words // Brandon Richard
In recent years, the Jordan Brand design team has taken the focus off of style and shifted emphasis toward on-court performance. The new strategy is mostly demonstrated through the brand’s flagship model, starting with last year’s Air Jordan 2011. Launched last February, the 2011 came equipped with interchangeable midsole options that allowed the wearer to customize his or her ride. Looking to build on that concept for the design of the brand new Air Jordan 2012, co-designers Tinker Hatfield and Tom Luedecke crafted a shoe that not only offers three different midsole cushioning options, but also interchangeable low and high-cut booties that truly provide players with the desired fit.
“We always start with performance. We always start with trying to make a better basketball shoe,” said Hatfield, Vice President, Special Projects and Creative Design for Nike, Inc. “We are always trying to improve performance for the best basketball players in the world, knowing that if we can achieve that, then of course people at all levels in the world of basketball will get a better shoe.”
Though he spent a great deal of time building the market’s premier performance model, Tinker by no means ignored the style aspect of the 2012. The design of the shoe is inspired by a project that he previously worked on centered around the “JumpTown” region of Portland, Oregon. Now known a the Rose Quarter, the area was the center of the city’s jazz scene in the 1920s. Following the general aesthetic of the throwback JumpTown scene, Hatfield sketched a concept that blended the styles of the Zoot suit and wingtip shoes. “What does a wing tip look like on a basketball shoe? Who knows?” said Hatfield. “I didn’t know. So, I just started sketching. Some of it was historically driven, and some of it was just me thinking how I could convert this sort of style into the shape of a basketball shoe.”
Luedecke’s primary contributions to the Air Jordan 2012 were the interchangeable cushioning and bootie systems. Expanding on the concept introduced last year, he was looking to craft a performer that truly gave wearers to ability to choose their flight. With the new Jordan shoes, athletes are given the ability to customize for their unique playing styles with a modular system that offers six different configurations.
“I just sprained my ankle when I was climbing in a rock gym in Beaverton, and it made me think again about the novel concept,” said Luedecke, Jordan Brand Senior Footwear Designer. “I would usually wear a low-top, but I sprained my ankle in an unrelated sport. When I go out on the court now, I would definitely choose the high-top just because right now my ankle is not feeling the best. And it really drove home the point that even the same person, depending on the situation that they are in, might actually choose different parts of the system at any given point in time to suit their needs.”
Of course, the interchangeable elements of the 2012 an also work double duty for style. “It becomes really interesting once you buy a second pair, said Luedeck.” Now you have color possibilities and choices that you can switch back and forth.”
For more details on the performance of the Air Jordan 2012, check out our exclusive video featuring the legendary Tinker Hatfield below. You can buy the Air Jordan 2012 now at Eastbay.