Tag Archives: michael jordan

AIR SHIPS

This did the rounds a few months ago, but after the regular splatter of speculative articles surrounding what the banned Nike Air Ship actually looked like, all we seemed to have to go on was a couple of black and white training and action photos and really blurry split second pre-game footage from Madison Square Garden. But this footage of Jordan playing against the Bucks at a Washington High School, East Chicago on October 9th (easily falling into the period that’s mentioned in the stern letter from NBA commissioners) was dug up by true Jordan fan MJO23DAN. I was also pretty sure — though I can’t find the supporting evidence I spotted right now — that the lettering that replaces the wings logo on the strange Rare Air versions of the AJ1 is taken from the heel of Jordan’s Air Ships. We tend to exist in an echo chamber when it comes to legends around shoes and I and many others are guilty of pecking at what’s already out there, so salutes to this YouTuber and connoisseur for researching and sharing this video.

AIR JORDAN MYSTERIES

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The original 1996 catalogue image

What a time to be a Jordan XI Low fan. I’m not sure I’d ever seen Tinker talk about this design until Nike News upped a piece on it recently, plus fellow fan of this shoe, Ben Berry wrote a nice piece for Finish Line on the topic of the mysterious use of I.E. because like me, he doesn’t buy that story about it standing for “International Edition” at all. Continue reading AIR JORDAN MYSTERIES

LEATHER & DENIM NIKE GEAR

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Once upon a time, the tracksuit was an object for pure performance. adidas even sold theirs in boxes to reiterate just how serious it was. They were synthetic fabric, form-fitting for lithe athletic types. Then, somewhere down the line, the triple threat of hip-hop, a fitness boom and legions of folks dressing up for the terraces had us wearing them to show off. Continue reading LEATHER & DENIM NIKE GEAR

TINKER, MARK & MICHAEL JORDAN

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I see a lot of Q&As conducted to promote a product or project, and there’s generally a recurring message and company line throughout. That’s understandable, because if you sit down expecting a Frost/Nixon confrontation, then you’re you’re an idiot. My longtime preoccupation with Air Jordan has been fairly evident on here over the years. 1988 brought me two great revelations: Bomb the Bass’s Don’t Make Me Wait video featuring the mysterious Air Jordan III, and seeing the Air Trainer 1 in my home town’s Beehive department store as part of a Nike Air display. Those moments were my introduction to the work of designer Tinker Hatfield. I never stopped obsessing. I popped to Paris a couple of days to see some excellent activations to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jordan Brand — BKRW’s section in the Palais 23 space was a standout — and after a more bombastic presentation and chatter between Michael Jordan, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Smith for the global press in front of a slow grilling LED back drop, we got to see a significantly more intimate talk over at Nike France’s showroom.

I’ve often wondered whether Tinker (and can we have a moment of appreciation for his outlandish outfit in the circa 1991 brainstorm session photograph they used as a backdrop during the Palais 23 presentation?) deliberately drops a line in to keep the PR team nervous each and every time, but he’s always one to veer sharply from the company line at times, which makes interviews with him pretty compelling — on discussing the underrated Jordan 23 during this session, he exclaimed that, “We had to smoke a lot of weed for that one!”, before his “Just kidding” was drowned out by the applause as MJ entered at took a seat. That is just one of many reasons why Tinker stays legendary. Because, I know that there are some fanatics like me visiting this site, and because I recorded the chat, I thought I’d up it here. While the Jordan 29 gets mentioned a lot (after all, it’s the most recent instalment, though Tinker nearly mentioned a possible woven element on the impending 30), there’s a scattering of trivia in here too — I never knew that, for all the excellent ads over the years, Jordan’s favourite is still the old one where he goes one on one with Santa. All questions bar my one at the very end to Tinker and Mark were asked by Jordan Brand’s communications director (and all-round good guy) Brian Facchini.

Brian Facchini: Is there an individual shoe that you guys are most proud of?

