Photos: @ByAnthonyTaylor

Time determines which pieces become true classics, well after they’re no longer shiny and new. This notion of nostalgic wear and tear was the foundation for the Air Jordan x Union Los Angeles capsule collaboration, which includes “perfectly imperfect” Air Jordan Is, T-shirts, sweatshirts and pants.

Chris Gibbs, owner of Union Los Angeles, combined his love of weathered, vintage finds with a general muse —  someone who’s been wearing Air Jordan Is for a long time and goes out of his or her way to repair them. He imagined these restorations looking “chopped and screwed,” as if the bottom half of one shoe was sewn onto the top half of another, with similarly combined tongues and laces.

Though Gibbs’ favorite Air Jordan is the AJIII, he and the Jordan NRG design team intentionally chose the Air Jordan I for its emotional impact. “This design is meant to embody the feeling you get from the AJI,” says Gibbs. “It’s one of the all-time classic silhouettes that’s going to continually span generations.” The Air Jordan I Retro High NRG “Union” combines the top of the 1985 “White / Natural Grey” AJI with the bottom of the “White / Black — Red” AJI, also known as the “Black Toe.”

Gibbs and Jordan NRG design re-studied the look and feel of the original 1985 AJI and figured out multiple methods for creating a carefully distressed 2018 version. This includes thicker leather, a nubuck Swoosh, tongue and ankle stitching, a yellowed midsole, exposed foam on the tongue and curling edges. It took nine attempts to achieve the fuzzy ankle and heel on the AJI “Union,” in order to match the 1985 AJI.

The enlarged Wings logo references a special makeup model that MJ played in for a few games — what would later be called the AJ1.5. It had the upper of an AJI and the outsole of the forthcoming AJII. The “imperfect” Wings logo placement and sizing were applied to the AJI “Union,” including the extension of the logo onto the stitching.

The insole graphic and tissue paper designs were taken from an instructive sketch made by Jordan designer, Paul Savovici, during a meeting between the two teams. On the apparel side, Gibbs studied the draping and washes of vintage pieces to replicate their look, fit and feel.

Below are pieces from the Department of Nike Archives that directly inspired the Air Jordan x Union Los Angeles capsule.


The Air Jordan x Union Los Angeles capsule is available starting November 17 at select retailers. The White, Black, Varsity Red, Grey AJI will be available on SNKRS in EMEA, Greater China and North America. The White, Storm Blue, Black and Varsity Red AJI will be available exclusively at Union.