Let me first start by thanking Jordan Brand (and the marketing agencies that be) for inviting me to the event in New York City yesterday. I’ve been to a lot of sneaker events over the past ten years, but this was the first time I was present for the unveiling of a new Air Jordan sneaker. The more I think about it, the more sentimental I get. I remember sitting in front of the TV (almost) twenty-five years ago on NBA All-Star Weekend salivating for the new Mars Blackmon commercial and now I’m invited to hang with Spike and Tinker and share my opinions on the newest Air Jordans. Very cool. Thanks again.
Sometimes I think I should use these opportunities to be more of a traditional sneaker reporter, but that’s what everyone else there was doing so I’ll keep the rundown and technical aspects of the sneakers fairly brief and attempt to get to my point by the next paragraph. The event was held at Skyline Studios in Manhattan. I’m never good at counting crowds or amount of people in a room, but I would say there were somewhere between 100-125 people in attendance that ranged from the usual trusted sneaker bloggers to Ken Hicks and Dick Johnson of Foot Locker and even my man Darren Rovell who I finally met in person yesterday.
Let me get sidetracked for a second and give a shout out to all the real sneaker bloggers out there. Sometimes I discredit the work they do, but these guys are really working hard getting photographs, information and images that we all base our sneaker buying decisions on. I mentioned earlier how I used to wait until the first Air Jordan commercial to see what the new shoes looked like and now the marketing has shifted and these guys are the new front line of advertising and feedback. Very interesting to see in action yesterday…. and also the reason I won’t be giving you the same report here. There were a lot of dudes grinding it out yesterday and the images, technical aspects, release date and price have all been shared already on your favorite sneaker news sites.
So the quick recap is as follows: show up at 4:00, mingle for twenty minutes and then Spike Lee came out. Then Carmelo Anthony came out and Spike asked him a bunch of questions. Then we all got into a freight elevator with lime green lighting and the Epcot Center experience began. Once the elevator doors opened we were in a room with more of that green lighting, smoke machines, two fully screened out walls depicting the evolution of the Jordan Brand accompanied by a glass case featuring twenty-seven Jordan models in all black leather. Everyone was hovering around it taking a million photos.
This scene went on for another twenty minutes or so before the room went black and everything went all Max Headroom. There was some lazer light show about the history of Jordan and some other propaganda. It was very loud and exciting. Whatever…
The best part of the video was that it coincided with a mirrored revolving wall on the other side of the room. As the video ended and the booming voice said something like “THE NEW AIIIR JORDAAAAN”, the walls burst open with smoke and Air Jordans. Like I said, it was very reminiscent of a ride at Epcot Center or Disney World. So what did the new Jordan XX8 look like?!
Wait…. what? I know. I can’t say these were anything anyone could have expected and most people didn’t know what to think. That’s where Twitter is so helpful to most people. It’s makes decisions for them. So immediately feedback started coming in that revolved around WTF? Otherwise know as “What the fuck?” When I first saw them I thought they looked like some sort of aqua sock. They look like the booties you wear when you surf in the winter. They also resemble those split-toe Ninja boots, which actually may make some sense, because in Tinker Hatfield’s Q&A, the big buzzword was “Stealth”. Tinker said that the James Bond style wetsuit tuxedo was a main inspiration of this shoe and not ninja or surfing boots (so I’m probably wrong for making that connection at all), but that’s what I thought they looked like.
Anyway, here’s my point or question or whatever you want to call it. Most people’s feedback is that these shoes are ugly as shit. They just don’t look like anything people have seen before or associate with basketball sneakers. Personally, I wasn’t feeling them either, but that’s just my own personal taste and aesthetic. It wasn’t until I tried them on and walked around a little that my whole perspective changed and helped me appreciate the design and technology a little more. I have never worn any shoes, let alone a performance athletic sneaker in my life that felt like the XX8 on my feet. The design had the uppers perfectly wrapping and fitting around my feet while the bottoms or soles felt like futuristic pods designed to help me jump higher. Wearing the shoes immediately made me think of Marty McFly’s Air Mags in Back To The Future. The way they hugged my feet and immediately sparked my imagination gave me a feeling that I was ten years old again. It was that same feeling I got when I first saw visible Nike Air. It was a true feeling that the technology wasn’t bullshit and was carefully planned to increase my athletic performance.
Now I could be totally wrong here and duped by the Nike machine once again, but these may very well be the best basketball sneakers ever created and the future of all sports footwear design. They also could be complete pieces of shit that have no technological merit whatsoever. Russell Westbrook will be introducing them to the NBA tonight and we’ll just have to see how they perform and what the response is. These days it’s tough to get a fair trial since every player wearing them will be on the Jordan payroll, but we’ll see if once they go XX8, they ever go back to anything else.
What I wanted to address is the “sneakerheads” response to (images of) these shoes. General consesus yesterday was that they were awful, but why was that? I know the beauty of the Air Jordan brand over the years was its synergy of basketball technology with current urban fashion, but we also know there have been some models over the years that were highly criticized or misunderstood upon their initial release that have now become cult icons. The Jordan II was criticized for using synthetic “Iguana Skin” and carrying a $100 price tag. Most critics thought that would never fly (huh huh), and look where we are today. I was only ten years old, but I can’t imagine the Air Jordan III being loved by everyone. You think that thing looks like any basketball sneakers that ever came before them? What about the XI?
One of the things I loved about the late 1980′s and early 1990′s was that Nike performance sneakers were also able to represent the pinnacle of fashion for a kid growing up like me. I also know that many people out there love the 1993-1997 era of basketball sneakers, but I only wore Nike basketball sneakers on the court in those days. Those big black basketball sneakers didn’t fit my personal style off the court, so I wore New Balance to school and my Nikes stayed in the locker room. My point is that just as these XX8′s may not fit your personal style in the street, they very well could be the best basketball sneakers ever created?
Many people are denouncing these shoes as pieces of shit because they don’t think they’ll look good with denim? We’ve trusted Tinker with creating the world’s most revolutionary sports footwear for twenty-five years but all of a sudden he’s a moron because these shoes look like wrestling boots to some people? I’m not saying I love or hate these sneakers. I’m just thinking that maybe we are at a point where optimum technology has bypassed your weekend style and this version of the Air Jordan is demonstrating that. There are enough retros every month to give you some options to wear with jeans while you play video games or eat a hamburger. We’ll see what the next couple months bring with the Air Jordan XX8, but I don’t think we can discredit it before using it for it’s intended purpose: to perform your best while playing basketball.