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24th December 2022 EDT FEATURES

The Best Jordan Brand Collabs of 2022

Pity the guy tasked with coming up with the Best Sneakers of the Year listicle. Coming up with 2022's top 5 Jordan collaborations already feels like squeezing water from a stone.

The Best Jordan Brand Collabs of 2022
The Best Jordan Brand Collabs of 2022

By Charles Basa

Every year Jordan Brand expands its collaborative portfolio and every time, they draw more eyes than an animator in Madhouse. MJ-worn models will always be highly-coveted, no matter the plethora of iterations there’ve been. The familiar becomes novel once more, however, whenever it becomes a canvas for collaboration, more so from a partner with a good track record (Union LA, Maison Château Rouge, A Ma Maniére), or one heretofore uncalled (Bephies Beauty Supply, Nina Chanel Abney).

There’re many names that have picked up the brush in years past, and some return once more. Time will tell whether they’ll be considered “grails” once decades removed. When they’re not made of bronze or ceramic in Jerusalem, they’re made of leather and rubber in (Nike’s factory) China. For the author’s sake, in no particular order:

1. Union LA x Nike Air Jordan 2

Chris Gibbs and his Union crew have enjoyed plenty of time in the sun this year while under the shade of the Nike umbrella. In early 2022, the two parties delivered a trifecta of Dunk Lows, subsumed under the “Passport Pack” to critical acclaim from the sneaker community. The bar was set—only set so high that solely His Airness could reach it. Hence, the Jumpman partnership.

The Air Jordan 2 was always overshadowed by its predecessor and successors. The superstitious would surmise all the 2s in 2022 had anything to do with it, but this year saw the Bruce Kilgore–Peter Moore design take centerstage aplenty. Case in point.

Quite literally, the model has seen some Highs and Lows with J Balvin, Detroit’s Two 18, South Africa’s Shelflife, and Manila’s TITAN cooking up their own take. There’s no metric to clearly define why Union’s made our list over the others, other than that art is subjective. Beauty is, in the eye of the beholder.

Released under the “Future Is Now” collection, the “Grey Fog” and “Rattan” colorways embody the aesthetic of a ‘future utopia’, a design derivative of flight jackets and pants. The signature yellow Union tags adorn the pairs on the eyestays with another military-inspired gracing the collar. It presides over subtle floral embossment summoning an elegance rarely seen on a basketball silhouette.

Even if the shoes don’t land too high on another list, it has a whole cavalry of apparel to cushion its fall. Viewing it holistically with the rest of the vibrant collection may just be its gambit.

2. Maison Château Rouge x Nike Air Jordan 2 “United Youth National”

Allow us to reiterate: 2022 belongs to the Jordan 2; getting a view from the mountaintop that’s long eluded it, a three-decade climb concluded.

Paris. A fashion mecca, a gastronomical melting pot, an architectural hub, epicenter of all things art, and home to boutique studio, Maison Château Rouge. With such a rich artistic pedigree, there must be something in the water at Paname, and founders, Youssouf Fofana and brother Mamadou have been drinking from it.

There throughout their body of work, the amalgam of French sartorial sensibilities and African proclivities for color. They’re not just products of their environments, they’re products of their heritage. That link bridge is deeply embedded in their design DNA, and it shows on their overhaul of the AJ 2.

For us, it’s beyond the unique color palette or the branding. It’s the striking features that roar like a whisper. It’s how the subtleties of each work homogeneously. It’s the serrated trimming adjacent to the brogueing; it’s the exposed stitching and debossed finish on the tongue and quarter panels; it’s the accenting on the laces and aglets; it’s the hidden gem on the insoles, depicting Michael Jordan as a young Chicago Bull.

Most collaborations involve elements of storytelling, and Maison Château Rouge is an artful raconteur.

3. A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 4 “Violet Ore”

It could’ve been a hat-trick for the Jordan 2 like Kylian Mbappé in the recent World Cup final. A Ma Maniére’s Air Jordan 2 “Airness” would’ve made the cut, were this a top 10 list.

There’s hardly any color that’s still untouched by a designer in the status quo. Colors run amok like it’s The Purge and the Jordans walk with a target on its back. But Atlanta’s A Ma Maniére stick to their guns. A vibrant palette surely is eye-catching, yet at times an eyesore.

To much relief, that’s never been their MO either. They’re a brand that’s self-aware and self-assured. They’re counter culture within culture. Living up to their name, A Ma Maniére is in French, “My Way”.

