Known as a black sheep in the Air Jordan family, the Air Jordan 15 never spiked in popularity like its brothers and sisters did. This is partly because they debuted shortly after Michael Jordan’s second retirement, meaning MJ was never seen wearing them on the court. There are also a lot of comments on the design of the sneaker that some sneakerheads weren’t the biggest fans of. So were they bad sneakers, or were they just so ahead of their time that their futuristic nature will only be appreciated now? Either way, here are 13 of the best Air Jordan 15 Retro sneakers ever.
The first Air Jordan 15 debuted in 1999, shortly after Michael Jordan retired for the second time, and many people thought this would mean he was retired for good. The first colourway to debut was “Black/Varsity Red”. Unlike previous models of the Air Jordan line, these sneakers were never seen on the court (at least not by Michael Jordan himself), a phenomenon that would usually help cement a pair of Air Jordan sneakers in the history of basketball, as well as propel the team into the hearts of sneakerheads around the world. With that, many were happier about the longevity of the Air Jordan 15 sneakers.
The sneakers had five more colourways released in 2000 and three more in the low-top version later. Unfortunately, some of their fears came true because the sneakers are still regarded as one of the least favourites for many players and sneakerheads. However, this didn’t stop the sneakers from being retro-ed throughout the following decades, such as in 2007 and 2008. Loved more for their place in the history of the Air Jordan line, these are still high-quality sneakers, even if some fans aren’t in love with the design.
The Air Jordan 15 is known for having a hypersonic-inspired design. While previous Air Jordan models had been inspired by Michael Jordan’s interests or his many achievements, these sneakers took a bit of a left turn in their inspiration, which adds to fans not loving the model as much as some of the others. The model before this, the Air Jordan 14, had taken its inspiration from ultra-aerodynamic sports cars, a passion for Michael Jordan. However, Tinker Hatfield decided to up the ante and take his next bit of inspiration from another high-speed piece of machinery, the rocket-powered X-15 hypersonic plane, the fastest jet created at the time.
The actual design of the sneakers was the first Jordan sneakers to include a woven upper, which included a Kevlar mesh material across the upper half of the sneaker. It still had rubber for the pretty substantial sole. Still, interestingly most designs made a distinction between the forefoot, mid-foot and heel rather than a distinction between the outsole and the midsole. The heel of the upper looks like an extension of the heel, and it also includes a leather mudguard. One thing that most people didn’t love about the sneakers was the tongue that juts out towards the toe of the sneakers. This didn’t add to the sneaker’s aerodynamics; many felt it was a pointless design quirk. The sneakers performed poorly on the court, with critics saying they had an awkward fit and almost no ventilation with the mesh upper. These sneakers were made more for fashion than for performance. With many newer futuristic concept designs starting to look more and more like these sneakers, they might have just been before their time.
1. Laika x Air Jordan 15 Retro “Kubo and the Two Strings”
These unique sneakers came out of an even more unique collaboration with LAIKA studios and are a rare breed of sneakers inspired by a movie, 2016’s Kubo and the Two Strings, specifically. The intrigue of these sneakers has many facets. First, the left and right sneakers differ, with the right sneaker being predominantly black with blue accents. In contrast, the accents on the left sneaker are red. They are both zip-up sneakers that have done away with the signature tongue that many people didn’t like about the AJ15, an intelligent choice, some would say. Finally, the heel area of the left sneaker is a cross-hatched leather, while the right is shaggy fur. With so many exciting elements making up these unique sneakers, it’s no wonder they earn the top spot.
2. Air Jordan 15 Retro LS “Laser”
Including the signature woven Kevlar upper, a slightly softer protruding tongue, and a black rubber sole that comes up the back with a striped Pebax heel which displays the Jumpman logo, the intrigue of these sneakers is really driven by the laser-etched designs on the white leather overlay that technically makes up the mudguard. The design on the white leather depicts the patterned outsole of many of the previous Jordan models. With subtle branding and a subtle but still existent tongue, these sneakers are often a favourite from this line of Air Jordans.
3. Billie Eilish x WMNS Air Jordan 15 Retro
This bulky pair of sneakers fit perfectly with musician Billie Eilish’s alternative style. Her collaboration with the Jordan Brand is made of entirely vegan materials, with 20% recycled. Keeping the signature protruding tongue, made of an open mesh, the usual woven Kevlar mesh is replaced with a greyish-brown synthetic leather with panelling created with decorative stitching. The stunning muted tan fits perfectly with her aesthetic, and these would be a great addition to the collection of any fan of hers.
4. PSNY x Air Jordan 15 Retro High “Black” Sample
These are the most fabulous Air Jordan 15 shoes, but because they are more boots than sneakers, they don’t always come out on top. However, collaborations between Jordan Brand and clothing brand Public School NY produce exciting results. The construction of the actual foot unit is almost identical to that of most Air Jordan 15 sneakers, with a solid sole team and a Pebak heel counter. Still, the upper is constructed from suede instead of Kevlar Mesh. In addition, the usual protruding tongue extends up the shin to the knee to form futuristic-looking sci-fi boots. The only downside to these sneakers is that they are just a sample due to their innovative design and were never released to the public. However, you can buy a pair of size 6 boots for around $7,505 (R138,029.11 based on the exchange rate when writing this) if you really need them in your collection.