Tinker Hatfield: The 20 was pretty cool because he storytelling was very rich and it was actually kind of hard to get Michael to open up about the past, but we finally got him to open up and we got a bunch of stories and Smitty and a bunch of other people put that tapestry together. That’s pretty special. I look at that shoe today and I see a tapestry. I see a specific symbol inside the shoe and I remember the story…it almost makes me cry — they’re very emotional stories.

Mark Smith: I’m really proud of the 20 but I think the 23 is a special one — we did something very different there and we are telling different stories and there were new ways to hold the product together with processes that were also storytelling. That was very interesting.

BF: For you, how many times have these two brought you something and you were like, “These two are out of their minds”?

Michael Jordan: Practically all of the time.The good thing about it is that these guys can go to the edge, which is what Nike are good at — being an edgy company. We push the envelope as much as possible. What I do is try to take it back to reality like, “Come on man, I don’t know if I can wear that — that’s a little bit out of the page for me.” Sometimes it takes a little moment to grow on me, but once it grows it, I love it. Tinker’s good at telling the stories and Mark has adapted to that now. They come up to me with this long story and I’m like, “Come on! Shut up and show me what you got!” But the stories connect the dots. We don’t do things just to do them and there’s a method behind the madness and it tells the story about me, how I play the game the things that I like and the innovation and technology is taken into that. I think that’s the beauty behind the relationship.

BF: As we’re looking back at 30 years of your career, do you find yourself looking ahead?

MJ: I live in the moment. If you live too far in the past or the future, you never enjoy the moment. I enjoy the moment and these guys take me on these different paths, but for me, it’s about how much fun can I have hanging out with you guys today. I’m not worried about tomorrow. I keep it very simple, while these guys take it a lot further than I could. I enjoy the game and enjoyed it in the moment and most fans could see that — I want that to come out in how we design shoes.

TH: If we stayed in the present and didn’t go into the future, he’d fire our ass.

MJ: Probably.

MS: We’d be out.

BF: Is there one piece of a shoe that you remember having to go to war for a little bit?

MJ: The area on the toe of the 10s. I wouldn’t say that they’re my least favourite in all the 30 year of shoes, but Tinker and I had a communication breakdown. He went out on a limb and I had to pull him back down, because I wouldn’t wear that. It came out to be a great shoe because of the compromise we figured out.

TH: He had to threaten me.

MJ: It was during the baseball thing, so we didn’t have our normal meeting. He made an assumption and as you know, if you make an assumption, sometimes it makes an ass outta you. We had to make some changes and the shoe had been made so we had to eat a bunch of product. If you’ve got a pair of those, they’re worth a lot of money today.

BF: Is there one new technology you look at now and think, “I wish I had that when I was playing”?

MJ: The 29s. I think in terms of innovation — and I’ve only been able to walk in them and never played in them, though I wish I could have — that shoe in itself is incredibly comfortable but I think it responds to a lot of things that you do when it comes to performing at basketball. We’re working in the 30 now, which I think is a step up from the 29. The work in innovation in the technology that goes into the shoes now is far greater than anything I played in. Those shoes have evolved into signature things, but in terms of innovation, the shoes have improved tremendously since I played.

BF: Going back to the beginning, the Air Jordan 1. That was arguably the most popular sneaker in the world but the innovation was the two colours.

MJ: Well, one colour. It was black and then that red. It was the ‘breds’ that everybody always calls them. I don’t come up with these names, but I’ve kind of adapted myself to them. My kid said ‘bred’ and I said, “What do you mean? All of them are ‘breds’ to me?” But that shoe changed everything for us because of the acceptance of the acceptance of the community and the consumer and how the league hated them because of the colour for the difference in uniform — you had to wear white shoes or black shoes, but we went out on a limb with the black and reds, and the modification of that was the red, white and black. Some kids connected to, not the negative, but the different. That made it different to what was on the market and the people absolutely loved it. That’s where the whole Jordan thing got started and we’ve been able to maintain it since then, but originally that black and red said that it was okay to be different. You don’t need to be like every other shoe and the consumer bit and we’ve been riding it ever since.

