In 1990, the television landscape was forever “flipped-turned upside down” by the premiere of a sitcom that would become a cultural phenomenon: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Starring the charismatic Will Smith, this 90s series resonated not only for its memorable characters, sharp writing, and theme song but also for its groundbreaking influence on fashion. Among these iconic style choices, one element of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air often stands out: Will Smith’s Nike sneakers. Let’s delve into the impact these shoes had, not only within the show’s narrative but also in shaping the broader trends of ’90s fashion and beyond.
Smith’s love affair with Air Jordan sneakers on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is no secret. Throughout the show’s legendary six-season run, Will can be seen sporting various iterations of MJ’s signature shoes. From the iconic black metallic 5s to the ultra-rare Fire Red trainers, his selections served as a tactile manifesto on the era’s intersection of basketball and fashion. But let’s keep it a buck: the Air Jordan 5 Grape steals the show. So emblematic of Smith, Jordan Brand dropped a lace-less “Fresh Prince” iteration for his 50th birthday bash.
When you dig into Will Smith’s kick game on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, you’re looking at more than just a dope sneaker rotation; you’re peering into a complex tapestry of ’90s pop culture. This man’s footwear stands as a Rosetta Stone for sneakerheads, unlocking the rich lexicon of kicks in the era’s zeitgeist.
1. Air Jordan 5
Undoubtedly, the trainers that graced Will’s feet more than any other were the iconic Air Jordan 5’s. These fresh sneakers made their iconic television debut in the pilot episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, where a then 17-year-old Will Smith sported the black and metallic silver 5s. Of course, this colourway is also featured in the show’s recurring opening sequence, which means we get to see the Metallic 5s in every episode.
However, out of all the pairs of Air Jordan 5 sneakers worn in the rich history of the NBC sitcom, the “Grape” colourway stands out as one of Will’s overall best sneakers. One glance at the white upper adorned with purple accents and emerald shark teeth is enough to evoke immediate associations with Will Smith and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Grapes have become so synonymous with the show that the sneakers might as well be known as the Fresh Prince of Bel-“Air Jordans”.
2. Nike Air Trainer SC
In a two-episode saga, dual-sport god Bo Jackson shares the limelight with Smith. And what’s on Smith’s feet? The Nike Air Trainer SC in royal white and silver—a sartorial homage to Bo that’s nothing short of incandescent.
3. Nike Air Trainer Max
The Nike Air Trainer Max sneakers were a go-to silhouette for Will Smith in the fourth season of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Whether he was braving his first earthquake or trouncing Carlton in the PSATs, these trainers seemed to be his trusty talisman. Not just limited to casual wear, Will ingeniously paired the black/white colourway with his formal attire for a date with the “lovely” Kathleen. If you’re scratching your head trying to remember Kathleen, she was the character vividly brought to life by Tisha Campbell, aka Gina.
4. Nike Air Flight Lite
During the early ’90s, the Flight Lite may have been known as the perfect shoes for hooping, but for the Fresh Prince it was his trusty companion during laid-back video gaming sessions or whilst devouring a whole pizza, comfortably reclined on the Banks’ living room couch. This scene from an early-series episode perfectly encapsulates Will’s casual and relaxed vibe.
5. Nike Air 180 Pump High
In a rare twist, Nike appeared to take a leaf from their rivals’ book, mirroring the Reebok Pumps’ design that dominated the late ’80s. But this semblance of imitation didn’t ruffle the feathers of the ever-fashionable Will Smith. Even less so did the sneaker’s hefty price tag. Of course, when you’re backed by Uncle Phil’s generous governmental purse, wearing a sneaker worth a whopping £175 doesn’t faze you.
6. Nike Air Max 180 and Air Huaraches
Season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is where Will Smith’s affinity for avant-garde running sneakers shines. The dude steps out in ceramic Air Max 180s, a likely nod to MJ’s own co-sign of the model. And who could overlook the ‘Scream Green’ Air Huaraches? An audacious choice that flaunts Smith’s leanings toward trailblazing silhouettes.
