Octavio Lubrano talks Jordan Jeter Cut.
For the last decade, you could count on Jordan Brand releasing a new Derek Jeter signature shoe every year. This year is no different. Jeter celebrates his 10th namesake release, the Jordan Jeter Cut.
CounterKicks caught up with Octavio Lubrano, Senior Footwear Designer at Jordan Brand, for an in-depth look at the new training shoe. An initial White/Pitch Black/Metallic Silver style is out now in stores, retailing for $95. A Black/White colorway hits on June 1st and Graphite/Stealth-Grey launches on July 1st (all of which you can sample with your eyes below).
Octavio tells us about building a lightweight, lower cut, more natural movement focused product for Derek Jeter this year, and gives us a glimpse into the future of Training product at Jordan Brand in the process. Get the full scoop below…
CounterKicks: Tell us about the new Jordan Jeter Cut.
Octavio Lubrano, Jordan Brand Senior Footwear Designer: This is the 10th signature shoe for Derek Jeter, the longest signature Jordan athlete. The ultimate goal is to design a training shoe that meets all of the athletes training regimen. That’s really what makes training unique and also challenging is that we’re trying to make a universal training shoe that whether you’re a baseball, football, or lacrosse athlete, this is all you need. You don’t want to switch out shoes, you just want one thing that you can rely on.
Derek happens to be the face of training for us. He is the oldest shortstop to ever win a World Series starting in that position which is the most athletic position on the diamond. I think the story that’s been untold is how hard he works and trains, but because of his personality, Derek’s really one of those great athletes to work with because he never talks about himself or he never embellishes all of his achievements. It’s kind of refreshing to have a guy be that humble but yet be that great at what he does. So I have a great time with him talking about training and educating each other. Him educating me why he does what he does and me educating him about the younger athletes at the high school and college level and how they train and there’s a lot of similarities in what they do. These kids closely look up to Derek and they’ll say “one day how can I be as good as Derek when I’m his age.” I think that’s the story that needs to be amplified because it’s really hard doing what he’s doing at his age. He’s still one of the top shortstops in the game and he hasn’t moved over to third base, he’s still playing the position. So that’s what I get overall out of Derek and working with him.
So onto the training shoe, I’ll touch on two points that are really laser focus for us. We’re re-setting training in Jordan Brand and this will be the first shoe that’s going to really start getting a lot more serious about training. We’d like to think that any athlete that trains, you should be able to pick up this shoe. This should be able to do anything that you need it to do, whether you’re a basketball, lacrosse or football player. That’s really what we wanted to do, build it to the highest standard and then Derek is the one that embodies our training message.
On the shoe, the four areas to look at are comfort, lateral stability, traction and lightweight. On lateral stability and traction, that’s really the challenge we have here. So on the Jeter Cut, this is the first time that we have taken a very serious look at building the shoe to address natural motion. A lot of the research has been done over at Nike on FREE and so forth. We wanted to make sure the shoe has proper flex. One thing we did was, there’s no air bag in the heel and there’s a dual-density Phylon in the forefoot. Basically the concept is, if your outsole moves like your foot does, you’re able to get better grip, better traction and great flexibility. Also, you can see on the bottom of the shoe there’s a lot of EVA exposed in the flex grooves and that’s taking weight out. In the arch there’s no rubber, that’s EVA as well.
Speaking of lightweight, the model that is launching with the leather version is about 13.5 ounces and when the other two models are coming out (June 1 and July 1) that have textile mesh, those shoes are weighing in at 12.5 ounces so that’s very low and the other thing that’s addressing lightweight is the cut of the shoe. Derek is very unconventional as a shortstop, he wears shoes a little bit higher, but this is the first time that we got him to move into a lower cut. What that’s doing is making him a little bit lighter, giving him a little more flexibility in the ankle, but just enough support. So that’s something unique to get it to be low cut. The other thing that reinforces that is when we met with some of the University of Oregon baseball team and some of the high schools that we do research with. We found out that a lot of the shortstops are really about quick reaction time and they want to be really quick and fast. So a lot of them have just been wearing lows and 5/8th height shoes. The cut of this shoe is really great because it fits in right where people who play the shortstop position are going to be able to get the right amount of height and the right amount of ankle support.