BF: Is there one commercial that really stands out to you?

MJ: There was the one where I played Santa Claus one on one, and we got a bunch of letters from little kids saying that Santa Claus would have whooped me. I wish people would have understood the meaning behind the commercial — I was playing this guy and you didn’t know who he is, and then it was revealed. It put Santa Claus in a very difficult position. Parents of kids didn’t really like it — it was a fun commercial, but the message got kind of misconstrued. I think it ran about one time. All that hard work I had to do for it and they broadcast it one time!

TH: I asked him that before and it’s always consistent. I said, “Your favourite is you beating up on Santa Claus?

MJ: It was a good match up.

BF: Materials and the graphics that Smitty is renowned for now play a big part in the shoes. When you see a shoe like the XI…

MJ: That’s my favourite.

BF: Besides the XI, which materials over the years have redefined how the brand was going?

MJ: Well, the woven. When he showed me how all of that works — the uniqueness of it. When they show me stuff the first thing I ask is, “Is it functional? Can you play in it?” I don’t want it to just be about show. You can build a shoe and everybody says they like how it looks, but I want it to be functional for a basketball player. When he showed me how that material could be so functional with less weight, and maintain the strength, I was impressed. I liked to wear a new pair of shoes every game. Part of that was feeling and energy of having a new thing, but the other thing was because the shoes were so different in that you sweated and the leather might stretch, and I wanted that tightness. The thing about the woven is that it’s tight every time, like a brand new shoe.

BF: You guys have developed an amazing working relationship. How has that changed over the years?

TH: I think any good organisation tries to evolve, and it used to be that you saw Michael five or six times a year and it was always a presentation or just going out and hanging with him, but now I think that it’s a little different in that we keep on adding people to the team and he’s like any great athlete, politician or movie star in that he has to have a big team around him, where it can be difficult because he might not necessarily trust them. What we try to do is keep introducing them over the years so he can get comfortable with that growing team.

MS: When you introduce experts in other disciplines to the team, that gives him confidence. He enjoys that conversation — he learns and he’s so curious. When you bring somebody to the team, he enjoys meeting them…mostly. He’s mostly curious about what they bring to the team.

BF: After 27 years, do you still think you’re learning stuff about him?

TH: I do. I mean, I spend less time with him than I did before. I feel like I know him fairly well and we’ve hung out a lot. I’m still amazed at how he continues to grow and how he lives in the moment. As you get older, you start to think backwards and live off past glory, but he’s not like that, which to me is very interesting.

MS: I don’t know what the next call or text is going to bring. It’s usually something that’s going to make me go, “Uh, okaaaay, cool, I hadn’t even considered that.” Whether it’s facilitating his interest in motorbikes or whatever, then that’s good for us as designers.

BF: You guys are both artists — what part of your art do you bring to your work?

TH: I think that’s the secret actually — blending art with technology to create a new shoe. For me, some projects, whether it’s shoes or apparel, may have been a little more skewed towards technology and less toward art or sometimes it’s the reverse.

MS: I think, whatever discipline you’re in, you can speak creatively and draw from different places, then apply them. One of the things we’re constantly doing is bringing them to the table.

TH: We both draw on our iPads — that’s not new news, but we both draw really fast, so we’ll sit down and have a meeting and after we’ve finished talking, we can be like, “So, what do you think of this?” Technology has allowed us to draw a lot quicker and also get technology a lot sooner. If athletes see a result during a meeting or maybe a couple of minutes after, they feel more involved in the design process because you’ve reacted to their feedback, which means they feel much closer to the actual design. It’s a good little trick, because if Michael doesn’t feel like he’s part of the design process, he’s less apt to actually like it. So that’s a good strategy. It’s crucial to our success.

