Recapping three of the year’s most unexpected retro hits, the Air Jordan 2, Nike Air Trainer 1, and Nike Air Max Penny 1.
A funny thing has been happening lately. The further removed from the 1980s and 1990s, the more we want to wear clothes and sneakers from those decades. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe it’s an appreciation for less technical products. Maybe it’s great marketing by clothing and sneaker companies. Maybe it’s all three. Or none of the above. Whatever it is, one cannot deny the fact that fashion staples from decades past, like boxy tees, stonewashed jeans, and big, chunky retro performance shoes, are more in demand than ever.
With all things vintage trending, once overlooked shoes like the Air Jordan 2, Nike Air Trainer 1, and Nike Air Max Penny 1 have enjoyed a little more attention than they’re accustomed to recently. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that two of those three models have celebrated milestone anniversaries this year, which has helped draw attention to the retro styles. Regardless, the Jordan 2, Air Trainer 1, and Air Max Penny 1 are just some of the throwback sneakers back in the headlines this year. And we think that shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone, whether you’re just getting into the hobby or remember when these silhouettes debuted back in the day.
To break down everything you need to know about these returning retro shoes, here is a roundup of background information, essential releases, and more. Because frankly, before this year, the Air Jordan 2, Air Trainer 1, and Air Max Penny 1 had become somewhat overlooked by the sneaker community. But no more.
Air Jordan 2
For everything the Air Jordan 1 is, the Air Jordan 2 isn’t. Unlike the Jordan 1, the Jordan 2 isn’t the shoe most commonly associated with Michael Jordan. It isn’t the shoe that was the centerpiece of the most hyped sneaker collaboration of all time—the Off-White x Air Jordan 1—or the shoe Michael wore when he recorded an NBA Playoff-record 63 point game, either. But the Jordan 2 is the first basketball shoe made in Italy, and the first Air Jordan collaborated on by a woman (Vashtie Kola in 2010). Both of those facts have contributed to the Jordan 2’s appeal many years later in 2022. Today, fashion brands like Off-White and Just Don, as well as upscale boutiques like Union, are drawn to the model due to its luxury-inspired beginnings. Up-and-coming designers, like Nina Chanel Abney, are drawn to the model for the same reasons, and are continuing the legacy set forth by Vashtie.
The Air Jordan 2 turned 35 years old this year, and Off-White, Union, J Balvin, Nina Chanel Abney are some of the creatives tapped by Jordan Brand for their take on the venerable style. Off-White’s version features vintage-inspired details meant to mimic the appearance of one of Michael’s game-worn pairs. Union’s Jordan 2 is done up in the popular retailer’s signature colorful aesthetic. J Balvin opts for a cloud-like look, and Abney’s two colorways look as though they’re straight outta ‘87.
Key releases in 2021-22: Off-White x Air Jordan 2 Low “Chicago” & “Black/Blue” / Union x Air Jordan 2 “Rattan” & “Grey Fog” / J Balvin x Air Jordan 2 / Nina Chanel Abney x Women’s Air Jordan 2 “Gym Red” & Women’s Air Jordan 2 Low “White Malachite” / A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 2 / Maison Château Rouge x Air Jordan 2.
Nike Air Trainer 1
Depending on who you ask, the Nike Air Trainer 1 may be the most underrated shoe designed by Tinker Hatfield. The design was originally released in 1987 and worn by the great John McEnroe on the tennis court, although technically the Air Trainer 1 is the first-ever cross-training shoe, meaning it was built for mult-sport use as Bo Jackson, a multi-sport athlete himself, also wore the shoe back in the day.
Getting back to the Air Trainer 1 being underrated, at the time of its release, not even Nike thought it would succeed. Supposedly, higher-ups at the brand weren’t too enamored with the idea of a multi-purpose shoe, and were afraid it would cut into sales in two of the brand’s biggest categories: basketball and running. In the end, the Air Trainer 1 prevailed, and is now enjoying another run in 35 years after some thought it would be the shoe that would cost Tinker his job with Nike.
In addition to the Air Trainer 1’s original “Chlorophyll” colorway returning this year, Travis Scott has also collaborated with Nike on two very modern versions of the shoe.
Key releases from 2022: Nike Air Trainer 1 “Chlorophyll” / Travis Scott x Nike Air Trainer 1 “Grey Haze” & Coriander” / Nike Air Trainer 1 SP “Dark Smoke Grey” / Nike Air Trainer 1 “Midnight Navy”
Nike Air Max Penny 1
Michael Jordan’s first retirement from basketball was a downer. But it wasn’t all bad. In Jordan’s absence, the sport found new stars in players like Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, who proved to be every bit as marketable as Jordan was, and then some. Penny’s first signature shoe, the Nike Air Max Penny 1, was met with instant praise by sneaker collectors in 1995, and his “‘Lil Penny” commercials co-starring Chris Rock as the affable “‘Lil Penny” were a crossover hit. The Air Max Penny 1 began one of the most popular athlete shoe lines in sneakers history, and helped bridge the gap between sports and pop culture.
The Air Max Penny 1 is back on timelines this year because Nike has, finally, decided to bring back its original “Orlando” and “Home” colorways, the latter of which is returning for the first time since its original release in ‘95. Adding to the hype are two colorways designed by Social Status, which mostly keep the shoe’s original design intact, save for a few subtle modifications.
Key releases in 2022: Nike Air Max Penny 1 “Orlando” & “Home” / Social Status x Nike Air Max Penny 1 “Recess – Black” & “Desert Sand”