Release Date: May 20, 2006

It would be foolish to opine here about the mastery of this colorway, the thoughtful execution and deep storytelling that enrich the shoe. Clever color choices and smart references can elevate a sneaker, yes, but that’s not the point here. The “Black Cat” Air Jordan 4 is good because it’s simple; it doesn’t need any of that. It’s a plain, somewhat boring, extremely hard shoe. It’s one of the best Air Jordan designs done in a straightforward combination that can read subtle, menacing, or even elegant.

While the shoe seems obvious today, doing an Air Jordan in all black wasn’t quite so standard when this sneaker debuted. The first version of the nubuck “Black Cat” Air Jordan 4 released in 2006, when Jordan Brand was still learning how far it could push the boundaries of what were then commonly known as “retro plus” colorways. There were some misses in that era. Here, instead of imagining the Jordan 4 in blazing, bright shades, Jordan did the opposite, switching the lights off and letting the silhouette shine in the dark. The “Black Cat” Air Jordan 4 has only been back once since then, on the better-shaped 2020 retro. Despite being pegged to a couple specific years, though, the sneaker manages to feel timeless in its austerity. —Brendan Dunne

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