The Story Behind Africa’s First-Ever Jordan Collab, The Shelflife AJ2

In October 2022, the first African Jordan collaboration was made available to the world — a sleek Jordan 2 Low silhouette featuring a seamless blend of premium leathers and hairy suede. It’s a project two years in the making with South African retailer Shelflife, which represents a definitive shift in sneaker culture in the region.

Founded in 2006, Shelflife made its splash onto the sneaker scene nearly a decade before sneaker culture found its footing in South Africa. While it may seem crazy that Africa has only now released its first signature Jordan shoe, Shelflife founder Nick Herbert believes it happened at the perfect time. “If this happened 10 years ago, it would not have worked as well. We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity and to carry this flag for what we feel is an incredible starting point to grow in the future.”

Herbert immigrated to Canada when he was seven years old, where he was exposed to a whole new world never seen before in South Africa. Sneaker culture was booming at that time in the USA and Canada, with the likes of the Reebok Pump having just hit the scene for the first time. At this point, young Nick decided he would put the products he wished South Africa had on the shelves himself. Shelflife, then a graffiti supply store, began introducing more and more sneakers for sale, and as the demand for kicks grew, so did Shelflife.

Nike approached Shelflife in 2020, and after a massive online meeting with Jordan Special Projects, Oregon-based designer JP Managa was assigned the role of bringing the shoe to life. The AJ2 would form part of a trio of releases known as the Jordan International Flight Club featuring a signature sneaker from Detroit-based boutique Two 18 and TITAN 22 of the Philippines, alongside Shelflife.

The concept of the Jordan International Flight Club was created by Managa himself, and the project’s goal was to shine a light on lesser-known communities that had faithfully stocked and supported Jordan over the years but had not necessarily received any recognition for it.

While the signature Air Jordan 2 was the metaphorical poster boy of Shelflife’s collaboration with Jordan, a unique set of Jordan apparel was designed alongside the release, continuing on with the shoe’s core design elements of striking orange paired with more neutral, earthy color palettes. Jordan designers Claire Mosteghanemi and Khadija Hunt worked closely with Shelflife on this collection, and the entire project was guided by the Senior Project Line Manager of Jordan Special Projects, Bennett Shaw.

After an 18-month process, Shelflife’s ‘TEAM ONLY’ Jordan 2 was ready to change the landscape of sneaker history. Shelflife’s first signature Jordan is a homage to its dedicated team. While this is not its first high-profile collaboration, it’s certainly the most important.

The Jordan 2 as a silhouette is undoubtedly the dark horse of the original six-sneaker run of the Air Jordan, and that is why it serves as the perfect shoe for this collaboration. As Africa has often been overlooked and underappreciated in the world of style and sneakers, this shoe serves as the amalgamation of two perpetual underdogs, coming together to create something meaningful. From its distinct design elements, to its South African-inspired use of materials and color, this sneaker is as unique and homegrown as they come.

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