Clad in a pair of military-grade high top boots and a carbon fiber backpack, legendary Air Jordan shoe designer Tinker Hatfield debuted the latest addition to the Jumpman family, the military-inspired Air Jordan XX8, on Monday afternoon in New York City. It might just be the most daring and innovative Air Jordan yet.
Flanked by filmmaker Spike Lee and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard (and recent Jordan Brand signee) Russell Westbrook, Hatfield revealed the latest pair of Air Jordans to a media throng of almost 100 people, many of whom uttered an audible gasp when the walls stashing the 2013 Air Jordan were pulled back to reveal the XX8.
At first glance, the XX8 resembles the military boots Hatfield was sporting. The shoe is an 8-inch high top, same as a standard military boot. The all-black outer (except the silver Jumpman logo attached to the heel) gives the shoe a stealthy look, a word Hatfield used repeatedly to describe his inspiration for the shoe. He said, "The shoe is stealth. It's black. It's supposed to look tough and nasty out there on the floor. Intimidation is something that we like to think that we can contribute to."
But the big reveal, and what makes the XX8 different from any basketball shoe currently on the market, is what's hiding underneath the black outer. Pull down the vertical zipper and you'll find a completely different shoe underneath. The XX8 is, in essence, a shoe within a shoe. Peel back the black curtain, and you see a neon green tongue staring back at you. The black outer acts like a tuxedo on top of a commando suit, a concept that came from one of Hatfield's favorite movies, True Lies.
"It's an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie where he storms this beach and he's got a commando suit on. When he kills a few people, he steps out of the commando suit and he's wearing a tuxedo," Hatfield said. "This (design) came to me in a moment of movie memorablia. They're wearing one thing, they unzip it and step out, and they're wearing something completely different."
Because of its layered design, the Air Jordan XX8 can be worn in three different styles. You can zip the shoe all the way up to get the military boot look, like this:
Or you can unzip the cover but keep the flaps up, revealing the neon shoe inside but keeping the black outer up like a cloak, like this:
And finally, you can fold the flaps of the black outer down over the sides and rock the shoe that way, like in the photo at the top of this article.
While the design will certainly be the most discussed aspect of the shoe, the technology inside cannot be overlooked. The shoe is brimming with what co-designer Josh Heard called "Flightplate technology"—while reworking Nike's Zoom Air bag technology.
Heard said, "What we did was we unlocked the Zoom. We unleashed the Zoom. We've cored out foam around all the Zoom Air bags, so literally you are stepping directly on the Zoom. You are getting that first initial feel. We have a moderator plate on top that eliminates any hot spots under your foot. It's moderated all the way through so you get that nice, comfortable, smooth feel."
Westbrook wore the XX8 last night in Brooklyn as his team took on the Nets at the Barclays Center. It was a big moment for Hatfield and his crew to gauge public reaction to the shoe. Westbrook has already given it his endorsement. "It's a great shoe. It's very light," he said. "Very, very comfortable. That's one of my biggest things, playing in comfort. As you guys know, I do so much running around and jumping. I think this is the perfect shoe for it."
Given the shoe's rumored $250 retail price and a design that might make sneakerheads hesitate to buy it, Hatfield knows creating the XX8 was a risk. But that didn't hold him back from taking a hard left when he could have gone straight. "There was a lot of fear," he said. "I think if this was a $100 shoe, and we were going to try and sell 750,000 pairs, you wouldn't even try to do this. It's admittedly a risk, because it's just simply not going to look like any other basketball shoe. It's going to play a little bit different. The people might vote against this shoe with their dollars, but that's not the purpose here. The purpose is to push and to try and change perceptions. Like any good writer or musician, you're always putting your own personality into a product that might be different that someone else's. All that stuff wraps up and you end with something that's probably newsworthy because it's so different."
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