My open letter to the sneaker community…
I have read a lot of comments from you, the sneaker community, that seem to be a negative connotation for the Air Jordan 2012, for instance: “I don’t care if Jordan himself designed it, that is ugly. Will be discounted in a few just like most Jordan’s.” I fully believe that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion about a product but I don’t believe that people grasp how great of a shoe this is. Do I think it is the best Jordan ever? No, but it is a damn good product.
The next hot thing rules the sneaker world and the bulk of the focus of the past five years has been on limited retro releases and product that ties into the heritage of the brand. For instance, in the last industry sales quarter the Air Jordan III “Cement,” the Air Jordan XI “Concord,” the Air Jordan XIV “Last Shot,” and the Air Jordan X “Chicago” were all top earners. There is nothing wrong with those products, they are necessary and obviously provide great revenue. But why is it when a new product comes along the community seems to chastise it? Saying it is not as good as the retros or the worst comment yet, “Tinker obviously wasn’t involved with this product.” Those comments are quite disappointing.
The Air Jordan 2012 takes basketball footwear in a completely new direction. The most successful element of this shoe is that it doesn’t rely on any of Michael Jordan’s past accolades to make the product worthwhile. What it relies on is the pure performance it provides. It’s not about selling a high gloss patent leather or an elephant print, it is about providing their consumer, the basketball player, with a shoe that meets any demand they may encounter on the court. To me, this project is a great representation of how a “what if” idea comes to life. I can imagine when Tom Luedecke was thinking how to improve the footwear of basketball he thought, “What if we could make interchangeable soles so people can pick their comfort level?” but why stop there? “What if they could pick if they were in a high or low top?” He then took his crazy “what if” idea and made it a reality. It took him and the team four years to provide the consumer with something new that actually provides them with a better playing experience that is catered to them.
A similar comparison I can think of is in the automotive world. Take if you will the Ferrari FXX, a car that was developed from the Ferrari Enzo to provide a test bed for future performance elements for the company. Customers pay an astronomical price to be a part of a program that provides Ferrari with crucial information about their driving experience. The use of the car only provides those customers with future benefits. The aesthetics of the car are raw and completely performance driven. It is not about sculptural beauty, it is about pure function. To me, the 2012 is the same philosophy but in a much more attainable way.
This shoe will be the first product to really show you the true benefits of Nike iD. The options for the shoe are about providing you with more than just a dope colorway; it is about letting you create a shoe that meets the demands of your game. You can choose everything from insole type, to material type, to the cut of the shoe, to the type of rubber you use. It is the closest offering a mass produced shoe has become to being a bespoke shoe and that is not an easy feat.
This product is truly a blend of art and performance. It’s the perfect hooping shoe but its production techniques are bar none. A product is about creating revenue but I would not be shocked if they were coming close to taking a loss in revenue on this shoe because of the way it is manufactured. The upper of the shoe is very complicated making it so the shoe has to be taken off of the production line and have hand-crafted techniques to insure its quality. If you notice the pattern of the upper, the pieces come to a corner, almost to a point. What you may not know is that corners are damn near impossible to be stitched down on a sewing machine so you have to take it off of the production line and have it hand-sewn by a very skilled worker. Which is a big deal because it means more time is being spent on the shoe and that ultimately means more money is being spent on the manufacturing. Next you have the “Flight Carbon,” which will be a staple of the Jordan Brand going forward; that is a custom weave developed to allow flex and strength. It is not just a graphic or pattern, it is a functional piece that only adds to the performance of the product.
All of these elements combined with an unlimited amount of color options provide you, the sneaker community, the opportunity to own a piece of footwear that has virtually been crafted for you. Who doesn’t want that?
If you don’t grasp how much of a luxury that opportunity is then you don’t grasp why the Air Jordan exists in the first place, it is about providing performance first. The cultural impact of a shoe was never taken into consideration. So do yourself a favor and grab the most coveted pair of Air Jordan’s ever, the XI; and read the tag on the tongue. It says: “Quality basketball products inspired by the greatest player ever.”
My suggestion to anyone that is doubting this product is to go out and try it. Don’t just look at photos that have been put on the sneaker sites. Get a pair and go ball because that is what it is made for.
You won’t regret it,
Brett Golliff is a Lead Designer at General Motors and former Designer at New Balance.