It's impossible to single out one pair of Air Jordans as the rarest in the world. There's several one-offs, as well as a few mysterious samples that can't or haven't been explained. However, Kris Arnold can make the claim that he at least owns one of the rarest Air Jordans, and he stopped by Sole Collector's Full Size Run last week to share the story of how he obtained this likely unicorn.
During the early 90s, Arnold worked as an account executive at ProServ, a sports management firm that included Michael Jordan as one of its clients. Among the many projects ProServ worked on for Jordan was helping put together his Nike deal. Jordan had parted ways with the company a year early, prompting an office cleanout of gear that had been stored and displayed. When Arnold saw two Air Jordan sneakers on the verge of being tossed out, he asked if he could take them instead. The shoes were early production samples of the original “Chicago” and “Black Toe” Air Jordan 1s.
“I happened to be there in my office while it was happening and I said, 'No, I’ll take those.’” Arnold told us in a 2015 interview. “They were going to just throw them in the trash. That’s what they would’ve done hands down.”
At first glance, one may not notice the differences between Arnold's shoes and the pairs that actually released, but there are distinguishing features. For example, the overall shape of the samples is a bit more sleek, the cut is lower, the Swooshes are larger, the toebox cut is minimal and there's subtle differences on the outsole.
To date, Arnold has received big money offers for his Jordans, but not one that has seriously made him consider selling. With that said, he hasn't completely ruled out parting with the shoes.
See Arnold discuss his rare samples in the video above, which also includes segments on the new Spike Lee x Air Jordan 1, DJ Khaled x Air Jordan 3, Lonzo Ball x Foot Locker and more. Subscribe to Full Size Size Run on YouTube and iTunes for future episodes
There's little that Bayern Munich and German National Team star defender Jerome Boateng hasn't accomplished in his career. He's won the Champions League, World Cup, and five Bundesliga titles in a row. He's also a huge Nike athlete and sneakerhead, and he's reaped all the benefits of being hooked up by the Swoosh to feed his footwear addiction.
He recently stopped by the Complex office to talk to Sole Collector producer Rich “Maze” Lopez over a game of foosball to talk about beating Brazil 7-1 in the 2014 World Cup, his footballing career, and how he's able to get so many hyped sneakers. To find out what he had to say, watch the video above.
The past few years have been a strange time for the once-mighty Jordan Brand. The company has been instrumental at nearly every defining instance of footwear culture in North America, but recent days have seen the rise of Adidas and an increased popularity in lifestyle running sneakers. The brand’s making more sneakers than ever, and making them pricier than before, so the mystique that Jordans are impossible to get has all but faded. But this new set of business challenges also brings an exciting time for consumers: Jordan Brand has been forced to try new things instead of re-releasing the same sneaker over and over and over and over…
This year has seen Jordan Brand take on big-time collaborations and ways to rejuvenate its business through storytelling and product that feels special, rather than mass-produced sneakers that are passé. As a result the company is trying special release strategies and even releasing player-edition sneakers to the public. It’s been an interesting six months to say the least. With that said, here are the best Air Jordans of the year so far. —Matt Welty
10. Air Jordan IV “Royalty”
Here’s a recipe for success: Take a good shoe, make it with good materials, and do it in a colorway that doesn’t suck. That’s what Jordan Brand did with the “Royalty” IV, and the results were great. It was black, white, and gold, a combination that looks good on any sneaker. There’s not much to say other than an Air Jordan IV will always be good and simple color schemes reign supreme. —Matt Welty
9. OVO x Jordan Trunner
Drake’s ongoing collaboration with Jordan Brand has drawn the ire of true footwear connoisseurs, and the Xs and XIIs that he’s slapped with OVO branding are starting to feel really tired. Instead of reworking another silhouette that’s been reworked a handful of times already, Drake and Jordan Brand decided to take a surprise approach with the release of an OVO Jordan Trunner at the grand opening of Toronto’s Jordan Brand store, and it was just what the company needed to break up the monotony of its biggest partnership right now.