5. Air Jordan 15 SE “Olympic USA”
These sneakers were created to represent the USA in the 2008 Olympics. As a result, they made many changes to the original design of the AJ15. First, it ultimately did away with the protruding tongue that the silhouette is known for, choosing to have a relatively normal one instead. Keeping the woven Kevlar upper in a stark white that matches the leather overlay, the heel counter is also completely different. Usually covered in stripes that protrude from the Pebak, there is a more minor element of this in bright red, and instead, the sneaker uses a solid blue Pebak for most of the heel. This is also one of few models of the AJ15 that has both an outsole and a midsole, the former being blue and the latter white. With the red, blue, and white representing their flag, these sneakers are a proud tribute to the USA.
6. Air Jordan 15 Retro “Doernbecher”
Doernbecher Children’s Hospital’s Freestyle collection usually makes its way onto these lists, thanks to the great cause they support and the fact that they always succeed in creating some awesome designs. 2018 was the year that Donovon Dineen, a young patient at the hospital, designed these stunning Air Jordan 15 sneakers. Drawing inspiration from his love of anime, the sneakers have replaced the woven Kevlar upper with a black suede with subtle dragon-scale patterning. Other than that, the sneakers have slight changes, like the mid-outsole being a stunning metallic gold, the sneakers having Dineen’s birthdate on the heel, and the Japanese symbol for protection on the exposed interior tongue.
7. Air Jordan 15 Retro “Obsidian”
This pair of sneakers take inspiration from Nasa’s experimental aircraft from the 1960s, the X-15. The woven Kevlar mesh of the Air Jordan 15 “Obsidian” features an interesting detail of white woven in with the black. A deep obsidian black makes up most of the upper, including the leather overlay and the midfoot outsole. Crisp white contrast it on the open mesh tongue, the Pebak striated heel counter, and the rest of the outsole. An interesting detail about the construction of these sneakers is that, for some reason, the Jordan brand decided to only include Zoo Air cushioning in the heel, whereas it is usually included in the forefoot as well.
8. Air Jordan 15 Retro SE “Bragging Rights – UNC”
The Air Jordan 15 Retro SE “Bragging Rights – UNC” is very similar to the “Olympic USA” in construction and was designed for Michael Jordan’s alma mater, the University of North Carolina. They keep the woven Kevlar of the original upper in a crisp white, which matches the outsole and the leather mudguard. At the same time, the midsole is a blue, white and black argyle pattern, which is the only hint of black on these refreshingly bright sneakers.
9. Air Jordan 15 Retro SE “Bragging Rights – Georgetown”
The Air Jordan 15 Retro SE “Bragging Rights – Georgetown” was released around the same time as the “UNC” model and is very similar in construction. The primary connection is that they both do away with the protruding tongue and are one of few pairs besides the “Olympic USA” that have a distinction between the midsole and the outsole. Speaking of the midsole, that is really where the exciting detail of these sneakers is because it is entirely covered in a retro print that makes its way all around the midsole and continues onto the heel counter. Aside from that, the sneaker is a dark brown, aside from the black open mesh tongue and sock liner.
10. Air Jordan 15 Retro “History of Flight” Sample
The Air Jordan 15 Retro “History of Flight” Sample is returning to the OG design. However, these stunning sneakers are a rarity in that they include three colours, a feature not often seen on these sneakers that usually only have a dual colourway. The colours are stark white, a creamy tan, and university red. Red adorns the forefoot and heel outsole as well as the sock liner, cream makes up the mesh tongue, the Pebak heel counter, and the woven Kevlar upper, while tumbled white leather and solid white make up the mudguard overlay and the midfoot outsole, respectively.
11. Air Jordan 15 Retro “Countdown Pack”
Featuring a classic black and University Red colourway, these Air Jordan 15 Retro sneakers are featured in the “Countdown Pack”. The sneakers are inspired by the OG model that debuted in 1999 and has the signature woven Kevlar upper, the leather mudguard, the Pebak heel counter and the solid rubber outsole, all in black, with a shiny midfoot outsole in university red that matches the inner lining.
12. AJ15 OG Low “Deep Red”
This is the only Low silhouette that made it onto the list. The lower silhouette only uses woven Kevlar on the heel unit around the sock lining, using leather on the upper instead. Other than that, the protruding tongue is also much less noticeable than on the standard silhouette, making it slightly more likeable for some but less so because of how it bends for others. These sneakers have a deep red on the Kevlar mesh and the midfoot outsole, as well as the branding details, while the rest of the sneaker is a stunning, crisp white. These sneakers were first released in 2000.
13. AJ15 OG “Columbia”
The Air Jordan 15 OG “Columbia” is possibly one of the simplest yet most well-known versions of the AJ15, being mostly white with its Columbia Blue accents. It has many elements that make the AJ15 model unique, including the solid outsole, the Pebak heel counter, the leather mudguard, the open mesh protruding tongue, and the woven Kevlar mesh upper. Simply put, you can’t really go wrong with a classic.