Guide to Nike’s Most Iconic OG Colorways.


In this mini-guide we will list the most famous ones, which return cyclically on retro silhouettes or new models of the brand.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Nike and Jordan’s famous colorways and patterns and never dared to ask.

The Bred colorway (black + red)  is so legendary that you would recognize it on any model, right?

So is the legendary elephant print, the Royal and so on. Identifying them and associating them with Nike and Jordan is easy, finding out how they came about, a little less so. Behind each colorway, pattern, or print is a compelling story that has helped strengthen the brand’s image, creating different “packs” and “Series” that have captivated sneaker collectors.
How did Nike and Jordan’s most famous colorways and patterns come about?

In this mini-guide we will list the most famous ones, which return cyclically on retro silhouettes or new models of the brand.

1) Elephant print; 2) Cement

First introduced in 1988, the pattern the elephant print was designed for the Air Jordan 3 with the intention of distinguishing the signature line from all others. The 3 elephant print was the first performance sneaker to incorporate an animal print on its upper: a stylistic detail, or “quirk,” that made it rightfully enter the Olympus of the most beloved basketball shoes ever.

As a base material, the texture was included as one of many elements to come in the Jordan Elements Series and would be repurposed under various declinations and variations to this day. One of the most sought-after designs ever on which the iconic pattern was affixed is Nike Air Max 1 Atmos Elephant from 2007.Also called Cement, this print has become one of Nike’s most recognizable motifs; it features a light smoke gray and darker overlays that create a pattern reminiscent of elephant skin veins or, depending on who you look at, the veins of cracked concrete.

3) Metallic Series.

When, in 1986, Jordan brand released an Air Jordan pack with red, purple, green, and blue metallic swoosh, it took a while for pure early fans to appreciate the colorway. Yet over time, the metallic pack has become one of the brand’s most iconic, affixed to a wide variety of silhouettes. The Air Jordan 1 “Metallic Red” colorway was re-released in 2009, and only in 2016 were all the other colorways re-released, one of them being this Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Metallic Navy.”

The mirrored effect of the swoosh and details have also been reprised on dunks and air force 1, without neglecting the metallic shoe par excellence: the air max 97 silver.

10) Safari Print

One of Nike’s most iconic motifs is probably the Safari print, designed by the brilliant designer Tinker Hatfield in 1987. The safari print was the motif that decorated Hatfiled’s new silhouette, the Nike Air Safari 87, a sneaker designed for fashion rather than sport-a concept that was still taboo at the time.

As has often been the case before, the inspiration for Tinker Hatfield to create this pattern came out of the blue: in an upscale New York design store that had an ostrich-skin-covered sofa in the window. The piece of furniture impressed Hatfiled greatly, from which he took inspiration for creating the Safari print, which is essentially his version of ostrich skin.

Although the response received in the company was less than enthusiastic, Nike produced the Air Safari Pack, which included the Air Max 1, Air Trainer 1 and Air Sock. The pattern, so luxurious yet versatile that it could be worn every day, quickly became a staple of the brand, appreciated even by Hidefumi Hommyo, founder of Atmos, who, in collaboration with Nike, would create one of the most beautiful and beloved designs ever: the Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Safari,” in 2002.
Since then, the safari print will be repurposed on so many models, from the Nike Foamposite to the legendary Air presto.

4) Chicago

One of the most recognizable colorways in the shoe world is definitely the Chicago, naming given by Jordan in honor of the Chicago Bulls.

When MJ signed with Nike he sported on the court what would be the Air Jordan 1s dubbed “banned” because, at the time, the only shoes allowed on the court had to be almost all white. To avoid the $5,000-per-game fines imposed by the league on the player, Jordan brand came up with an ingenious ploy: he created a red and black color scheme with white panels used as the base, overlays in Varsity Red and shades of deep black.

Air Jordan 1 OG 1985 Chicago at

The Nike Air logo and red sole, in keeping with the Chicago Bulls’ traditional colors, completed the design. The color scheme has since been echoed on so many models, one of the most beloved being the SB Dunk Low Pro “Chicago,” which currently boasts a value of more than 1,000 euros.

5) Shadow – 6) Kentucky – 7) Natural Grey

Contrary to popular belief, the Shadow, Kentucky and Naural Grey colorways were not born recently.

In 1985, when the Air Jordan 1 debuted, these colorways were part of the fourteen colorways released on the model. The reason? Everyone wanted to wear Micheal Jordan’s shoes, and the brand went out of its way to please the market. So, it is fair to call these colorways OG, even if not directly worn by His Airness on the court.

Since 1994, Nike started releasing retro colorways of the Air Jordan 1 OG model at a steady pace and, over time, used these palettes on other models of the brand as well; including the 2016 Nike SB Dunk High Pro ISO Kentucky and the Dunk Low White Neutral Grey.

8) Twist or Panda

The panda colorway takes a cue from the famous 2019 “Twist” interaction, of which it is a variation, with the addition of the upper with “ponyhair” texutre. In fact, there was never any mention of the name ‘Panda’ before 2019, although the legendary ‘White / Black’ OG palette was officially created in 2014. We also find the beloved Panda colorway on the 2021 Nike SB Dunk Low Pro “Panda Pigeon,” created in collaboration with Jeff Staple.

9) Royal Blue

Despite never having been worn by Michael Jordan in the NBA, the black and blue “Royal” version has the distinction of being the favorite color scheme of the NBA legend, who chose to wear them for a photo shoot on an airport runway that became the iconic “Flight Guy” poster.

The Air Jordan 1 OG Retro Blue Royal colorway was last reintroduced in 2017 as part of the “Flight Guy” package. The colorway has also been used for the Air Jordan 3, 12, 13 silhouettes and the Nike Dunk High AMBUSH, created in collaboration with designer Yoon Ahn.

Which colorway or pattern is the one that identifies your style?
Let us know by commenting on the post.



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