The shoe was good for several reasons. If you’re not a fan of basketball sneakers in general, it’s really, really hard to get into the faux nostalgia that helps push Jordan Brand forward. And getting a pair of running sneakers from the brand is like looking for the vegan options at a steakhouse: you’re going to be disappointed no matter what. But the Trunner is something different all together. It’s not trying to be something that Jordan Brand is not — it’s the one training shoe for the person who loves the Jumpman. The black-and-white colorblocking didn’t feel played out on the Trunner, and the OVO owl on the heel was just enough to satisfy Drake fans, especially those who have been into his Stone Island-heavy, European-inspired looks as of late. —Matt Welty
8. Air Jordan IV “Pure Money”
The Air Jordan IV was always more of a technological accomplishment than a design one, as Tinker Hatfield essentially created a lighter-weight version of the Air Jordan III using the best technology available to him in 1988. Mesh inserts both cut weight and provided far better ventilation, while synthetic “wings” provided extra support. Other than that, the sole units and cut were fairly similar, while an ACG-esque spatter treatment on the midsole and “Flight” patch on the tongue did more to separate it stylistically from its predecessor.
The somewhat busy design is perhaps best appreciated in a simple makeup, hence the all-black “Black Cat” and all-white “Pure Money” makeups. Released just in time for the start of summer, the “Pure Money” re-retro features hits of chrome on the lace loops, just enough shine to draw attention but not too much. For a 12-year-old take on a 27-year-old shoe, the “Pure Money” Air Jordan IV still shines. —Russ Bengtson
7. Air Jordan XXX1 “Russell Westbrook PE”
Ever since Michael Jordan retired, Jordan Brand has had to find another endorser to be the primary face of the flagship shoe. For a while it was Dwyane Wade. Now it’s Russell Westbrook, who’s been holding it down since the shrouded Air Jordan 28. As the standard bearer, he’s gotten special makeups of each, some of which have reached the marketplace—remember the WHY NOT? 28s? This year, he got the most special one of all.
Westbrook’s Air Jordan XXX1 PE was more of a XXX.5, the woven upper of the XXX1 paired with the sole unit of the XXX, which Westbrook preferred. It’s not often a hybrid like this gets offered at retail—it took Jordan 30 years to actually release the Jordan 1.5 that Mike wore in ‘86. Inspired by his coveted Air Jordan III PE, Westbrook’s XXX1 featured cement print on the heel/ankle area along with hits of Thunder blue and orange. The ultimate would have been to release it in a pack WITH the III, but alas, we can’t have everything. At least, not yet. —Russ Bengtson
6. Atmos x Air Jordan III
Nike has started to give people what they want, and the brand’s done so in the form of letting its fans vote on which classic Air Max model they want to be brought back each year for Air Max Day. Last year people voted for Atmos’s “Elephant” Air Max 1 from 2007 to be retroed, and Nike kept its promise on making the shoe return. But the brand didn’t stop there, and also let the Japanese retailer also work on the Air Jordan III, outfitting it in a colorway similar to its “Safari” Air Max 1, the first-ever collaboration on the sneaker, which released in 2003. The sneaker was an odd choice for sure. To put it simple: The majority of those who really freak out over Air Maxes typically live in Europe, where Jordans don’t share the same popularity as they do in the States. But for those who are more inclined to basketball sneakers, the Atmos collaboration was just what they were looking for. It came with black suede, Safari print that replaced the sneaker’s typical Cement print, an icey sole, and the icing on the cake: “Nike Air” on the heel.
It was an execution so solid that even Air Max enthusiasts were impressed with the sneaker. And they had to be, because it was only sold in a limited-edition pack with the bringback of the Air Max 1 and came with a retail price of $400. That pack now resells for an average of over $1,000. While the Air Max 1 from the duo is infinitely better than the Air Jordan III, you can’t fault Jordan Brand for trying to bring some much-needed buzz to their brand in the form of an offbeat collaboration. —Matt Welty
5. Air Jordan IV “Do the Right Thing”
As he tells it, Spike Lee wasn’t a huge fan of the Air Jordan IV when he first saw them in the summer of 1988. So rather than wear them himself as Mookie in 1989’sDo the Right Thing, he instead blessed Giancarlo Esposito and his character Buggin’ Out. From that, one of the iconic sneaker scenes in movie history was born—Buggin’ Out’s pristine Jordans marred by a careless pedestrian pushing a bike on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Even worse, a careless white pedestrian, in a Larry Bird jersey, no less. It’s one of the best scenes in the movie, one that effortlessly cut drama with humor, and one that firmly imprinted the importance of sneakers on celluloid.
