by Steve Jaconetta

It’s not uncommon for sneakers to change in design from the sample stages to the finished product. While sometimes it might only be a small difference, other times it’s a complete makeover. Below we highlight 15 Air Jordan’s that were released differently from their original samples.


Air Jordan 1 Retro High ‘Banned’ (2011)
The ‘Banned’ Air Jordan 1 Retro High was made to commemorate the NBA’s decision to ban the shoe in 1985. Coming in the original black/red colorway, this original version of this shoe featured black ‘X’s’ covering all the branding of the shoe. However, when they were released a year after the first sample images surfaced, the final production had changed. The leather was changed, to look more like the originals, all the black ‘X’ logos were removed. Original ‘Nike Air’ branding returned, a red ‘X’ was added to the back heels and printed liners and insoles finished each pair off. To top it off, they came in the first retro ‘OG’ AJ1 box.


Air Jordan 2 Retro ‘Eminem’ (2008)
Most remember the first image of the ‘Eminem’ Air Jordan 2 Retro coming straight from Em’s manager, when he had his release party for his ‘The Way I Am’ book, a different pair was on display. The sample pair, which mainly covered by a t-shirt sported an all-black upper with song lyrics throughout. As we all know, the pair that released featured lyrics on the collar and wrapping around the toe with grey on the upper, to break some of the black apart.


Air Jordan 3 Retro Flip ‘White/Black’ (2007)
Originally called the ‘Heltor Skeltor’ edition, the Air Jordan 3 Retro Flip was first seen in late 2006. This marked the first time Jordan Brand had taken the iconic elephant print detailing and placed it on the entire upper of the shoe. When the first sample was seen, the shoe sported red accents. When they were officially released in 2007, the red was replaced by metallic silver.


Air Jordan 3 Retro ‘Black/Cement’ (2011)
When Jordan Brand celebrated the 23rd Anniversary of the Air Jordan III in 2011, many people were expecting to see a few OG’s return. What everyone did not forsee was the return of the black/cement colorway. Mainly due to them releasing a few years prior, in 2008. However once they were confirmed to drop, samples popped up. Only this time, they shoe sported a black nubuck upper. Instantly causing an uproar, this material changed was later replaced and the shoe released to the public with its original leather upper.


Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘White/Cement’ (2012)
After a thirteen year absence, the white/cement grey Air Jordan 4 Retro made its highly anticipated return in 2012. While the pair we are all familiar with is close enough to the original as we could get, that wasn’t the intended plan. In fact, they were going to be released in ‘Tech Grey,’ featuring an entirely grey outsole, a different speckle look on the midsole and back heel and a solid grey wing strap.


Air Jordan 5 Retro Women’s ‘Sunset’ (2006)
This Women’s Air Jordan 5 Retro was originally designed to match the Bobcats team colors at the time. The original sample version featured a white-based upper with grey accents on the liner, tongue and midsole. When released, white and fire red replaced all the grey and a colored outsole was added, taking the ‘Bobcats’ element completely out of the design.


Air Jordan 6 Retro+ ‘Black/Infared’ (2000)
After the Air Jordan IV and V were retroed, it was time for the AJ6 to get its turn in 2000. Kicking things off was the original black/infrared colorway. However, they were originally set to come back as a Retro+, featuring a full infared midsole and ‘Nike Air’ branding on the back heel. When they released, they were more true to the OG’s, featuring less infrared on the midsole and the back heel branding in black.


Air Jordan 7 Retro ‘60+ Magic’ (2009)
When word of a ‘60+’ DMP came about, various colorway descriptions were floating around the sneaker world. When released, we saw a new take on the OG ‘Charcoal’ colorway alongside a new white-based Orlando Magic-inspired pair. Somewhere in between the design process, the theme for the ‘Orlando’ pair was changed a few times. One of the variations was a ‘Pinstripe’ pair, inspired by the original Magic uni’s.


Air Jordan 7 Retro ‘Golden Moments’ (2012)
The Air Jordan GMP was released in 2002, in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Dream Team. Featuring a white-based Air Jordan 6 Retro and an Air Jordan 7 Retro, both pairs complete with gold detailing, packaged in special ‘USA’ themed drawstring bags. The original plan was for the design found on the bags to be featured on the AJ7. However, JB scrapped the plans and released the shoe with a cleaner look instead.


Air Jordan X ‘Shadow’ (1994)
The infamous ‘Toe Cap.’ By now, you all know the story of the short-lived added leather on the toe of the Air Jordan X. It was only featured on the original ‘Steel Grey’ colorway as MJ himself hated it and requested it be removed from all future productions. However, the first three colorways, including the ‘Shadow’ edition were originally made, sporting the ‘Toe Cap.’ With nubuck on the upper of this colorway, it was a great choice by MJ to do away with the added leather, for the cleaner look we are all familiar with today.


Air Jordan 11 Retro ‘Cool Grey’ (2010)
This is a case of a great shoe that could’ve been re-released horribly wrong. While most people might be un-aware, there was a point in time when Jordan Brand was toying with the idea of bringing back the coveted ‘Cool Grey’ Air Jordan 11 Retro with a twist in 2010. Original samples called for the shoe to feature a full mesh upper, like the ‘Concord’s,’ and not nubuck like their original 2001 predecessor. Thankfully, Jordan Brand decided against it and their re-release was not tarnished in any way.


Air Jordan 11 Retro Low ‘Tuxedo’ (2013)
After seeing them on the feet of MJ, a white, black and red Air Jordan 11 Retro Low was quickly confirmed to be released one year after they debuted. The second consecutive summer AJ11 Low drop, they released in June of 2013 sporting a black-based upper with white patent leather and an icy outsole. This was different from MJ’s pair as the red liner and outsole was absent, leaving his version unreleased.


Air Jordan 12 Retro ‘French Blue’ (2004)
The ‘French Blue’ Air Jordan 12 Retro was originally themed around the Washington Wizards. However, when the Wiz fired MJ shortly after his final season, JB decided to scrap their original plan and go in a different route. The original version came in white, sport royal and metallic copper. Featuring a black outsole and detailing with copper accents. All of that was replaced, and the shoe that dropped featured french blue in place of royal, with added silver and red accents. The outsole was also changed black to blue.


Air Jordan XIV Low ‘Columbia’ (1999)
The Air Jordan XIV, like the XIII featured different styles on the upper. Some pairs had perforated holes throughout while others did not. Originally, the ‘Columbia’ low top was going to release in-line with the ‘Royal’ and ‘Ginger’ versions, without perforations, just with a leather upper. However, the final decision was to drop them with a perforated upper, similar to the ‘UNC’ exclusive, instead.


Air Jordan 14 Retro ‘CDP’ (2008)
Much like the story goes for a lot of early information on the Jordan Countdown Pack series, many colorways throughout the twelve packs were rumored to be this pair or, that pair. Along with that was color placement. When an official colorway was announced for the Air Jordan 14 Retro, people immediately began photoshopping their ideas. The actual release, was notably different from early descriptions. However, the pair that dropped was not that far off from an early sample. Inspired by the Bulls pinstripe uniforms, the AJ14 packaged with an AJ9 featured a black-based nubuck upper with white contrast stitching. The sample version featured red stitching instead, as well as a red outsole and an extra hit of red on the back heel.


Steve Jaconetta is the Release Dates & Archive Editor of Sole Collector and you can follow him on Twitter here.