Introduction to
the Air Jordan 21

Air Jordan 21

A year after the intensely retrospective, twentieth-anniversary model that paid homage to the brand’s inspiration and history, Jordan released a new Air Jordan with a distinctly forward-looking attitude. The game was now in the hands of young people who didn’t grow up watching MJ play. For them, Jordan was an icon of history, rather than a current cultural touchstone. It was time to create a new generation of Jordans for a new generation of players.

AJ 21 Design and Features

Jordan Brand entrusted the vision for a new generation of sneakers to D’Wayne Edwards, a self-made footwear designer who got his start just out of high school. With no formal training, he got noticed when he started dropping sketches in the suggestion box at LA Gear, where he worked filing papers. Years later, he had moved up to a high-level design position at Nike and Jordan. The 21 was the first Jordan for which he was the lead designer.

Edwards was initially known for the futuristic look of his designs. Despite that, his first Jordan stripped the shoe down to basics with a classic, visually minimal design that recalled the brand’s roots while still incorporating the high-level tech that Jordan is known for.

Air Jordan 21 Days of flight

At first sight, the Air Jordan 21 screams luxury. Rendered in full-grain Italian leather or rich Italian suede, the upper draws on the lines of the Bentley Continental GT Coupe. The luxury car inspiration continues in the mesh midsole panels that imitate the car’s grill. Finally, metal detailing completes the sports car tribute on this stylishly understated, premium interpretation of the basketball sneaker.

However, the Jordan 21’s sleek, minimalist façade held a “dark” secret (literally). When viewed under a black light, text appeared printed on the leather. In some colorways, this text was placed on the inside ankle window and on others, it was on the inside of the tongue. A code that could be found on the Jordan website at the time indicated certain letters from the text, which, when re-arranged, spelled out the word “authentic” and helped reduce counterfeits and fakes.

Technology and Construction of

Air Jordan 21

The Air Jordan 21’s high-tech features weren’t limited to black light text. The 21s built on the previous year’s variable-support “IPS” (Independent Podular Suspension) system with a clever new development. True to the name, this year, the IPS foam pods were genuinely modular, allowing consumers to swap out the heel cushion. This allowed the wearer to choose between encapsulated air cushions and the Nike Zoom heel pillar at will (only on the standard model, as low-top versions did not have the interchangeable pods).

Continuing the theme of modularity and customization, the tongue featured a cover that could be flipped up to expose breathable mesh for play or flipped down to create a more elegant look off the court.

Other high tech features, including the super lightweight carbon fiber shank and the low-profile Phylon midsole, carried over from previous releases to ensure an exceptionally light, high-performance shoe.

Air Jordan 21 days of flight

AJ 21 Colorways, Retros, and Collectability

In keeping with its stripped-down aesthetic, the Jordan 21 did away with previous years' regional release packs. It came out in five standard and two low-top colorways:

Low White / University Blue – Metallic Silver

Air Jordan 21 White/Blue/Silver

Light Graphite / Metallic Silver / White / University Blue

Air Jordan 21 Light Graphite / Metallic Silver / White / University Blue

White / Metallic Silver – Black

Air Jordan 21 White/Silver/Black

Low Black / Varsity Red

Air Jordan 21 Black/Red

Of these original releases, the Varsity Red and Light Graphite hi-top models along with the Low Black model featured suede uppers while the rest had leather uppers. After the original releases in 2006, the 21 was re-issued in 2008 as part of the Countdown Pack and in 2013 as part of the “28 Days of Flight” countdown.

When purchasing a pair of Air Jordan 21s, all the normal care and maintenance for collectable sneakers applies. Keep them in a cool, dry place and, for longer-term storage, remove them from the original box and paper. Store them in a Ziploc bag with as much air as possible forced out of the bag to avoid yellowing of the soles. Be sure to periodically air out sneakers that are in long-term storage. Beyond the usual maintenance, suede models should not be allowed to get wet, as water ruins suede.

Jordans Release Dates, News and Articles

Attention all sneakerheads and basketball fans! Read all about the oldest and latest Jordan releases on the eBay Sneaker Hub. From iconic retro styles to new collaborations, you'll find everything you need to know to complete your Jordan collection.