Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - What's the difference?

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Image of the white, red, and black "Lost and Found" Jordan 1 next to a white Air Force 1 featuring a blue Swoosh.

Choosing between the timeless Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 is difficult with both being so beloved. In fact, both of these shoes have become fashion staples in the sneaker world, making it incredibly difficult to know which of the two to buy.

To make things even harder, there are now thousands of amazing Air Force 1s and Jordan 1s available, with more still being released to this day - take the "West Coast" Air Force 1 and the "Washed Black" Jordan 1 as examples.

So, to gain a comprehensive understanding of how these two Nike trainers transformed the sneaker industry, we have put together a guide to help you in comparing them.

We've taken their similarities and differences into account to compare two of the best sneakers ever made. We've also looked into their differences in price and design to give a greater understanding of what it is that makes these two Nike models unique from one another.

Before that though, let's begin by taking things back to where it all began for the two Nike models and discuss some of the history behind the Jordan 1 and Air Force 1...

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - History

The Air Force 1 was the first of the two sneakers to be released. It made its debut in 1982 as the initial basketball trainer created by Bruce Kilgore, who was Nike's product designer at the time.

The shoe proved to be a turning point in the sports and sneaker culture as it featured Nike's highly popular Air technology for the first time.

However, the Air Force 1 didn't have an easy start in life. Despite Nike using six of its most popular NBA players to promote the Air Force 1 in '83, the original #4190 design was eventually discontinued after trying to break into the mix with some of the best basketball shoes around at the time.

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Nike Air Force 1 1983 promotion poster featuring 6 NBA stars in all-white pilot outfits.
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Credit: Nike

Consumers and retailers demanded it back though, particularly three stores in Baltimore which lobbied for the Air Force 1 to return. According to Nike, the company agreed, but only if the retailers would take 1,200 pairs of two initial colourways.

The retailers took on the 1,200 pairs dressed in white and Royal Blue plus white and Chocolate Brown which eventually became known as the "Colour of the Month" series, aka the sneakers which saved the Air Force 1.

Interestingly, Nike has paid homage to this series of sneakers in recent months by remaking some of the Colour of the Month originals, with the "Jewel Oil Green" Low being one of the latest reissues.

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Nike Air Force 1 Highs in red, brown, white, black, and blue on a table next to their original drawings.
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Credit: Nike

Around the same time, Chicago Bulls picked the then-rookie Michael Jordan as their third overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft.

By 1985, the world saw the first Nike Air Jordan 1 in the "Chicago" as well as "Banned" or "Bred" colourway, which got its name as it's rumoured that the 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 even made it the primary focus of its television commercial. The result, alongside the performances of MJ on the court, grew the Jordan 1's popularity to new heights.

As touched on earlier, both sneakers continue to be made to this day due to their immense popularity. Neither show signs of slowing down either, which is a testament to Nike's ability to adapt and revitalise each model year after year to keep them in the mix with some of the best sneakers of all time.

Read More: Best shoes like Air Force 1s

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Design

As mentioned above, the Air Force 1 and Jordan 1 were originally designed as basketball shoes.

As a result, the first silhouettes are both high-tops for added ankle support; however, while the Jordan 1 stuck to the Chicago Bulls colours, the Air Force 1 utilised a more simple white and grey design which continues to be a theme to this day.

Since then, there have been some incredible low-top releases for both shoes. The "True Blue" colourway, in particular, is widely regarded as one of the best Jordan 1 Lows available. However, the Air Force 1 has made the low-top style its more prominent silhouette, making it more commonly used for everyday wear.

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Air Jordan 1 Low "True Blue" product image of a white, blue, and grey pair of low-top Jordans.
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Credit: Nike

The Jordan 1, on the other hand, mostly sticks to mid and high-tops, to adhere to its slightly more basketball-orientated audience thanks to His Airness' legendary playing career.

Read More: Best shoes like Jordan 1s

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Price

At this point, you may be tempted to pick up your own pair of Air Force 1s or Jordan 1s. If so, you're probably wondering which of the two is the cheapest.

Generally speaking, a classic pair of "White" '07 Air Force 1s, are slightly cheaper on the resale market than a comparable, at least in popularity, pair of "Bred" Jordan 1 Retros.

Nike Air Force 1 product image of a pair of all-white sneakers.
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Credit: Nike

However, there are hundreds of Jordan 1 colourways available, many of which, like the "Rush Orange" Jordan 1 KOs, are much closer in price to low-top Air Force 1s, particularly on the resale market. On average though, Air Force 1s are the cheaper of the two sneakers, both at retail and second-hand.

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Which should you buy?

Deciding between which sneakers to buy will come down to personal preferences and what you intend to use them for.


For example, if you're planning to play basketball in one of these shoes, then picking up a pair of Jordan 1s will probably be more beneficial as they're a little more tailored toward the sport, particularly with Jordan 1 Highs and even Mids providing ankle support.

However, picking up some Air Force 1s may be the way to go for everyday wear as their sheer versatility due to simplicity is what makes them popular for everyday use. Ultimately, the choice is yours as we think both make for an excellent sneaker pick.