Originally branded the “Air Jordan Revolution,” the ¾-cut Air Jordan 3 (Air Jordan III) ushered in a whole new era of sneaker design and marketing. Designed by architect-turned-sneaker-designer Tinker Hatfield
, the Air Jordan 3 also represented a whole new approach to signature sneaker design, where the athlete’s personality would begin to play a larger and larger role. Which made sense—if someone’s name were on a product, they should have some say.
This was also a crucial shoe in Nike
’s history. The primary people who brought Jordan to the company and pushed the initial Air Jordan concept through — Rob Strasser and Peter Moore — had left Nike, and Jordan himself wasn’t sure whether he’d stay. Hatfield’s design helped him make his decision.
And what a design it was. The mid-cut shoe utilized elephant-print leather and the all-new Visible Air midsole, as well as the plastic speedlacing that was introduced with the Air Jordan 2 (Air Jordan II). And again, there was no Swoosh on the sides—the Air Jordan 3 (III) was the first shoe to feature the new “Jumpman” logo, a silhouette of Jordan soaring, arms and legs splayed, rising to an unseen rim. And to market it, Nike went with a young actor and director from Brooklyn, whose first feature film starred a character who did everything in his Air Jordans. The director, who also played said character, was named Spike Lee. The character, Mars Blackmon, found new life as Jordan’s comedic foil in some of the best sneaker commercials ever filmed.
Again, though, Jordan himself was his best marketing person. The 1988 NBA
All-Star Game was held in Chicago, and Jordan defended his Slam Dunk title in the white Air Jordan 3, then went on to win MVP of the All-Star Game in the black pair. There are some things you just can’t pay for.