These are the best examples of Air Jordans this year. —Ben Felderstein