When listing the most iconic and revered Nike Air Jordan colorways, you’d probably start with one of either “Chicago” or “Bred” before moving on to the rest. And while there are a number of classic colorways and lists like these are always highly subjective, it probably wouldn’t be too long before you land on “UNC.”
The Carolina blue and white colorway has been a mainstay in the Jordan line since 1985, when it debuted on a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1s, reappearing on a number of other retro Jordans and mainline Nike sneakers since.
Jordan’s love for his alma mater and the legacy he left behind after three years in Chapel Hill have made the blue and white UNC colorway a favorite for Nike’s designers across generations. This year, the colorway is expected to grace a pair for Nike Air Jordan 4s for the first time on a general release pair. The colorways was previously used on PE versions of the sneaker given out to UNC Chapel Hill basketball players and staff.
Because those fetch several thousand dollars on the resell market, sneakerheads are hotly anticipating the general release version, believed to be dropping during or before March Madness this year.
Ahead of that release, we’ve put together a selection of some of the best UNC-inspired sneakers to have been released over the past few years. Check them out below.
The Nike Air More Uptempo has been the subject of high profile collaborations, such as with Supreme, as well as a range of classic and more contemporary colorways. This UNC-inspired make up really pops against the Uptempo’s oversized details.
The Nike Air Jordan 1 “Obsidian” quickly became one of the most popular AJ1 colorways when it dropped last year, as the different blue hues represented the right balance between retro and non-retro colorways.
Air Jordan 1s have long been used by skaters such as Tony Hawk due to their overall comfort and durability. Nike recognized this in 2019 by having its SB and Jordan Brand subdivisions link up on this UNC-inspired Low.
This Air Jordan 3 is about as classic as it gets, featuring subtle hits of UNC blue on a predominantly white upper. This pair, like the Air Jordan 4 this year, was a general release version of past year’s PE versions of the same shoe.
This “UNC” Air Jordan 1 High dropped way back in 2015 and is a remake of the original 1985 pair. If you’re looking for a UNC-inspired sneaker, this is about as classic and straight-forward as it gets.
Virgil Abloh choosing to make one of his three Nike Air Jordan 1 collaborations UNC-inspired speaks to the popularity of the colorway. If you want a classic silhouette with a contemporary, hype touch, these are for you.
The Steven Smith-designed Nike Air Zoom Spiridon Cage 2 was relaunched last year as part of a Nike x Stussy collaboration. Both colorways were highly popular and spawned multiple general release versions. This pair brought some UNC flavor into the fold.
This Dunk Low is not technically UNC-inspired, as the pops of yellow and its “Coast” name suggest that UCLA — a recent Jordan Brand-sponsored university — is the inspiration for this colorway. Still, the blue and white is close enough to the original UNC hue that it counts. Note, this sneaker has been released in Europe already and will see a US release soon.
Jordan OG — the brand’s first-ever women’s-focused sneaker that debuted in 1998 — was the subject of a collaboration with Melody Ehsani in 2020. That pair was done up in black and red, another OG Jordan Brand color scheme. If you want something a little lighter, the Jumpman also released the Jordan OG in white and blue.
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