BF: Why do you think athletes react better to imagery presented like that than on paper?

TH: I think when you do a pencil or pen sketch, that’s a little more personal to me. It’s tiny and it’s maybe delicate and complex, and maybe doesn’t look like it’s going to look. But when you do it on a computer, especially with the current technology, you can add light, texture and colour. I think it’s a little easier for people to really understand.

ME: I know that in the past, what you designed wasn’t always able to be produced, due to restraints in production at the time. Has new technology meant that what’s in your mind can be realised a little easier?

TH: No. I think that, if it’s too easy to make, we’re probably not pushing it far enough. It’s probably just as difficult now to get people to do something as it ever was. Even the knitted and the woven stuff that we’re doing now isn’t normal — they’re still scratching their heads about how they want to make it weave. There are experts who know how to do it, running the machine and doing the programming, but we’re pushing them beyond what they ever thought they could do.

MS: That’s what’s fun about it. In the end, they appreciate it too.

TH: In the end they do. They might not appreciate it at first.

MS: No, not at first. I just came back from the factory and they’re not appreciating it yet! But they understand why.

TH: He was just at the factory in Asia to talk to them about spinning the weave stuff to combine it with…

MS: Woah!

TH: I nearly slipped up there! But it was not going well, so he went to Italy.

MS: We find the best standard and Asia will get there because it understands the benefit. If you’re going to go to a new place, when a Jumpman is going to be on that thing, they know they’ll have to pick up on it and figure it out.

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TINKERING

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Rushing blogging today for a number of reasons. But that doesn’t mean I can’t assail you with a bricolage of barely related bollocks. No sir. It just means it’s even less connected culturally than ever before. For some reason, putting some pictures from the bin bags of brand-related ephemera (which I believe are out there on the internet somewhere already) of Tinker Hatfield and Michael Jordan in deep conversation on the subject of Jordan V and VI caused some commotion, so here’s the images again (the AJV one is actually from ‘Sneakerheads’ and has been posted before, but sometimes you need to repeat yourself to get noticed). Garments, hair, variations on popular colourways and sensible shoes. It’s all here. There’s more somewhere in the papery stacks, but drop-feeding rather than turning this into some Jordan fansite is probably the best route. For the time being, until I start hunting that SEO scrilla by reposting Modern Notoriety’s images with some hyperbolic copy. One day I might start doing that here.

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How the fuck did I miss out Carhartt and Chysler’s small collection of ‘Imported From Detroit’ jackets, tees and trousers? While the union of motor vehicle and apparel isn’t necessarily destined for greatness, these pieces are the best car-related clothing since Alan Partridge’s Castrol GTX jacket. In fact, unlike some more high-profile (and more expensive) Carhartt projects, they’re made in the USA as part of a new drive (pun unintended) to promote the brand’s homegrown manufacture, as detailed by A Continuous Lean last October. The blacked out ‘Made in the USA’ patches limited runs (each individually numbered) and Detroit map on the custom quilted lining are all nice touches. In fact, from a high-end partner and launched at one of any number of Euro fashion trade shows right now, the iPhone blog paps would be descending on these pieces. But they’re not letting them into their urban ninja or street goth world right now. Not yet, anyway. These are more legit because the motor trade is one that actually necessitates workwear, whereas looking serious by a wall for a lookbook doesn’t. Admittedly, while you’ll pay extra for APC and Adam Kimmel’s vision, and they probably won’t be made in the USA, and while I love the IFD Active Jacket, it’s quite clear from the imagery that it fits mad boxy, unlike the slimmer fit of the higher-end and Euro-centric pieces.

