Exactly when the Air Jordan XXX design journey began is up for debate. Arguments could be made for February 17, 1963, Michael Jordan’s birthday — or October 24, 1984, the day his Airness signed with Nike. There’s also April 1, 1985, when his first signature shoe hit market and February 6, 1988, the date he soared solo in Chicago as he debuted the Air Jordan III. There’s a litany of moments — game-winning shots, personal triumphs and titles — that form the Jordan legacy. But to dissect the journey is to miss the forest for the trees. The Air Jordan XXX is a unique synthesis of Jordan’s evolution as a player and a design collaborator. An “XXX”, signifying 30, transformed into a basketball net. Stars symbolized the athlete’s otherworldly talents and planets orbiting the Jordan universe took on surfaces — elephant print or carbon fiber — related to innovations initiated by past Jordan models. Elaborating his drawing, with help of fellow designer Mark Smith, Hatfield broadened the Jordan narrative and formed the story of the Air Jordan XXX, one that references a storied yet timeless lineage with an eye towards the future.
The Air Jordan XXX has officially been unveiled. Can you believe it’s been just over 30 years since Michael Jordan donned his debut signature sneaker, the Air Jordan I? A lot has changed since that original high-top silhouette was introduced to the world. Jordan Brand as an entity has gone out and altered the way we look at and think about basketball shoes thanks to those sweet, creative vibes that innovators like Peter Moore, Mark Smith and Tinker Hatfield have brought to the table.
Melding casual wear without losing focus in the performance department, each and every one of these kicks has helped turn the Air Jordan line into a perennial powerhouse. Now, without apologies, the company has gone out and introduced the coveted Air Jordan XXX—the latest release to come with the Jumpman moniker attached to the shoe.
The Air Jordan XXX starts and finishes with a performance-driven, woven upper. This is a natural continuation for the brand, considering the XX9 was such a home run in terms of wearability. With the XXX, you get a shoe that’s even lighter than its predecessor, and who doesn’t love that? To go along with that avenue of thinking, it’s important to note that the XXX is coming out at a time when mesh-based and woven kicks are making a heavy impact. Take the Adidas Ultra Boost for example. That shoe—among others—has taken the industry by storm. Another critical element basketball players will love when it comes to this shoe is that the Air Jordan XXX will feature a FlightSpeed-based midsole. For those unfamiliar, that technology provides an extra coat of responsiveness and cushioning that can actually be felt when you’re moving around.
The FlightSpeed-based midsole isn’t just another randomly named piece of technology consumers will get confused about. It actually matters. Combine all of that with an updated traction system, and what you have is a sneaker that is well prepared to shatter expectations. Those who wanted Jordan Brand to make a return toward “older” silhouettes could be disappointed by this release. But the point of advancing sneaker culture isn’t focusing on what has worked—we have retro releases for that. It’s about building and crafting the future. Jordan Brand is a company that strives to give athletes everywhere the very best product.
Conversing about the shoe’s aesthetics, the Air Jordan XXX clearly was focused on adding futuristic elements. It builds on the basic look of the XX9, enhancing various areas using complex woven patterns. Anyone with an athletic-driven state of mind will appreciate the pure, unfiltered craftsmanship Hatfield and Smith put forth with this sneaker. And in terms of NBA athletes playing in these kicks, look out for Oklahoma City Thunder guard—and Jordan Brand advocate—Russell Westbrook to be the first.
The results of this novel approach are represented by five of the Air Jordan XXX’s key components:
“I remember thinking about how silhouettes are important in the world of basketball, not just for performance – whether it’s a mid cut or high or low or something in-between – but as a hallmark of that year,” explains Hatfield, recalling how changing the top line of a shoe from one Jordan model to another became a standard brand practice. “We kept marveling at how we were able to keep the dimensions down and make it look slick,” says Hatfield. He also recalls that Jordan’s singular demand was to “make it look fast,” a request augmented by the “XXX” graphic that wraps the heel and extends through the forefoot.
Another trademark of later Jordan silhouettes is a smooth toe piece. “Michael has always been very infatuated with the toe-down look of a shoe,” notes Hatfield. A prime example can be seen on the XI, where the patent extends up the vamp so gracefully that its protective properties appear almost as an afterthought.
Less apparent than the collar and toe, but nonetheless important, is the traction treatment. The FlightSpeed architecture of the Air Jordan XX9, Hatfield explains, is “probably the best performing Jordan chassis we’d ever done.” Still, Hatfield and Smith didn’t just serve up a new herringbone pattern on the Air Jordan XXX. Instead, they drew a new traction system inspired by the Jordan quote: “Excellence is never second place,” which has been rendered in 3D to serve the needs of pinnacle athletes, like Russell Westbrook.
Since the brand’s inception, material interplay has also been critical to the success of Jordan silhouettes. Likewise, a proprietary mix defines the upper composition of the Air Jordan XXX, which debuts an exclusive mix of woven, knit and printed materials. For Hatfield, it’s about putting the right characteristic in the right place. The woven upper provides “strength,” he explains, “and makes good sense for the body of the shoe, because you can bring in strength and graphic elements that are actually woven right in.” At the ankle and through the interior, knit offers “softness and breathability.”
Knit also allowed the designers to consider the shoe’s fit, from the inside out. “We go to great lengths to make sure that when you put on a shoe, your calcaneus, which is the bottom part of the heel or the bony part of the heel, is locked,” says Hatfield. On the Air Jordan XXX, a knit cradle keeps the heel in place and at the same time reduces the amount of glue needed to make the shoe. “We should be gaining wisdom and learning from our mistakes and successes,” confirms Hatfield.