Everyone seems to have their own "huh?" moment
with the Jordan
franchise at some point. We remember being bemused when part XV dropped, but not as many people had access to the internet in 1999, and logging your reaction instantaneously via some kind of smartphone or sharing a hi-res picture on the spot would be as outrageous a notion as the 15th Jordan's bizarre collar and weave combo. We were too busy trying to the switch the covers on our Nokias. But we respected the lunacy. Bar the bland XVIII, the windowed 2010 and last year's overtly fancy 2012 (that launch colourway, the giant Jumpman and the way it had the XI and XX3 dress shoe concepts again sunk it for us), we've seen merit in each chapter (and all three of our least favourite Js had some formidable technology under the bumper but they just looked mehhh
to us). But we think this series is fueled by a 'Blades of Glory' Chaz Michael Michaels, "It's provocative - it gets the people going!
Even though the XX is downright unwearable casually (remember the Patta guys trying to give their pair away to homeless people when they copped the DMP, and having few takers?), it's a performance shoe and it looked defiantly retro. While the drop-in midsoles were cool and while it was hailed a return to form, the 2011 was almost too similar to the mid 1990s AJ smoothness to be progressive enough to be a real Jordan installment — it didn't piss people off enough. So with today's NYC announcement led by Spike Lee breaking the secrecy (and we hadn't seen so much as a single leak image, bar a grainy shot of some carbon fibre), we discovered that the years have been scrapped as the Jordan line gets the Roman numerals again. After watching Instagram damn near implode from some shots of blacked-out Jordan chapters, including an all-black XI, we saw some goofy looking diver boot silhouettes and found ourselves wondering whether the Air Jordan XX8 was some kind of test to see if any of the amassed bloggers would ask where the real shoe was.
Within seconds, the mockery had started and we ourselves were utterly bemused. But you know what? It's good to see a shoe that causes a reaction in these safe and cosy times of familiar design. Tinker Hatfield has long maintained that these things are concept cars of the shoe world. We've actually seen this shroud concept used on the legendary Glove, Gourmet's Dignan and Reebok's The Shroud for super-fertile fallen superstar Shawn Kemp, but beyond the strange aesthetics, away from that Schoellermesh jacket, the Flight Plate's polyether block amide amplification of Zoom, Dynamic Fit and plenty of expensive (more on that later) carbon fibre to keep it ultra lightweight, plus good old Phylon rather than Lunarlon makes this an insanely technical design. This shoe's sole unit is amazing.
We even saw a little Flightposite in that silhouette to start and we've long maintained that the era when we barely batted an eyelid to see the Zoom GP, Garnett III and Hyperflight (which had a similar track spike for the courts idea 11 years earlier), solely because we expected basketball shoes to be challenging (the madness of the Flight 95, 96 and Foamposite prepped us for that) is something we miss. Would those wild designs have made it out the gate if Instagram, blog comments, Facebook group and Twitter had been around? Who knows.
We're still not convinced by the neon inside the shoe when it folds to a mid cut and we're still trying to see how it can be worn casually. Do you zip it all the way up, like wearing a pair of SFBs (part of the design inspiration) with shorts? What does that look like? We'll find out when they make their court debut tomorrow. Was the Air Jordan XX8 made with Silent by Damir Doma on the moodboard? Is this the first basketball shoe made for the urban ninja crowd? So many questions.
While we're not going to feel bad for Jordan Brand, because it's absolutely killing it in terms of sales, they're hindered by the fact their older range is red hot at the moment and outselling the new generation. It's tough to keep evolving while NBA stars are begging for your past triumphs from as far back as 1988 to play in 24 years later, despite all your work to innovate the perception of performance product. With the release date set for February and the price set at $250, there's plenty of time to grow to love the Jordan XX8, grow to despise it, moan about the high price or marvel at the brazen bizarreness of it. It's nice to have a shoe that elicits such an extreme opinion — we think that's what they want to hear with this one. For all our comparisons (and the Gary Payton one is the one we've heard the most), this kind of looks like a shoe should look in a year that sounds as futuristic as 2013. It's a shame we haven't got the flying cars or computerised outfits to mach the shoe yet. Maybe in 2021, people will be camping outside shops for a retro of these. Stranger things have happened.