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It’s good to read informed opinions that hint at some substantial levels of research too, and I’ve been preoccupied with The Weejun all over again lately. The musings of a Brit who has been infatuated with Ivy since 1979 (a little while before either ‘Take Ivy’ reprint, anyway) is a masterful blog and his Brooks Brothers circa 1980 piece reminded me of a conversation with a friend about rich guy trousers, wherein we defined wealth by the mindset that innately associates lurid corduroy with casual, rather than a beat up pair of jeans. Brooks Brothers mastered the rich guy trouser and The Weejun talks about the pair that caught my eye when those old catalogue PDFs popped up a few years back on the Ask Andy Trad forum via Yamauchi Yuki (who I believe is a Japanese Aloha guitarist), with a wealth of wild trousers in the mix. The Christmas “fun” cords are basically half of a click suit for the very wealthy. Anybody who can pull them off is an original don dada of the college town scene — I’ve seen similar attempts at lurid mismatches from Polo, but Brooks Brothers’ are significantly wilder.

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Bookending this entry with shoe-centric talk, given the boom in all things Nike Free, here’s a shot from a Nike promo booklet on innovation of the original Tinker Hatfield shoe prototype he called the Nike Free back in 1994 — a decade before his brother Tobie Hatfield helped bring us a very different Nike Free in 2004. As the company copy points out, this was actually destined to get a Rift-style split-toe (this was just before the Rift too). I see a little bit of HTM2 Run Boot in here, plus some traditional weave in there that may or may not have informed later developments too. That’s a lot of influence in one unreleased space age sandal and pure urban ninja fodder.

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DÉJÀ VU

I’ve posted about this documentary here before, but during a colossal tidy up and clear out, I found my rough cut copy of ‘Sneaker Heads’ on DVD and watched it for the first time since I last wrote about it (around 3 years ago). It held up well. Only a handful of folk (and If you’re one of them, I owe you) read this blog back then, so there might be a spot of déjà vu here, but the screen grabs I posted were finger nail size. You can see the 3-minute teaser right here too. That repetition is appropriate though, because the attitudes espoused in this film are echoed in 2012. Self-hating hype folk should watch ‘Sneaker Heads’ and just appreciate what we’ve got — alas, my work loaned MacBook won’t allow me the luxury of burns or rips, so I’m strictly jpegs at the moment. What happened to the eBayers selling bootlegs of this film anyway? There used to be plenty around. At the moment there’s plenty of murmuring about new generations ruining everything with their queuing and their hoarding and their hype and their pesky fixation with limited edition, but guess what? People were doing that just under a decade ago too. People moaned about it back then too.

‘Sneaker Heads’ was a Wieden+Kennedy and Brand Jordan production directed by Israel, with production by some music industry and ESPN affiliated folks, but it never seemed to be fully completed. The copy I’ve got and the one that was bootlegged has no real credits over the CGI intro of some living Escape AF3s (though you can see the completed title sequence right here), missing statistics and no real ending, but there’s at least some semblance of narrative and some of the footage is gold. Yet ‘Sneakerheads’ got shelved. I like ‘Just For Kicks’ as a primer (salutes for getting the Run-DMC adidas cash demand too) and I thought some of the chats in last year’s ‘Casuals’ documentary (in the case of ‘Just For Kicks’ and ‘Sneaker Heads’ there was some casual and footie talk that got shelved, mainly because it’s all far odder and complex in terms of social interactions and oneupmanship than NYC culture, even though it’s equally as significant in telling the story of sports footwear) were eccentric enough to sit alongside some of the conversations in this film. Other than that, some episodes of ‘It’s the Shoes’ on ESPN aside, most attempts to tell Nike, adidas and New Balance tales on film in more than 10 minutes are intolerable. ‘Sneaker Heads’ feels like a time capsule of the sports footwear cycle just pre-peak and we’re back in the same position right now.

