Look, the sneaker world bows at the altar of Tinker Hatfield so often it’s become almost cliché to highlight his merits as an iconic Nike designer. However, sometimes there’s nothing you can do but celebrate his genius.
Without Tinker’s passion for the Air Jordan signature sneaker line, we probably never get the Jordan XI, an instantly iconic sneaker, a trendsetter from the moment Michael Jordan first laced them up in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
After Jordan’s retirement in the fall of ’93, Nike executives pushed Hatfield to stop working on the line. There were plans for retro releases and the Swoosh wanted Tinker using his creative lens on other products. The designer remained unconvinced, though, and 23’s NBA comeback some 17 months later redeemed Tinker’s focus.
Tinker’s work impressed Jordan. Upon seeing a sample version of the Air Jordan XI, MJ ignored the pleading of Nike offices and rushed them to the court, forgetting about the Jordan X after playing all of 21 games in them.
The following season, Mike took Chicago to new heights in the Jordan XI. The Bulls won an NBA record 72 games and rolled to a championship as Jordan scored a trifecta of MVPS: regular season, All-Star Game, and Finals. The sneaker’s place in history was secure.
Over the years, the silhouette became a staple of any “greatest ever” sneaker list and earned the unofficial distinction as perhaps the line’s most versatile shoe ever. (Jordan accurately predicted the XI would become an iconic fashion piece thanks to its use of patent leather.) In fact, the release of the “Space Jam” XI in 2000 was so nuts Jordan Brand moved future retro releases to Saturday.
Now 20 years after the initial release, Jordan is coming correct with a brand new colorway to celebrate Chicago’s greatest year ever. Similar to the “Space Jam” design, this one features red accents atop thick premium leather rather than the sneaker’s usual mesh. The glossy patent leather overlay is also here.
In the 72-10 collection from Champs Sports, combine the kicks with a branded XI T-shirt, fleece pants, and a varsity jacket sporting the iconic numbers. When you return to school from your holiday breaks, everyone will have the kicks. Not everyone will have the gear to match.
Check out the Champs Sports store locator to find your nearest retailer and cop the collection today before the sneakers release this Saturday.