For the release of the IV-inspired Fly 89 casual runner, Jordan made up a super-limited run of Do the Right Thing inspired white/cement IVs, right down to the NIKE AIR heeltab, the African-inspired wrap on the laces (something Esposito did himself to the pair he wore in the movie), the unconventional lacing, and—of course—the scuff. As movie sneakers go, these might not be as iconic as Back to the Future’s MAGs, but they’re a million times more wearable. And if the scuff bothers you as much as it did Buggin’ Out, well, Jordan provided a toothbrush to take care of that. Or try, at least. If only Martin Lawrence was around to provide commentary while you tried. —Russ Bengtson
4. Just Don x Air Jordan II “Arctic Orange”
The Air Jordan II is by no means the most popular Air Jordan sneaker, but when Don C got his hands on the silhouette, he gave it a new life. Taking a high-end luxury approach, the Just Don x Air Jordan IIs feature suede, quilted leather and leather lined insoles. The silhouette previously released in “Blue” and “Beach” colorways, so for the third installment Don C went in a completely different direction with an “Arctic Orange” colorway—which really looks more like a pale pink.
DJ Khaled was the first person to be seen with the new Just Don IIs, as he rocked them with a pink satin suit to announce the title of his forthcoming album Grateful. Shortly after, his son and fiancee were blessed with pairs, which ramped up hype for the release of the first Just Don x Air Jordan IIs coming in youth sizes. When official released information surfaced, it was announced that the sneakers would be available from toddler to grade school with sizes extending up to 9.5, which left out most guys out of copping a pair. It’s rumored that the “Arctic Orange” Just Don x Air Jordan IIs will re-release in full men’s sizes, but for now DJ Khaled and Just Dons are the only ones with pairs. —Amir Ismael
3. Air Jordan 1 “Royal”
As long as Jordan Brand keeps putting out original Air Jordan 1 colorways, people will buy them and that was surely the case for the “Royal” colorway. Following two of 2016’s Best Air Jordans—the “Black Toe” and “Banned” Air Jordan 1s—the “Royal” 1s came as huge treat for fans of the silhouette. When the sneakers last released in 2013, they were of a much lesser quality when compared to its 2001 predecessor. Still, the shoe sold out and even resold for hundreds of dollars more than the $140 retail price. Despite using a new tumbled leather, this year’s release was a breath of fresh air. The sneakers use a true high-top construction, Nike Air branding on the tongue and insole, and are packaged unlaced with extra royal blue laces, just like in 1985. These are an absolute must-have for any Air Jordan collector. —Amir Ismael
2. Air Jordan 1 “Satin Royal”
A lot of purists will say that making an Air Jordan 1 in satin is sacrilegious, and they have good reason: Making a shoe completely in a delicate fabric is counterintuitive to how you design sneakers. But there was something special about the “Satin” version of the “Royal” Air Jordan 1s.
For starters, Jordan Brand made 700 pairs, so people were going to want them regardless. But they were also following up last year’s “Bred” version of the shoe, which now resell for upwards of $2,000 a pair. Where Jordan Brand nailed it with the “Royal” version was the rollout. Many people will tell you that “Black/Royal” is the best colorway of the Air Jordan 1, and they’re not wrong. So it’s not hard to sell folks on the sneaker, but Jordan Brand decided to only launch them at Walter’s Clothing in Atlanta and Active Athlete in Houston, two old-school, mom-and-pop sneaker shops. It’s those details that elevated these “Satin” Air Jordan 1s to one of the best sneakers that the brand has put out this year so far. Because satin sneakers are stupid, except for these. —Matt Welty
1. KAWS x Air Jordan IV
If you call yourself a streetwear fan and you never were into KAWS, you don’t deserve to have say in what’s cool or not. Or you’re under the age of 15. The man has been at the heart of the culture for decades now, and everyone who’s had an interest in sneakers since the rise of hype culture on the Internet is familiar with his work and past collaborations. It took Jordan Brand sometime, however, to make a project happen with KAWS. And it was pretty damn solid.