There’s plenty to love. Nerds will enjoy EMZ and Air Rev’s (his suede swoosh Lows are still killer) digging mission for Ellesse while the everybody else is queuing for Jordan IIIs (ring any bells?) and ESPO Air Force IIs in 2003 is refreshing in its traditional approach, the surgeon with the enviable Jordan collection, Chris Hall (who kindly gave me this copy) talking skateboarding and AJIs, cars customised to match Cool Grey Jordan XIs, AF1 disciple Christian Clancy of Interscope (now the manager of Odd Future), my Crooked Tongues mentors getting a blink-and-miss appearance, Euro-dons Edson of Patta and Thomas Giorgetti, Spike Lee, lots of old news clips, Dr J, Jordan smoking a cigar and being cryptic about the AJXX, Alan Mesa’s insane game worn collection plus DJ AM’s genuine enthusiasm and superior in-house displays proving that he was a celebrity collector with a deep, deep knowledge — it’s poignant when he mentions that he’ll never stop hoarding. I guess he never did lose the excitement for shoes during his short life. There’s A-Ron in Supreme, Martin Packer, Bobbito, Retrokid and plenty more folks who all have their own perspective on this wearable compulsion.

But who exactly was ‘Sneaker Heads’ aimed at? The teaser hinted at a theatrical release and one was apparently cited for 2004, but it’s not the greatest advertisement for the brands. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite bleak in its indictment of brands attempting to mould an existing culture of collectors. “They got a new pair of Dunks every fuckin’ day” and a dismissal of “Halle Berry artist series bullshit” aren’t the greatest PR, and while those queues are living, breathing testaments to the power of the product, the furious lady offing and blinding because she queued 12 hours for ESPOs is the swearier angrier side of that world. People complain about bad retros and reformed obsessives sell their AF1s because they’re jaded by the state of the industry. There’s a sense that it’s documenting a post-purity period for things, but how sentimental can we be for mass-produced tactically reissued product. Maybe it was Michael Jordan saying “Shit” that got it shelved.

As a piece of research for internal study in the development for future Nike and Jordan product directed at a then-fresh energy market, ‘Sneaker Heads’ may have proven extremely useful. When the current boom subsides and everyone’s back in brogues again for half a decade, and the whole sneaker “thing” erupts again, you’ll be able to watch this in 2021 and see parallels between kids complaining on whatever medium they’re misusing all over again, using the same arguments. It’s the same old story over and over again.

Anyway, here’s some stills, because Mr Clark Kent and Mr Steve Bryden were curious to see whether they made the final cut. I think, with a little polish, ‘Sneaker Heads’ would be relevant today. In fact, if any enterprising editor could splice the best of this film into ‘Just For Kicks’ to extend that running time it would create a classic piece of sub-culture documentation for we weirdos who still keep the faith. After that long-overdue viewing, my passion for shoes was restored — I wish I’d watched it prior to disposing of some dustier pieces of the collection. Then they’d still be gathering dust, but I’d still be kidding myself that I was going to break them out of hibernation one day.

'SNEAKERHEADS'

Working with sports footwear, or as Scoop Jackson would call them, gym shoes, on the daily, It’s easy to get very, very jaded, and lose sight of exactly what lured you into making them a profession of sorts. In my case it was a fluke. As with anything attracting disciples, there’s tiers of hoarders, collectors and fanboys who’ll pick a particular boomtime that was a cut-off when things were purer and the herbs were less involved.

With sports footwear it’s a tough one to call. Things are still mighty healthy, but the early ’00s was a point when the big brands truly capitalised on the cult of the collector, and when they entered the fray and saw the extra $$$ to be made, things went out of control. At time-of-blogging, visions of Jordan XI retros are on the mind – just as religious types can suffer a loss of faith, the avalanche of drivel has caused a few doubts lately, and to be excited about a release proves there’s still some personal mileage in the industry. But that shoe is a design that’s fourteen years old. It still looks fresh, but still, fourteen years. That things tailspinned from an aesthetic direction in favour of re-rubs of former classics is a debate that won’t be unleashed on this blog, bearing in mind that it was meant to be a sneaker-free spot. But hey, worlds are always going to collide on occasion.

Continue reading 'SNEAKERHEADS'