7. Nike Air Force 5
In Season 2 of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will sports a pair of Nike Air Force 5 sneakers while casually shooting hoops in the driveway and dishing out some serious pearls of wisdom to Geoffrey about his new love interest worth a cool $25 million. Needless to say, the man does not miss a beat in his style game, especially in another pair of his signature high tops.
8. Air Jordan 6
Amongst the beloved collection of Air Jordans worn on the hit show, the Jordan 6 black “Infrared” holds a special place. This distinctive pair graced Will’s feet just once, yet it left an indelible impression. The Fresh Prince channelled his best Jordan vibe, donning a half-black, half-red T-shirt and shorts ensemble, a black backwards cap with red stripes, and, most fittingly, the “Infrared” Air Jordan 6s. Not to be outdone, the white “Infrared” Jordan 6 showed up in a later episode. Will rocked these kicks when he graduated from Bel-Air Academy, proving that Jordans are for every occasion.
9. Air Jordan 7
Back in 1992, Nike unveiled the Air Jordan 7 in an array of distinctive shades. Among them was a pair that nodded to the beloved Bugs Bunny. The “Hare” Jordan 7s were an absolute essential when they were released. These iconic kicks enjoyed the limelight in several episodes of the third season, but they weren’t the only AJ 7s to get screen time. The “Cardinals” colourway also had its time to shine in an episode airing shortly after. Clearly, Will had a big thing for Jordans.
10. Nike Air Flights
In 1992, Nike changed their Flight logo significantly and began embracing a new trend. They started to chop the tops off their trainers, favouring the sleeker, mid-release designs more frequently. Always one to stay in tune with the times, our man Will swiftly switched up his style. And you’ll find them on his feet throughout seasons 3 and 4.
11. Nike ACG Baltoro Boot
Will’s flamboyant fashion choices were always a sight to behold. In one episode, he dons a T-shirt in a riot of colours – purple, teal, magenta, and orange, which he teams impeccably with a pair of Nike ACG Baltoro boots. Though originally crafted for hiking adventures, Will masterfully showcased the versatility of these boots in a casual setting.
12. Nike Delta Force ST
During a dream sequence, Will envisions the hustle and bustle of family life with an additional youngster in the mix. As he strolls through the kitchen, we are gifted a fleeting glimpse of a truly “retro” gem – the Delta Force STs casually slung over his shoulder. Any Nike fan would immediately recognise the high-top silhouette, rubber outsole, and signature swoosh despite the blurry visuals.
13. Nike Air Force Max
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that one of the most remarkable Nike basketball trainers of the early ’90s made its way onto the feet of none other than The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Yes, we’re talking about the Air Force Max. This trainer was famously linked with Michigan’s Fab Five and sported the same striking black and white colourway the team wore during their memorable run to the final four in 1992. The episode featuring these iconic trainers aired in February ’93, aligning perfectly with the launch of this particular model. It’s fascinating to think that Nike may have supplied the Fresh Prince with trainers before their official release.
14. Nike Air Force High 93
While the Air Jordan 5 gets all the hype in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air sneaker folklore, let’s not sleep on Will’s penchant for the Nike Air Force High 93 sneakers. Rocking a signature cross-strap and high-collar panel akin to the Air Jordan 8’s aesthetic, these were his go-to joints whether he was clocking hours at Peacock Stop or navigating the labyrinth of domestic politics. They held their own, giving the celebrated Jordan 5 a run for its money.
15. Nike Air Sheer Force Mid
Perhaps the least well-known trainers on the show, Will only unleashed these for a single episode. Remember when Uncle Phil took him and Carlton to court for hosting an excessively loud barbecue? That’s when these Nike Air Sheer Force Mid sneaks made their only appearance.
16. Air Jordan 9
Michael Jordan may have never showcased the OG Air Jordan 9s on the hardwood, but Smith made sure they got their 15 minutes. Whether he was flexing at jazz-soaked weddings or low-key hangouts, the 9s were put through their paces, illustrating their chameleon-like adaptability and effortless swagger.
