Over two years in the making, the Air Jordan 2011 was given its official media introduction yesterday in New York City. Much has been written already -- and much will be written later -- on the shoe, so we thought we'd just give everyone a brief rundown on things for starters. Consider it an FAQ of Q's that haven't even been A'd. That work? Good.
1) WHO DESIGNED IT? Well, Tinker Hatfield had a big hand in it, but a good deal of the design was handled by Tom Luedecke, a 31-year-old German designer late of the top-secret Innovation Kitchen (he's since moved to Jordan full-time). There's more nuance to it, but basically Tinker did the initial sketches and Luedecke made it all work. He also faced the media solo. Previous projects he's worked on include the Kobe VI and the Hyperdunk.
2) WHAT'S THE BIG STORY WITH THE 2011 ANYWAY? In two words? Interchangable midsoles. The 2011 comes with two sets of midsoles -- an EXPLOSIVE pair loaded with full-length Air and Cushlon, and a QUICK pair set up with heel and forefoot Zoom Air. Even the foam in the sockliners is different (firmer in the QUICK, cushier in the EXPLOSIVE). The sockliners are separate from the midsoles, so orthotic users are covered, too. Post players can get more impact protection; smaller, faster guards can get lower to the court. The real trick of it was to design a shoe with removable midsoles that wasn't a giant brick. Which, they did.
3) SO WHAT CARRIED OVER FROM THE AIR JORDAN 2010? Er, nothing really. The basic concept for the Jordan 2011 was kicking around as early as summer of 2008, so these weren't designed as an evolution of the 2010 as much as an entirely separate project. With the interchangable midsoles as a starting point, the rest of the shoe had to be designed around that component.
4) WHAT'S UP WITH THAT UPPER? Oh, you noticed. It's this strange material you don't see much in signature sneakers these days -- something called "leather." Jordan calls the wrap (the non-white part) "Patina leather," referring to the hand-burnishing that ensures each pair is unique. As for the striations, they not only reference the wing patterns of the banshees in "Avatar," but they are designed to help the shoe flex better where it needs to.
5) ANYTHING ELSE ABOUT THE UPPERS? So glad you asked. When Michael Jordan heard about the interchangable insoles, he thought it suggested warriors suiting up for battle. So the whole warrior aesthetic became a focal point to the design, down to the perforations which are meant to represent constellations. THIS... IS... JORDAN! (Sorry.)
6) WOW, THOSE JUMPMEN ON THE HEEL AND TONGUE ARE REALLY DETAILED. CAN YOU POP THEM OUT AND PLAY WITH THEM? No! What's wrong with you?
7) WHY FOUR COLORS TO START? Better question. The white/black is the standard first release, the white/gold is a limited "Year of the Rabbit" release that will come with exclusive packaging and retail for $10 above the regular $170 MSRP, and the white/blue and white/red are All-Star releases for the East and West respectively.
8) HEY, IF THIS GUY WORKED ON KOBES, WHY AREN'T THESE LOWTOPS TOO? Well, the goal of the Jordan line is to provide a shoe that a variety of players can wear -- not to mention their main guy, Dwyane Wade, is more of a power player than Kobe. So a mid makes more sense. However, you see those mesh panels on the ankles? Those allow for a lot more flexibility than a standard mid. So they're sort of the best of both worlds.
9) DID I SEE SOMETHING ABOUT ELEPHANT PRINT? WHERE? Ah yes. The traditional Jordan elephant print was adopted as an outsole pattern, which is certainly a unique application. Luedecke points it out as one of the "tongue-in-cheek" Jordan references, along with the two- and three-stitch lines on the upper. And while elephant print was the departure point, the general outsole pattern still resembles a traditional basketball shoe, complete with pivot points.
10) SO ENOUGH ABOUT THE DESIGN. HOW DO THEY PERFORM? Whoops! Out of space. Check back later for the answer to that one...