Revisiting the Kaws x Air Jordan 4 On Its 5-Year Anniversary

Can you believe it’s been five years since the Kaws Jordan 4 released? We look back at the significance of one of Jordan Brand’s greatest collaborations ever.

By AP Sneaker

In 2017, Kaws, a.k.a. Brian Donnelly, the renowned street artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, teamed up with Jordan Brand to release a detail-rich colorway of the Jordan 4 that is almost more a work of art than a sneaker.

With today—March 31, 2022—being the fifth anniversary of the Jordan 4 Retro x Kaws ’’Cool Grey’’ release, we’re taking a look back at how the collaboration helped renew excitement for Kaws and Jordan Brand in street culture, the components of its luxurious design, and some of the unscrupulous events that nearly overshadowed its release.

The Jordan 4 x Kaws is significant for multiple reasons, but the importance of when it was released is often overlooked. Before the collaboration, Kaws had been somewhat inactive in streetwear following the closure of his streetwear brand OriginalFake in 2013. By 2017, it had been several years since Kaws and BAPE had worked together on colorful Bape Stas that were once among the most desirable sneakers in the game. The “Cool Grey” Jordan 4 not only reintroduced the Kaws brand to streetwear but, with its sleek, monochromatic, high fashion look, the shoe was proof that he had his ear to the streets in terms of what was trending in the culture at the time.

Kaws wasn’t the only beneficiary of the “Cool Grey.” On a song titled “Facts” released on New Year’s Eve 2015, Kanye West famously rapped that “Yeezy [had] finally jumped over the Jumpman.” The lyric may have seemed like hyperbole at one point in time, but with hype swirling around West’s new Adidas Yeezy collaboration in late 2015 and early 2016, it wasn’t out of the question to think that maybe the rapper had a point. Maybe people were beginning to embrace Yeezys as much or even more so than Air Jordans. By teaming up with Kaws, the collaboration helped redirect attention from adidas Yeezy back to Jordan Brand. The collaboration showed the world that Jordan Brand still had the clout it always had to recruit big-name creatives for special projects.

On the Kaws Jordan 4’s appearance, the colorway is completely different from any Air Jordan 4 that came before it and that includes the model’s other Cool Grey release, too. Kaws’s version replaces the shoe’s original leather upper with premium suede. The netting that appeared on the shoe’s mid-panel and tongue is rendered in suede, too. As are the plastic “wings” on the sides and the heel counter on the back. Even the midsole is reimagined in Cool Grey suede. Kaws’s signature “XX” branding takes up residency on the heel, to let you know that this isn’t an ordinary Jordan 4. To top it all off—or bottom it all of technically—the outsole features translucent glow-in-the-dark rubber with sketches from the artist visible underneath.

If all that didn't describe a different kind of Air Jordan 4, then the circumstances surrounding several in-store events planned for the Kaws Jordan 4 will. Police helped maintain order at Patta London’s in-store raffle event prior to the shoe’s release. There were even some eager sneaker collections who did their best “Hackers” impersonation by gaining access to Kaws’s official website for a chance to score the shoe before its release.

Indeed, the Kaws x Air Jordan 4 “Cool Grey” is a transformative shoe for both the artist and the footwear brand. Since its release, Kaws and Jordan have released a black color way of the Jordan 4, and more recently, worked with Nike and Sacai on several creative Blazer Lows that explore the artist and high fashion brand’s signature aesthetics on one design. Kaws has also worked with Supreme on Box Logo hoodies and tees, as well. Jordan Brand is more open to exploring new concepts and ideas than it ever has before, which may be a direct result of its work with Kaws. 

Any great collaboration should benefit both sides. It’s clear that Kaws and Jordan Brand helped restore interest, maybe confidence, even, in each other through one legendary sneaker

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