All systems are go.
We've got the Kobe VI System and now we get the Air Jordan 2012 Deluxe set, offering a semi-bespoke basketball experience. We genuinely don't know how to feel about these interchangeable releases — the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the sports footwear world - and what they bring to the table. In terms of performance, there's no negative in offering the very best, but it's fiddly...very fiddly. The Jordan XX1's switchable heel pods were just the beginning, with the excellent Jordan 2011's drop-in midsoles being a logical progression. They were awkward to replace, but now we get a choice of three drop-in midsoles and two inserts offering two levels of support.
The lower option trounces the higher one in terms of complimenting the silhouette, but choice can be a good thing if you're actually looking to play in them. The overall look of the Jordan 2012 seems marinaded in the formal-footwear theme of the tux-friendly XI from all those years ago — this instalment offers a brogue effect instead, with those embossed premium panels over a supportive dose of Flywire. Is the zoot suit inspiration taken from Jordan's own taste for anti-tailoring? There's been some heated debate over these in the office — why grey and green as a Jordan launch makeup? That's gives these a Jordan spinoff feeling rather than a real Jordan line entry - the All-Star Weekend editions bring out the best in this model. Wasn't that dress shoe effect in the XX3's upper too? Things change and modes of play alter, but our favourite Jordans from back in the day didn't need altering. Maybe it's just a sign of how things are these days — we've got more of a voice to determine projects and that sense of democracy influences what drops. While the big man's outfits constantly hit David Byrne levels of width, at least you can tailor the 2012 to your own needs.
That makes these a very 2012 design in a lot of ways, but we still prefer the 2011s and that vast Jumpman seems at odds with the big branding free look that Jordan shoes have maintained since 1986. The Jordan line's unique lineage never had to shout about what it was, so why make that Jumpman so big? For a shoe that offers such a sense of security in terms of support, that silhouette on the upper makes these seem a little insecure. NBA players have proven that the fancy stuff can be superfluous too by playing in a 1988 Jordan design in the year 2011. There are plenty of details worthy of note though — the midsoles have a pick of a Zoom Air heel (Fly Around) full-length Air bag (Fly Through) or a rear and forefoot blend of Air bag and Zoom (Fly Over) and they're comfort-centric once you've gone through the process of picking your combo (mid insert, Zoom and Air cocktail being our pick). That carbon plate can't have been cheap to add to the outsole either.
The Jordan 2012 packaging is heftier than MJ's distressed denims too — a portable chest of drawers holding the shell at the top, inserts second down and midsoles at the bottom is insane. Opened up, it looks like a stepladder, and you could turn it into a capsule hotel if you felt inclined. It's so lavish that it borders on parody. As ever, when it comes to the hero shoe, Jordan Brand begs no friends again. We're on the fence, just because they've been sat on the desk alongside the IV and X recently, but in the world of Jordans one man's AJVII is another man's AJXV. Each instalment reflects its era and these are undoubtedly a shoe that captures 2012's mess of social media, reference points, hype and constant communication. Better than the 2010 but not as strong as the 2011 from a beyond-the-court angle, these are in the Crooked Tongues store right now