Sneakers, Sports Memorabilia & Modern Collectibles

A Closer Look: The Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro

By Eric Libassi
The ultimate Nike sneaker auction representing the brand's most iconic designs and collaborations from the last 50 years. The fifty auction is open for bidding online 29 November - 13 December.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nike, Sotheby’s presents fifty – a curated sneaker auction comprising more than 100 lots of some of the iconic brand’s most hype collaborations, unreleased and rare sneaker samples, prototypes, and limited-edition accessories. The retrospective pays tribute to the legacy and evolution of Nike, from its inception as a running company to its expansion as a multi-sport collective that has transcended into a consumer culture of its own identity.

A Rare Selection of Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Sneakers

The Nike Air Jordan 4, one of the most popular models of Nike Air Jordans, was created by famed Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. It was the second Nike Air Jordan model that Tinker Hatfield designed and the second one to feature "Visible Air." The Nike Air Jordan 4 originally came out in 1989 with 4 colors: white and cement gray; white, black and red; off-white and military blue; and black and red (Bred).

The silhouette immediately turned heads due to its mid-cut, visible air unit, mesh side panels and iconic “wings” which allowed the wearer 18 different lacing options. Today, the Nike Air Jordan 4 continues to be a fan favorite for collectors and a popular silhouette for notable collaborators including Eminem, Travis Scott and Undefeated.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem 'Encore' Sample | Size 11.5

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem 'Encore' Sample | Size 11.5

Considered one of the rarest releases of Nike Air Jordan 4, the Eminem “ENCORE” has become a long sought after addition to many sneakerheads collections.

Initially in 2005, Eminem and Nike teamed up to create a special blue, red, and black colorway of the Air Jordan 4 to commemorate the release of his “ENCORE” album. It was rumored that of this original release only fifty pairs were given to friends and family.

Due to the original release's popularity, this retro pair of Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Eminem “ENCORE” were re-released in 2017 to coincide with Eminem’s “Revival” album and limited to just 23 pairs.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro 'Undefeated' 2005 | Size 10

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro 'Undefeated' 2005 | Size 10

In 2005, Undefeated became the first sneaker boutique to collaborate with the Nike Jordan brand and apply its touch to the iconic Nike Air Jordan 4 silhouette. Undefeated, founded in 2002 by Eddie Cruz and James Bond in Los Angeles, California, was one of the earliest sneaker and streetwear boutiques, and has since cemented itself as a relevant reference point in the sneaker and streetwear industry.

Inspired by military jackets - particularly the MA-1 Flight jacket - the upper of the Air Jordan 4 is composed of an olive nubuck upper, a white midsole, and black outsole. Like the MA-1 Flight jacket, the lining of the sneaker is completed in a vibrant orange. The air unit has an orange tint and comes with laces in the same orange hue. The Jumpman tag on the tongue is attached with velcro, and when removed reads “RARE AIR”, whilst the rear of the tongue tag is labeled with UNDEFEATED branding. The wings and lace locks are finished in black to complete the military look.

This pair also comes with the UNDFTD INCASE which holds the shoes instead of a shoebox, and an Undefeated promotional tee-shirt from the release. With only 72 pairs made, this is one of the most sought after sneakers for collectors.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Travis Scott 'Mocha' Friends and Family | Size 12

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro Travis Scott 'Mocha' Friends and Family | Size 12

This pair of Travis Scott 'Mocha' Jordan 4 is one of the rarest and most coveted Nike Jordan 4 collaborations. The mocha upper is accented with black netting, TPU lacing wings, and leather lining. Branding details can be found throughout – namely the “Travis Scott” and “Air Jordan” tongue tags and printed Cactus Jack heel tab, insole and hang tag.

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘UNC’ PE | Size 12

Nike Air Jordan 4 Retro ‘UNC’ PE | Size 12

Of all the iterations of the Air Jordan sneakers, Player Exclusive pairs pose a particularly elite status. Player Exclusive shoes are made exclusively for team members, and not released to the general public. From gracing the feet of Michael Jordan to the courts of March Madness, a Player Exclusive pair is as close as a collector can get to owning a piece of the game.

This Air Jordan 4 University of North Carolina ‘Tar Heels’ Player Exclusive was produced for members of the UNC football team. An Air Jordan sponsored team, UNC has a long and rich history in the NCAA. Notably, UNC is the alma mater of the Jordan Brand’s namesake Michael Jordan where he was a member of the 1982 men’s basketball national championship team.

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