On the lateral and medial stability, there’s a forefoot dual-post strap that’s free floating. If you look on the medial side, it’s anchored more toward your arch. On the lateral side, the strap is more over your forefoot because when you cut and you plant, right when you go from heel to toe transition, you’re pulling from your arch, and then as you plant on your lateral and move toward your toe-off, the pull is more towards the forefoot. That strap really shows functionally where you want the pull to come from as you’re planting and cutting. The two straps are articulating, meaning they’re not stitched down, they’re free-floating in between the upper material and the lining. It’s something that you can’t see but if you cut the shoe apart you would see how when you pull the webbing there’s some pull in there. That was research we did with Nike Sports Research Lab and we found that we really have to make sure that this shoe does what a running shoe cannot and does what a basketball shoe cannot as well. Running shoes are only linear motion, they don’t give you a lot of lateral support. This shoe does, as well as being lightweight.
The final and biggest point of difference is on traction. This is where it’s always a struggle because we don’t ever want to make a training shoe look like a turf shoe where it’s so technical. The average athlete doesn’t need to wear a cleat. It’s not a cleat for your feet, it’s a training shoe. What we did here at the forefoot of the shoe is have this nubbed traction which is really specific for planting and pivoting. The nubs almost look like little track spikes and addresses rotational traction which means when you plant and turn, you want enough grip but then you also want enough give so you don’t lock the foot in and cause the ankle to strain too much. Then on the forefoot and the heel is a diamond-herringbone traction pattern. The reason why we did that is with training, unlike basketball or running, there’s a multi-surface component to this. If you have grass, which is addressed by cleats, sometimes people may actually work out in grass especially if it’s low and you can do a little light workout. But then you have artificial turf, which is about grip and where rotational traction is really important. Then you have dirt, some people will do light training in dirt. Then you have rubber mat flooring. And what we’re finding out is you even have wood. There’s some guys who will go on a basketball court and do some light training, so how do you address that? That’s why you mix the traction pattern with herringbone, which is enough to give you that great kind of squeegee effect.
So for surfaces that are very flat, herringbone is the best for that. It’s almost like boat shoes where you kind of wear a squeegee underfoot. That’s really what herringbone does, it allows you to have traction on all four sides. I think the diamond traction pattern is a combination of basketball and training. Overall, from the recent tests that we’ve done, this is probably our best training shoe to date. I hope that kids get up and they try it and they kind of see exactly what we do. For Spring 2012, you’re going to see the Jordan category really dive into even more detail in training.
CK: Tell us the signature details on the Jordan Jeter Cut that make it more personalized for Derek.
Lubrano: When I met Derek about two or three years ago, I wrote down a quote he told me. I asked him, “How do you define training?” Derek said that training is like an uncut diamond. The more you polish it, the better the stone. And that’s when I kind of came back and started thinking about the cut and how Derek’s game really embodies that. This guy has been polishing and polishing his game. What’s interesting is that as athletes get older, you know, Derek doesn’t have to jump higher or run faster but he’s polished his skills and his training where he can get to the ball quicker because of his experience. The guy is phenomenal.
The 10th anniversary you would give at a wedding is a diamond, so I thought it was kind of fitting that I was going to take this shoe and “cutting” was going to be my inspiration. And cutting connected back to the conversation I had with Derek two years ago about an uncut piece of diamond. There’s a lot of little details here like the traction pattern has some diamonds, we have some diamond perfs on the forefoot, and you can go through the shoe and see other little details. But on performance, I really tried to do some flex grooves on the outsole to embody that and translate the diamond cut into a performance story and that’s exactly what we did.