The reaction to the KAWS x Air Jordan IV, however, was mixed when it first came to light. There were many who thought it was too simple or past its prime, but the execution on the collaboration was top notch. The suede was through the roof, and KAWS’ “hands” art was stitched throughout the upper. But the most important detail on the sneaker was the replacement of the “Nike Air” on the heel with “XX Air,” a nod to KAWS’ signature style (the same artwork came on the hangtag, too). The glow-in-the-dark outsole with the KAWS hands just added to the project, although an early sample showed that the sneaker first featured the Xs on the sole. When it comes down to it, what makes this sneaker great is that Jordan Brand took one of its best sneakers and made it a bit more covetable. It’s really, really easy to fuck these sort of things up, and KAWS and Jordan didn’t do that. So everyone is a bit more grateful. —Matt Welty
Reality star (Rob & Chyna, Keeping Up With The Kardashians) and cosmetics entrepreneur Blac Chyna is the latest guest on Complex's Sneaker Shopping with Joe La Puma. In a rare on-camera interview, Chyna visited Flight Club in Los Angeles to talk about her style growing up in Washington, D.C., and explained how how her daughter Dream gets Yeezys early.
In the episode, Chyna reminisces about growing up in D.C. and wearing a specific pair of New Balance sneakers. She goes on to talk about Nike Foamposites and Nike Boots, both of which are heavily popular in the area. She then goes on to explain when sneakerheads left negative comments over an outfit/sneaker combo she wore four years ago. In the end, she spends over $1,000 on two pairs of Air Jordans and one pair of Foamposites.
In 2013, three friends—Sean Wotherspoon, Chris Russow, and Luke Fracher—opened Round Two, a small boutique that specialized in vintage clothing, in Richmond, Virginia. Four years later, they’ve expanded to a second location in Los Angeles and become one of the best stores around.
“I always wanted to do well, and thought we were going to kill it, but I had no idea it was going to be the worldwide thing it has become,” Fracher says now.
Round Two initially started as a website with the same name. Russow and Wotherspoon used roundtwovintage.com as a platform to sell their thrifted vintage gear and sneakers. At the time, they operated their business out of a storage unit they filled with racks of clothing. They didn’t start looking into opening a store until months later. Fracher, who became friends with Wotherspoon because of shared interests in vintage and streetwear, reached out to Wotherspoon to help him sell his old Polo and Air Jordans.
The opportunity to open a brick and mortar came when a spot a couple blocks from the VCU campus opened up on Broad Street in Richmond, a 15-mile stretch that’s home to a lot of the retail shops in the city. The rent was affordable, so they jumped at the chance. “It was cheaper to run the store,” says Fracher. “So we were like, might as well try it.” The shop became the go-to spot for all of the local sneakerheads and vintage and streetwear collectors. “When I first moved to Richmond, there was a lot of cool boutiques, probably like four or five, but they all closed during the Recession,” Fracher adds. “We filled a void.”
In October 2015, Round Two opened its second location in L.A., between Fairfax Avenue and La Brea Avenue, and instantly saw success. There were roughly 100 people lined up outside of the shop during the grand opening. “I think it really popped because we had a great location, and the right people found out about us,” Round Two’s director of marketing, Justin Esposito, says.
Round Two found their niche in L.A.’s market selling a mix of vintage gear, streetwear, and sneakers. “I don't remember a time where I haven't been out at night or out at a spot where I didn’t see someone rocking a piece from our store,” says Esposito.
Their collection of vintage gear—including the Polo NASA jackets that can fetch between $2,000 and $3,000, and hundreds of ‘90s rap T-shirts—and rare streetwear pieces like Supreme box logo tees have attracted some of the biggest names in hip-hop and fashion today. ASAP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott, Lil Yachty, Kendall Jenner, ASAP Ferg, and Virgil Abloh are all fans. “Every time I’m not here I tell everybody in the world about this store,” Yachty has said in an episode of Round Two’s YouTube series, which they started in April 2015.
Even Tommy Hilfiger has stopped by Round Two. “Tommy Hilfiger was in Round Two buying every single piece of Tommy Hilfiger ‘cause he wanted to build an archive for himself,” Esposito recalls with a laugh. “He said he forgot to do it in the ‘90s. That's insane.”
