It wouldn’t be the holiday season without a hotly anticipated Air Jordan 11 drop. For over twenty years now, it’s been something of a staple of the sneaker calendar, and for good reason: the 11 remains among the most beloved and highly coveted Jordan silhouettes of all time. Accordingly, the brand is more protective of it than others. This year is no different—except in the ways that it’s an unusually big deal: for the first time in over a decade, the beloved “Cool Grey” colorway is making a long-awaited return.
For the uninitiated, the Air Jordan 11 might be the crown jewel of legendary designer Tinker Hatfield’s tenure with the Air Jordan line—we put it at number three on our massive ranking of Js. Sporting a ballistic nylon mesh upper and accented by an iconic stripe of patent leather, it was the shoe Michael Jordan donned on his return to the NBA after a two-year retirement (and perhaps more notably, in his matchup against the Monstars in the film Space Jam).
As the shoe’s legend grew, Jordan Brand began what would become an annual tradition in 2009. While a number of 11s had dropped around prior holiday seasons, 2009 saw the annual drop becoming official, with a retro of the “Space Jam” colorway. (That was also the first 11 retro to drop around the holidays, nine years prior.)
The pattern would remain the same over the years. While new colorways would occasionally be introduced outside of the holiday drop (this year’s “Animal Instinct” colorway hit SNKRS on Thanksgiving weekend), it has long been the only time of year when classic 11s are released. In the past, the hype surrounding these drops became notorious, especially in the years preceding the digital era of sneaker shopping. The wave crested in 2011 when the holiday release of the classic “Concord” colorway incited mayhem nationwide.
These days there are more than enough 11s to go around, though. Jordan Brand releases millions of pairs for the holiday drop, regularly breaking its own sales records. The shoes are available via SNKRS as well as chain retailers and your local sneaker boutique. As long as you don’t sleep through your alarm clock the morning of the drop, you’ll probably be able to pick up a pair.
And this holiday season sees the first “Cool Grey” 11 drop since 2010. It’s arguably the most popular incarnation of the 11 outside of the original lineup, a clean and simple getup in a bright neutral grey. First seen in 2001, it ushered in a new standard colorway for the Jordan line. The next year saw the Air Jordan 9 get a similar grey treatment, with the 4 and 3 following in 2004 and 2006, respectively. The 11, though, has only been retroed once since its original release, way back in 2010—though a low rendition of the silhouette and colorway dropped in 2018.
This “Cool Grey” 11 swaps out the performance-primed ballistic mesh for a firm nubuck leather and is the first retro of the colorway to feature the now-standard icy blue sole (which looks great, but also helps prevent premature yellowing). It’s tied together with that classic strip of patent leather in a darker shade of grey and crisp white laces. If you want a pair, don’t miss the drop. If history is any indicator, we might not see these again for a long, long time.
The Air Jordan 11 “Cool Grey” drops on December 11th at 10AM ET via SNKRS and retailers nationwide.