CK: Derek wears a cleated version of the Jordan Jeter Cut on the field. Do you design the cleated version in tandem with the turf shoe? How does that work exactly from a design standpoint?
Lubrano: Yeah, I kind of think of it both at the same time. First we got the trainer right and then we translated. If you look at the cleat, the cleat gets modified. It’s not a literal interpretation, we pretty much take the trainer and see how we can make this training design the best cleat. If we have to change the design, we do. But the idea is the gist of the design language is in the cleat. It’s always nice to know that Derek is the only Nike baseball athlete that has his own signature shoe that is active. Griffey has product but he’s retired and his stuff is more of a remix. But Derek Jeter is the only baseball athlete that has product right now with Nike that is a cleat and a trainer that’s signature. It’s kind of nice to look at both shoes and see how they marry up. We also do a Jordan baseball glove every year that he is the guy who tests out. Derek does a lot more than people know. As a baseball icon, he’s involved in a lot of these products from top down.
CK: Talk about the Phylon midsole cushioning on the Jordan Jeter Cut.
Lubrano: The forefoot has a dual-density Phylon. You don’t see it, but you feel it. By using foam, and sometimes with air bags, we don’t want the transition to be hard. We want it to be very natural motion. The part that’s color blocked in the forefoot, what we did was raise the EVA high enough on the lateral side to hit right in that point where you want support when you cut. So that sort of aggressive wave line is actually designed where the flex groove is perfectly positioned for it to be anatomically correct from your running gait. If you wanted flexibility, that is exactly the way you want it as you run and as you cut. Keep in mind that baseball guys do a lot more running. A lot of this shoe has cues from running because they like that running feel. When they do a lot of their conditioning drills they really need the training shoe to have a good running feel. We wanted to take the running principle and take some of the hard technology out. You know, we don’t need an air bag for it to be a great running shoe. So we wanted to simply things and get back to more of the natural motion and just let the foot do what it’s supposed to do and not add structure where you don’t need it. What that’s going to do is strengthen the foot and relax it and keep it strong so that when they put on the cleat, then they’re strapping on the harness to kind of go to work.
CK: How many other Derek Jeter signature shoes have you worked on previous to this one?
Lubrano: I did two other ones. I did the Jordan Jeter Captain and Jordan Jeter Throwback.
CK: I know looking through sales numbers that the Derek Jeter signature shoe is historically a big seller for Jordan Brand. Does that make you any bit nervous from a design standpoint taking on a project like that each year?
Lubrano: I take it as a challenge. Sometimes the basketball stuff there’s even more pressure. I remember a shoe I did called the Jordan Six Rings where you design something and I always get enjoyment when the consumer enjoys something or when I get calls from family members saying they love the shoe. Another recent one I did was the Take Flight. So, basketball always has more attention on it. What’s been nice about my contribution to the team is that next year, Jordan Brand has asked me to focus more on training and really try to help us elevate training. I think it’s great because I already have my foot in the door working with Derek. So we’re going to be doing some football trainers and I want to put all that effort that we put into basketball and take some time off that and really see if we can elevate training to give Derek the product that makes him probably the closest thing we have to MJ from an athlete standpoint. The challenge is that he plays baseball, not basketball, but at the end of the day we all like Michael Jordan for his contributions to his game. I honestly would probably say that my personal opinion is that Derek Jeter is the MJ of baseball. If you look at all the facts and stats, he has done what he’s supposed to do as the first official athlete here. He was the first guy handpicked by Michael Jordan to represent the brand. I think that it’s kind of an honor and a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to always taking on the challenge and listening to Derek on what he needs but at the same time helping him design the right product or make the product look great so he can elevate this to the next level. I think there’s more that we can do but I just kind of shake it off a little and have fun. I want the kids to be happy and be comfortable. The Jordan Brand is not just about style all the time. We know Michael Jordan brought a lot of style to basketball but his substance was in the game. Derek is no different. Derek is a very clean cut guy, he has style, he embodies a lot of what MJ was about. We just need to deliver the product to do exactly that.
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