Round Two’s founders credit their YouTube channel as the main reason for their rapid growth. Close to 95,000 subscribers tune in to get a look at their day-to-days and a behind the scenes look at what happens at their shops. They feature the staff buying, selling, and trading products, cameos from celebrity shoppers, and the staff in short skits that appear around halfway through each episode. The videos are around 50 minutes on average, but the lengthy presentation seems to have paid off for them. “I was hesitant and pushed back a little bit [at first],” Fracher says about Round Two’s YouTube channel, “but I'm obviously very fuckin' happy that we did it.”
In 2015, the shop also made noise when Wotherspoon posted photos of himself on Instagram dipping the highly-coveted Supreme x Air Jordan 5 in red paint. “We really noticed a spike in people coming to the store and discovering us for the first time after that happened,” says Esposito.
YouTube channel aside, they also credit Theophilus London, ASAP Bari, and Ian Connor for helping spread the word about Round Two. “[They] all came to the shop frequently the first summer we were open,” Esposito says. “Those three dudes kinda helped us set the tone for the store. They did a lot for the Round Two community.”
This past January, Round Two hosted pop-up shops in London and Paris during fashion week that they curated with some of their best vintage pieces. Both temporary stores were a success. “The first day in London we had a five-hour line,” says Fracher. “It was crazier than the Supreme line.” The pop-ups introduced them to a new audience and helped them get their foot in the high-fashion world, which they think is finally starting to accept the vintage and streetwear cultures. “It was cool being around that, and having brand new people really be into our room and what we’re doing,” says Esposito.
As their brand recognition continues to grow, Round Two aims to expand their reach. In addition to its two L.A. brick and mortars, Round Two now also has an appointment-only store on the block called The Gallery, where they carry their rarest and most expensive pieces, including original “Banned” Air Jordan 1s. This summer, they’ll be opening their first New York location, following the successful week-long pop-up shop at vintage boutique Procell they hosted in December 2016.
“We’re working towards preserving the culture permanently,” Esposito says. “I think Round Two is just going to get bigger and better.”
Post Malone, apparently, started balling when he was young, and anyone who does that needs a good pair of sneakers to boot. The Texas rapper has been spotted in his fair share of good shoes, and he's also the latest guest on Complex's Sneaker Shopping with Joe La Puma.
Post and Joe connected at the new Flight Club in Los Angeles, and the rapper purchased a pair of Jordans for his dad's birthday and talked about Justin Bieber's sneaker collection. He also attempted to get a fit off, with a pair of short shorts and flip flops.
To see what he purchased, watch the episode above.
It's tough to put a simple label on Jesse Williams. He's an actor. He's an activist. And he's also a sneakerhead. All of these worlds collided for the latest episode of Sneaker Shopping, where Williams and Joe La Puma met up at Kith in New York City to talk about a wide range of topics.
Growing up in Chicago, people would expect Williams to have fond memories of wearing Air Jordans during Michael Jordan's heyday, but that wasn't the case. It's well-documented that violence occurred over these shoes in the '90s, and this caused Williams' parents to not buy him Air Jordans growing up. But he was a huge fan of Scottie Pippen's Nike Uptempos.
In the episode, Williams also discusses the divide between new and old Adidas sneakers, in the wake of the brand's revolution with Boost technology and signing of Kanye West.
The NBA wouldn't be the same if it wasn't for Allen Iverson. His style on and off the court inspired a new generation of players to express themselves through the way they play the game and how they dress. He's also a sneaker legend, too, through his signature shoes with Reebok, which makes him the next—and most candid so far—guest on Sneaker Shopping.
Iverson and Joe La Puma connected at Lapstone & Hammer in Philadelphia, where he spent the majority of his NBA career, and kept it real about how much sneakers meant to him growing up: including a tale about how his mom got him a pair of Nike Air Revolutions back in the day, and his household ended up getting the lights shut off because of it. He talks about wanting to be Michael Jordan growing up and wishing they had Georgetown colorways of Air Jordans when he went to school there.
To see what he purchased, watch the episode above.
Boris Kunin is one of the many people who has capitalized on Supreme’s popularity. In fact, Kunin, Manhattan-based owner of reselling company Lyne Up, can sometimes sell up to $30,000 worth of Supreme merchandise to one client. Oh, and he’s only 17 years old.
