Jordan 1 vs Jordan 3 - What's the difference?

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The Jordan 1 and Jordan 3 are two of the most iconic and beloved sneakers around today. However, despite releasing only a couple of years apart, there are a number of key differences between them.

Fortunately, we've put together a guide comparing some of the similarities and differences in their price as well as their design, before giving our general opinion on which of the two Nike models we think is best to help you pick between them if you're looking to add either of these amazing basketball shoes to your sneaker collection.

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Additionally, we discuss some of the history behind the Jordans so that you can gain a better understanding of how these two models revolutionised the sneakers game to the point where they are still being made to this day.

That being said, let's take a closer look at how two of the best Air Jordans ever made first came into existence...

Jordan 1 vs Jordan 3 - History

Michael Jordan was selected as the third overall pick for the Chicago Bulls from the University of North Carolina in the 1984 NBA draft and quickly took the world of basketball by storm.

While companies like adidas and Converse focused on pre-existing stars in the '80s, Nike saw talent in the then-rookie and quickly set about creating his first signature sneaker - the Air Jordan 1.

By 1985, the world was introduced to what become known as the "Banned" (also known as the "Bred") colourway designed by Peter Moore.

According to the history of the Jordan 1, NBA fined Jordan every time he stepped foot on the court in the sneakers as the shoes violated the league's uniform policy. However, Nike used this to its advantage and made it the focal point of its "Banned" commercial.

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This, along with MJ's performances on the court, seriously boosted the popularity of the Jordan 1 which has since spawned the longest signature sneaker line in history, with the Air Jordan 37 being the latest in the range.

Within those 37 iterations, we also saw the debut of the Jordan 3 in 1988, which was the first sneaker in the range designed by Tinker Hatfield who designed the most Jordan models thereafter.

The Jordan 3s also debuted in a year when MJ won MVP and Defensive Player of the Year as well as a second dunk contest win which gave birth to the now iconic Jumpman logo.

Original sketches of black and white Air Jordan 3 colourways.
Credit: Nike
Original sketches of the Air Jordan 3

So, while the Jordan 1 was the first, the Jordan 3 definitely made its mark in history. As a result, the OG designs are the two most-sold Jordan models in history, and both continue to be made to this day.

Jordan 1 vs Jordan 3 - Price

With the history covered, you may now be thinking about picking up a pair of Jordan 1s or 3s yourself. If so, then you might want to learn a little more about their price.

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Well, at the time of writing, a typical pair of Jordan 3s are actually more expensive than some of the best Jordan 1 colourways around right now.

For instance, the "Fire Red" 3s retailed for $210 upon their release this year, whereas a comparable pair of "Taxi" Jordan 1 Highs will set you back less if brought at retail.

Air Jordan 1 High "Taxi" 2022 product image of a yellow, black, and white pair of high-top sneakers.
Credit: Nike

That said, the Jordan 1 tends to be the more expensive model on the resale market, with the OG "Chicago" design, in particular, being significantly more expensive than any of the best Jordan 3 colourways so far.

Check out our list of the best Air Jordan 1s under 200 though if you're looking to pick up some inexpensive classics on the resale market.

Jordan 1 vs Jordan 3 - Design

Visually speaking, the jump between the Jordan 1 and the Jordan 3 is arguably the biggest in the history of the sneaker line.

The 1s were originally high-tops, although Jordan 1 Lows were also available, whereas the 3 stuck to a more mid-cut collar throughout its entire history as it's rumoured Jordan preferred Mids over Highs to play in.

The 3s were also the first to introduce the Jumpman logo on the heels, and debuted the iconic elephant print pattern at MJ's request which has been used on numerous Jordan designs since.

Air Jordan 3 "Black Cement" 1998 product image of a black worn-down sneaker with elephant print mudguards and heels.
Credit: Nike

That said, the Jordan 1s were the first and, by default, introduced several design elements still used to his day. The colour blocking, for one, is legendary, and the Swooshes on the side seriously stood out.

Technology-wise though, both shoes featured Nike's Air bubble technology in the sole units for comfort and to absorb impact when landing. However, the Jordan 3s were the first to expose the bubbles so you could see the technology in action.

Ultimately, the two designs are revolutionary and we feel both are great in their own right... but which is best?

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Which is best?

Choosing which of the two is best is incredibly tough as they both look great and, historically speaking, performed well on the court.

Of course, the Jordan 1 was the first, which definitely counts for something, although the Jordan 3 had many firsts of its own like introducing the Jumpman logo to the world.

To play in, the Jordan 3 is arguably the better of the two if MJ's rumoured preference for mid-cut sneakers is accurate. However, style-wise, the two are almost inseparable.

That said, our opinion is that the Jordan 3 design is the more unique of the two as the Jordan 1 was mostly built from other Nike designs, including the Nike Air Ship, Vandal, and some of the best Air Force 1s.

Whether that necessarily makes it the best will come down to your own personal preference. If you're looking to pick up a pair yourself though, we'd recommend seeing if you can try on a set at your local sneaker store to compare the two on your feet.

Read More: Best Jordan collabs - Our top picks