Their identity, their DNA is strongly embedded into their Air Jordan 4. It’s in the uniformity of the upper, the purple and mahogany hues that makeup the “Violet Ore”. It’s how they transform a beast (on the hardwood court) to a cavalier, balancing playfulness and austerity. It’s a pair with depth. Like a Christopher Nolan film, the more you inspect its intricacies, the better it gets.

It starts with the dual-branded tongue labels, then the quilted sockliner and footbed; the AMM-engraved stud embellishments on the lateral ankle panels; the yellowed midsoles channeling a vintage charm; and finally, the piece of wisdom imprinted on the underside of the pull tab: “It’s not about the shoes… it’s about where you’re going,” borrowed from a famous Jordan Brand commercial.

4. Zion Williamson x Air Jordan 1 Low “Voodoo”

Zion Williamson may have been injured for most of the last season but that hasn’t blinded Jordan Brand from the potential of their golden boy. Since joining their roster, they’ve completely indulged him, while indulging in his prospect.

All things considered, they’ve allowed him some of the most interesting PEs, even before getting his own signature. For instance: The Air Jordan 34 “Bayou Boys” PE. Thereafter, the Naruto x Jordan Zion 1; and now—the Air Jordan 1 Low “Voodoo”. The titular colorway lands on the Zion 2 as well but of course, it’s the brand quintessence that enters the list.

New Orleans, his team’s home ground, has many claims to fame. It’s known for the Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, Lil Wayne, but just as much—is its black magic legend. A connection that serves as the pack’s motif.

Designed to resemble a ragtag voodoo doll, the patchwork construction fuses suede, canvas, and hemp. The colors dance between each side disparately with no intentions other than to introduce beauty in the madness. This’s further manifested through the upside-down Nike branding on the tongue tag and the Jordan Wings logo on the heel collar flap.

Other fineries regale the pair through the various decorative stitching on its body. From the ones along the Swooshes, on the precipice of the quarter panels; and to the most discerning eye, the Sashiko on the toe box. The graphics on the insoles is reminiscent of Tim Burton’s design of a Christmas film.

Last but far from being the least, the final ingredients of the spell are mixed into the pot through the skull embroidery on the lateral heel panel, the reverse Swoosh on the mudguard, and the embroidered scuffing spread over the rest of the body.

It breaks every traditional rule of design. On paper, it’s ugly. It must be voodoo that makes is so compelling.

5. Travis Scott x Nike Air Jordan 1 Low “Reverse Mocha”

The series of Travis Scott’s Air Jordan 1s is the embodiment of a perfect storm. A tour de force, a locomotion built up over years, the mise en place time perfected. Both their names and history have been discussed ad nauseam yet when they come together to cook, pandemonium ensues outside that kitchen. La Flame has had many shoes bearing his name, but the juggernaut that his AJ 1s are, makes everything else seem like a footnote.

Two of the biggest sneaker releases of the year, the podium shared between the titular “Reverse Mocha” and the “Black Phantom”. The conversation about each drop started months prior with every leaked image scrutinized and discussed. To think the discourse would wane, but even when fatigue rears its ugly head, it’s wearing Travis’s balaclava.

By now, it seems formulaic but it’s a formula tried and tested. The “Reverse Mocha” bears all of the collaboration’s hallmarks: from the signature oversized reverse Swoosh on the lateral, to the “Cactus Jack” branding on the border of the tongue. The design culminates on the disparate embroidery of the parties’ insignias on the heel counter. Add an easy color palette, and there’s another Travis Scott sneaker that’s as alluring as the aroma of it’s coffee namesake.

Listicles are difficult to make especially when options are exhaustive. Here’re the honorable mentions that may rank higher on another list:

  1. Eastside Golf x Air Jordan 1 High Golf “Out the Mud”
  2. Bephies Beauty Supply x Air Jordan 7 Retro SP 
  3. J Balvin x Air Jordan 2
  4. CLOT x Air Jordan 5 Low “Jade”
  5. CLOT x Jordan Delta 2 SP “Flint”
  6. Trophy Room x Air Jordan 7 “New Sheriff in Town”

More Best of 2022 Features:

2022’s Best-Selling Travis Scott x Nike Sneakers on SNKRDUNK
The Best New Balance Collabs of 2022
The Best-Selling Air Jordan Sneakers of 2022 on SNKRDUNK