Historically, the most popular Air Jordans have either come in a Chicago Bulls-themed white, black, and red colorways or a University of North Carolina-themed combination of white, black, and blue. All of these Air Jordan colorways have one thing in common, they each pay homage to the teams that Michael Jordan made history with (sorry Wizards fans).
Paying homage to MJ's college days, the University Blue Air Jordan colorway is one of the most recognizable. The baby blue Jordan color is similar to the University of North Carolina's trademarked Pantone 542 just ever so slightly lighter in hue.
With the release of the highly anticipated Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “University Blue Toe,” we decided to take a look at the Air Jordan’s released under the “University Blue” color scheme. While there are many, we narrowed it down to the top ten best University Blue Air Jordans. Keep reading to see the all-time top 10 University Blue Air Jordan sneakers.
During the beginning of the 2019 Air Jordan 1 craze driven by Travis Scott’s Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Mocha,” Jordan Brand also released some underrated gems. One such pair was the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Obsidian University Blue.”
Similar in design to the coveted Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Shattered Backboard,” this UNC-inspired AJ 1 features “Black Toe” color blocking with premium leather. Instead of black and red (or orange on the SBB), this pair combines obsidian and university blue, complemented by sail accents. While it was slept on upon release,this pair became a must-have for Air Jordan 1 fanatics everywhere within a few months.
This Air Jordan 11 Retro Low was originally known as “Columbia” when it debuted in April 2001. It was later re-released in 2017 and given a new nickname of “UNC.” That’s not the only thing that changed, either. Jordan Brand swapped the previous shade of Columbia Blue seen on the initial pair for a lighter University Blue tone, hence the name change. As a result, the 2017 release is a true “University Blue” theme, which makes it fitting for this list.
Drawing inspiration from the Air Jordan 12 Retro “Nubuck,” the Air Jordan 14 Retro “Black University Blue” features a similar design. It sports a black-based suede upper, university blue accents, and small hits of metallic silver for an added pop. The end result re-imagines what a road-themed Air Jordan 14 “UNC” PE would look like. Jordan Brand hit on all cylinders with this all-new colorway in January 2006.
When the Air Jordan 12 was first retroed in 2003, the “Flu Game” pair kicked things off, with an all-new “Flint Grey” pair closing out the year. In between, Jordan Brand dropped a limited, online exclusive colorway of the Air Jordan 12 dubbed “Nubuck.” The Air Jordan 12 Retro “Nubuck” was originally released as a $300 package set alongside a matching hat and hoodie.
The only way you could get these sneakers was if you were a Team Jordan member (a Nike+ member in today’s world) and received the exclusive launch URL mailed out (yes, postal mail) to said members before its launch. The buzz was significant for this Air Jordan 12, quickly catapulting it to one of the best colorways. It was so sought after that Jordan Brand re-released it in stores in 2009 during the second retro run of the Air Jordan 12.
Following in the footsteps of the Air Jordan 3, Air Jordan 4, and Air Jordan 6, the Air Jordan 5 Retro got a “UNC” makeover in March 2023. Made to pay homage to Michael Jordan’s alma mater, the Air Jordan 5 Retro “UNC” features a university blue-based suede upper complemented by black and white accents. Additional details include 3M reflective detailing on the tongue, “Heart” and “Sole” written on the inside tongue patches, respectively, and a custom patch on the back heels (also seen on the Air Jordan 6 Retro “UNC”). Icy blue translucent hits on the outsole complete the look.
With the Air Jordan 1 hype still at an all-time high, Jordan Brand released a new “UNC” iteration in March 2021. Dubbed the “University Blue” edition, this Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG features white leather underlays paired with university blue suede overlays for a clean look. Black accents including the Swoosh and Wings logos, laces, and collar perfectly break up the theme. This pair was an instant classic and garnered high resale prices after immediately selling out.
While you may be wondering, “Why is the Air Jordan 9 Retro Powder Blue on a University Blue list,” allow us to explain. When this original Air Jordan 9 colorway was first retroed in 2010, Jordan Brand changed the shade of blue from dark powder blue to university blue. As a result, the 2010 release is considered a “University Blue” colorway, while the upcoming 2024 re-release will go back to its original “Powder Blue” roots. As one of the best Air Jordans ever, the one-time “University Blue” iteration of the Air Jordan 9 Retro “Powder Blue” cannot be overlooked.
Even with the hype of the Air Jordan 1 on the decline, Jordan Brand is still giving us the colorways we want in 2023. Case and point, the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “University Blue Toe.” This pair brings an all-new twist on the famous white and university blue-themed Air Jordan 1. Featuring “Black Toe” color blocking, the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “UNC Toe” mimics the Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “Obsidian University Blue.” The only differences between the two are obsidian being swapped for black and sail for white.
Taking inspiration from the player-exclusive pair made for the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Air Jordan 4 Retro “UNC” features a slightly altered look for its public release. While still featuring a suede-based university blue-colored upper, the Air Jordan 4 Retro “UNC” combines classic cement grey detailing with black accents. A unique tongue tag was also designed exclusively for this pair of Air Jordan 4s, furthering the UNC theme.
In 2010, Jordan Brand created a special set of Air Jordans for the “Pantone 284” Collection. Featuring Air Jordans 1 thru 25 (aka AJ 2010), this series re-imagined Michael Jordan’s twenty-five signature sneakers in a “University Blue” theme. Each pair draws inspiration from “The Love of the Game.” They feature a university blue-based upper, white and black accents, and laser print detailing. The collection was made for display purposes only and was not released at retail.
A few pairs from this collection did go on to release, however, sans the laser print detailing. This included the Air Jordan 7 Retro and the Air Jordan 9 Retro in both high and low-top. In addition, an Air Jordan 11 Retro “Pantone” dropped as one of two sneakers in the Air Jordan Ultimate Gift Of Flight Pack. Released in December 2014 for $500, the Air Jordan Ultimate Gift of Flight Pack featured the Air Jordan 11 Retro “Pantone” alongside a UNC-themed colorway of the Air Jordan 29 (XX9). So, if you wanted the Air Jordan 11, you had to get the Air Jordan 29 as well. The pack was split up on the resale market for those who didn’t mind buying just one. Out of the two, the AJ 11 was the pair everyone preferred to have.
The hype surrounding the Air Jordan 11 Retro “Pantone” when it was released in 2014 was real. So much so that it easily takes the top of our list for the best University Blue-themed Air Jordan ever. Keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app to stay informed about the latest releases, raffles, and news in the sneaker and streetwear world.