17. Nike Air Maestro
Throughout season four of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Will Smith is spotted donning the iconic white and royal blue Maestro 2 sneakers more times than we could count. As the season finale approached and Will and the family embarked on a journey to Philly, we saw a delightful display of hometown 76ers and Phillies outfits. The cherry on top? The unmissable, all-red version of the Maestro.
18. Nike Air Max 2 Trainer
Will’s favourite choice of footwear in season 5 was undoubtedly the Max 2 Trainers. Will sported these kicks while helping Ashley kick-start her music career. Or, even more dramatically, when he proposes to his girlfriend (portrayed by Nia Long) after fearlessly taking a bullet for Carlton. These iconic Nike sneakers undoubtedly saw Will through some of the show’s most memorable moments.
19. Nike Air Force 1 High
Of course, the Prince of Kicks is going to don one of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes on his show, albeit a bit late. Will was spotted sporting a pristine pair of white and royal blue AF1 Highs in season 5. It was one of the rare instances of Will strutting around in retro kicks on the show.
20. Nike Air Max 2 CB
Will Smith paid homage to former Philly star and the league’s reigning MVP at the time with a powerful Barkley signature model – Nike Air Max CB 94 “Black/White/Purple”. This happened during the middle of the fifth season, right at the peak of Barkley’s career with the Phoenix Suns. The Air Max CB 94, which Smith proudly displayed, was more than just a sneaker. It was a symbol, a tribute if you will, to Barkley’s singular journey to the NBA Finals in 1993.
21. Nike Air Up
In season five, episode 116, ‘Will Is from Mars’, Will absolutely smashes it in yet another Pippen exclusive. He dons an oversized rugby top with bold horizontal stripes and, the pièce de résistance, his gleaming white and silver Air Ups. Iconic.
22. Nike Air Max 2 Uptempo
As the show hit the airwaves, these iconic trainers had just been released – a testament to the Prince’s potential inside links at Beaverton. These sneakers were the ‘it-accessory’ in 1995, donned by future NBA luminaries like Marcus Camby and Ray Allen.
23. Nike Air Charles Barkley 34
In a switch-up, Season 6 witnesses Smith rocking the CB34s, a pair boasting Godzilla-esque print ads and carrying the Charles Barkley co-sign. These beasts get airtime during a pickup game, subtly illuminating the intrinsic synergy between basketball and the sneaker game.
24. Nike Air Speed Turf Max
When Will and Carlton find themselves marooned in Sin City, Smith breaks out the Air Speed Turf Max for a high-stakes dance-off. A departure from his usual hoop-centric selects, these Nike trainers underscored Smith’s innate panache for the visually arresting.
25. Nike Air Max Penny 1
Among the list of iconic trainers worn in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air series finale, Hardaway’s debut signature shoe from 1995 truly shines. Its striking white-wing design perfectly matched Will’s baggy jeans, making them a standout feature as he sauntered through the Banks’ family kitchen for the very last time.
26. Nike Air Max 95
While Will Smith may not be renowned for his collection of running shoes, it’s impossible to ignore his choice of the vibrant ‘Hot Red’ Air Max 95 sneakers in the penultimate episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. During an intense family meeting, Will pairs these iconic trainers effortlessly with casual light jeans and a striking red quarter-zip pullover. This particular style of footwear would catapult to fame as one of Nike’s most timeless designs, with a seemingly endless array of retro releases gracing our shelves almost every year since.
27. Air Jordan 11
The last pair of sneakers we see adorning Will’s feet in the finale of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is the Air Jordan 11s—more specifically, the striking “Columbia” colourway. Originating from the basketball court, these shoes were first sported by the legendary Michael Jordan during the NBA All-Star Game of that year. Fast forward a few months, and these iconic sneakers made their grand television appearance, worn by our beloved Will in the concluding episodes of The Fresh Prince. A satisfying end to an amazing sneaker journey.