“Well, I don’t know exactly when that moment is that you realise you’re shaping history, when you realise you have helped create something that people will someday consider the ultimate grail,” says Howard White, Jordan Brand’s Senior VP for SLAM, on the Air Jordan 11.
The history of the Air Jordans is one that is long, complex and controversial. To start, Air Jordans may have never even existed if Michael made a deal with his preferred choice of adidas instead of Nike. But as fate would have it, Michael ended up creating the first Air Jordan with designer Peter Moore that would influence footwear design for an entire generation to come.
“[D]o you realise at the time that you are shaping history, or do you just know you’re an artist? Did Michelangelo realise that he was doing something historical like the Sistine Chapel? He didn’t really want to do that because he was a sculptor at heart. But look at how that came out. So, I think Michael Jordan, in his heart, is an artist,” continues White.
Michael called the first Air Jordan the devil’s shoe. The Air Jordan 1 is infamously black and red, and it went against NBA’s uniform guidelines at the time. NBA fined Michael $5,000 every game he laced them up and went on the court (which Nike happily paid — the sneaker ban racked up some serious hype for Nike for a shoe that wasn’t even released yet). Michael had some of his greatest moments in the Jordan 1, including his 63-point playoff performance against Celtics that had Larry Bird comparing Michael to God. 13 years later, Michael would once again break out his first kicks for one last time in his Chicago farewell tour stop at Madison Square Garden even though he had outgrown the pair by a full size.
Fast forward 10 years later, in May of 1995, designer Tinker Hatfield (who took over Peter Moore from Jordan III) would unveil a shoe that would blow the sneaker world away — the Air Jordan 11. “They were shining underneath the lights in Orlando. They were damn near glowing, an everlasting flash that hadn’t been seen before. It was the patent leather. A glistening shade of black, contrasted against a clean white base. And when Michael rose up for his jumpshot, hints of purple peeked out.”
“I remember when we first showed MJ, he was like, ‘That’s it! That’s what I’m talking about. You got it,’” recalls White. The Air Jordan 11 was a shoe that was as functional as it was aesthetically perfect. The use of patent leather helped Michael’s foot stay locked in on hard stops and cuts. And to top it off, the shoe was dubbed Michael’s return to greatness.
Part of the shoe’s magic is due to the fact that it is classified as a general release. It is not limited edition, there are no ballots for it, and from its public releases in 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2011, it warranted campouts — the ONLY way to buy them. And in true spirit, Limited Edt will be launching the Air Jordan 11 “Concord”, campout style, at Culture Cartel 2018, for pre-order with limited quantities on both 1st and 2nd December — your first and best chance to secure a pair ahead of the launch.
“I think when you look at legacy, when you look at how something becomes ‘the grail’, when you look at what this single item can mean to a populous, it really breaks down to what sacrifices are people willing to take to repeat a dream,” muses White. Coming back as No. 45 and having to feel like you aren’t living up to who the world thought you were. That shoe says you’re really not worried about what the world thinks. It says you really want to be your self-conceptualisation of who you know you can be. So, are you willing to push through those boundaries?”