Who is Virgil Abloh?
There’s one name almost as synonymous with Nike and the Jordan Brand as Michael Jordan himself — Virgil Abloh. A Chicago native, Abloh is the American dream personified. The son of Ghanaian immigrants, Abloh earned degrees in civil engineering and architecture and worked his way up through the fashion world ranks. He began with designing T-shirts at a Chicago print shop. Later, Virgil Abloh founded Off-White, his own fashion label, and went on to become the men's artistic director at Louis Vuitton. In some of Virgil's most notable fashion designs, his style effortlessly marries high fashion with streetwear.
Off White x Nike Collaboration
It’s his work with the Nike brand that has solidified Virgil Abloh as a rock star in the eyes of sneakerheads. From Nike Air Maxes to Nike Dunks, Abloh put his spin on the most iconic Nike sneaker designs. Abloh has always been a Nike sneaker fan, describing himself as “...a kid who would sleep with a Nike Air Jordan 5 at the end of the bed just so I could see it in the morning.” He even started designing Nike sneakers back then. He once told media collective Complex, “My friend Chris Eaton and I used to be so obsessed with Jordan that we were drawing Nike shoes and sending them to Nike. And, Nike would be like, ‘Oh, we don’t accept designs.”
Except Nike did accept his designs — eventually. Abloh’s collaboration with the brand began in 2017 with “The Ten” collection, a partnership that produced some of the most coveted sneakers of all time. In that release, Abloh deconstructed 10 Nike sneaker models, quite literally. His hands-on creative process includes using Sharpies, zip ties, and X-Acto knives. He described the end result to Nike News by saying “what we're talking about here is larger than sneakers, it’s larger than design culture. It’s nothing short of state-of-the-art design. These 10 shoes have broken barriers in performance and style. To me, they are on the same level as a sculpture of David or the Mona Lisa. You can debate it all you want, but they mean something. And, that's what's important.”
Abloh’s reimagining of Nike sneakers ranged from some of the most iconic shoes in Nike’s collection to new designs in need of a refresh. His design philosophy follows what he calls the “three-percent rule,” making minimal changes to improve the overall design. Abloh’s Off-White label has drawn a cult following from some of the biggest names in pop culture: Justin Bieber, A$AP Rocky, Bella Hadid, Kylie and Kendall Jenner.
In tribute to Abloh’s impact on sneaker culture, we've selected some of our favorite designs Virgil Abloh is famous for.
1 | Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High Chrome Hearts Off-White NRG
These specially commissioned Chrome Hearts shoes upgrade the iconic Off-White Nike Air Jordan 1 with striking Chrome Hearts hardware. The ultra-exclusive LA brand applies the fashion visionary’s 3% philosophy to his own design. Abloh’s distinctive flourishes—zip-ties, exposed foam, labeled shoelaces, and sans-serif branding in quotation marks—get the Chrome Hearts treatment with branded dubrés, adjustable lace locks and metallic eyelets. Chrome Hearts shoes like these 2017 Nike Off-White Jordans are very rare and highly sought after.
2 | Nike Air Jordan 5 Off-White Retro SP Muslin
The Nike Off White Jordan 5 Muslin made its way to the sneaker stage as part of the collection for NBA All-Star Weekend 2020. This Off White Jordan 5 features classic Off White styling, like Abloh's signature "shoelaces" branding and a pre-yellowed sole that gives it a vintage vibe. The Off White Jordan 5 Muslin drew inspiration from the OG Metallic Nike Air Jordan 5, a nod to the fighter jet-inspired look of the original 1989 Air Jordan 5.
3 | Nike Air Force 1 Low Off-White MCA University Blue
“Some things are iconic already, you just wanna upgrade it to give it a little bit of oomph,” said Abloh. The sentiment certainly applies to the Bruce Kilgore-designed Air Force One, which Abloh first tackled in ‘The Ten.’ In 2019, to celebrate the multi-hyphenate’s first solo museum exhibition—“Figures of Speech,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago—the exclusive Air Force 1 Off-White MCA dropped in extremely limited quantities. The shoes instantly became a coveted collectible: the first pair was given to tennis legend Serena Williams, while the remaining pairs became available to the public through super-exclusive raffles. Today, the Off-White Air Force 1, in vibrant University Blue, is easily one of the Nike Off-White collab’s rarest grails.
4 | Nike x Off-White, The Ten Air Presto F&F
Originally released in 2000, the Nike Air Presto earned the tagline “ The t-shirt for your feet” due to its sizing in Small - Extra Large rather than traditional sneaker sizing. In 2017, as part of the “Ten Collection” by Virgil Abloh’s ‘Off White’ and Nike, Abloh presented a deconstructed version of the Air Presto that shook up the sneaker world. This pair in particular is a Friends & Family sample, making them an incredibly rare find.
5 | Nike Off-White Dunk Low Pine Green
Track and field isn’t Abloh’s only inspiration; he pays homage to both basketball and skate culture in the sole low-top on our list: the Nike Off-White Dunk Low ‘Pine Green’. This Nike Low Dunk is all Abloh with a nod to the Gorge Green colorway that burst onto the sneaker scene in 2003. Abloh first teased the Nike Off-White Dunk Low ‘Pine Green’ in a customized version created for pro skater Stevie Williams on Instagram.
6 | Nike Air Max 97 Serena Williams Queen Off-White Elemental Rose
These Off-White Air Max 97s were designed by Virgil Abloh for the 2018 “QUEEN” Collection, celebrating Serena Williams and the 50th anniversary of the US Open. The ultra-rare Off-White Nikes stand out with a vibrant gradient midsole and neon “Volt” zip-ties. Undulating lines, mimicking a bullet train, complement the light pink uppers, while the integrated lacing system and black textual accents reflect Abloh’s unmistakable influence on this timeless silhouette.
7 | Nike Air Jordan 4 Off-White Sail
A strikingly elegant pair of Nike Air Jordan 4s, it’s no exaggeration to say that these sneakers belong in a museum. The Off-White shoes debuted at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago’s Virgil Abloh: “Figures of Speech”, which made history as the first museum survey dedicated to the genre-bending artist and designer. A tonal take on the classic silhouette, the Jordan 4 Off-White Sail features a deconstructed leather build, accented with semi-transparent TPU on the eyelets, wings and heel panel. Abloh’s signature flourishes, including a zip tie and “AIR” printed on the lateral side, complete the look.