Kunin became interested in streetwear after learning about the culture from his friends. From there, he realized he could make money reselling the brand after someone asked him to line up at a Supreme drop to buy the “S” logo cap. “I got paid $50 but right when I gave him the hat, he flipped it for $150 or $170,” he says. “Before that, I was purchasing stuff for myself and trading items. I wasn’t really reselling it. But that changed when I did the deal with that guy.”
In 2013, Kunin founded Lyne Up. With the help of his close friends, Kunin gets his clients the products they want—sometimes by lining up for them or buying it off of other resellers. “Our motto is ‘never line up ever again,’” says Kunin. “So we line up for you.”
We talked Kunin about Lyne Up, what his parents think of his business, his routine for a Thursday morning Supreme drop, and more.
What do you think makes Lyne Up different? What do you think makes people want to use your service as opposed to a bot or a cart service?
Well, a bot or a cart service is not human. And part of the reason people want to deal with me is because I get things even earlier than others. If you use a bot, it takes about five to six business days for the item to actually arrive. I also offer a cheaper service rate than bots.
You founded Lyne Up in 2013. What do you think has been the biggest change in the company since then?
It’s a different ballpark now. I used to sell to people who wanted one or two items. Now, I sell to people who want 300 to 400 items for their store. We also used to only resell Supreme. Now, it’s also Jordans, Bearbricks, memorabilia, collectibles, stuff like that.
What happens if someone asked you for an item and you weren't able to get it? Has that ever happened?
If the item isn’t available in-store or online anymore, but the client still wants it, it’ll cost them a premium price. If I’m not able to get it at all, I offer full refunds and coupons.
Yes, like a rebate for a future release. So, you get $10 or $20 off depending on your purchase. All you have to do is hit me up, and I get it done. I wanna keep your connection. That's what matters.
Who's the biggest or most famous client you've gotten an order from? How did they get in contact with you?
I can't really say the name, but it's a private client from California. He purchases a bunch of stuff every single week. On average, he spends about $20,000 to $30,000 a month, which is pretty good considering he himself purchases and sells it without a store. The dude is constantly looking for more items.
Does Supreme know about your Lyne Up business? Have they ever approached you about it?
There's one employee. Every time I enter the store he’s like, “Boris, what’s going on?” He probably does see that I don't wear the items I buy.
How lucrative is this business for you?
It depends on the week. But I guess you could say on average, half of what I make goes back to the company and the other half is profit.
You’re only 17 years old. Has that ever been an issue for customers?
I mean people do definitely feel a little discouraged by my age. People ask me how old I am and are like, “Why should I do business with a 17-year old?” But, listen, they gotta take a risk sometimes.
What do your parents think about your business?
They think it's really cool that I'm doing this. They fully support me.
What is a routine Supreme Thursday drop like for you?
When we get to Supreme, we start buying as many items as we can. Me and my team either purchase on the side of the street off other people or wait on line. After the day is over, we go back to my place and we count what we have for our customers. From there, we ship it out from our storage unit office.
I’m assuming you walk around with a lot of cash. Do you ever get nervous someone will rob you?
Of course I’ve thought about it. But I guess the best thing you could do is not look too flashy. Don't talk too much and get everything done in a fast, positive way.
Have you thought about opening a retail space?
I've actually done three pop-up shops before, and they were all successful. I guess you could say a retail space will be happening soon.
Anything you want to add?
Reselling is not for everyone.
For more on Kunin and Lyne Up, watch the video above starting at the 14:25 mark.
There's a nostalgic feeling around Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, whether he wants to admit it or not. He plays in Chicago, gets buckets, and is sponsored by Jordan Brand. Sounds familiar, right? He's also the latest guest on Complex's Sneaker Shopping with Joe La Puma, and they got together to browse the shelves at Saint Alfred, Chicago's finest sneaker boutique.
In the episode, Butler talks about playing basketball against Michael Jordan, but there's one thing he didn't do: Talk about Adidas, his former sponsor. He also got to visit the White House and meet Barack Obama, all while wearing a pair of Air Jordans. Turns out that Obama was feeling his bold style choice.