The Air Jordan 3 is a shoe of firsts for A Ma Maniere owner James Whitner. Not only is it the first retro Air Jordan bearing his shop’s name, but it’s also the first Jordan that his mother bought him growing up.
A Ma Maniere’s Air Jordan 3 “Raised by Women,” set to release on April 21 for $200, was inspired by Whitner’s mother purchasing the sneaker for him at a young age. “The 3 was the first Jordan that my mother ever bought for me and my brothers,” Whitner says. “If we’re telling a story that’s going to be about women, for me, [that story was] super unique and it stuck into my mind. I got to give my brother the credit. He was like, ‘If you’re going to do [a 3], Mommy bought us the 3. That was the first shoe she bought us.’”
It would have been easy to assume that A Ma Maniere’s collaboration was intended to celebrate Women’s History Month, as the sneaker was originally supposed to release in March, was designed with women in mind, and comes in inclusive sizing. But Whitner says that wasn’t the plan for the sneaker, it just happened that way, because Jordan Brand allowed the retailer to tell the stories that they wanted to tell. Whitner says everything lined up with “God engineering” for this project.
This pair of Air Jordan 3s sticks out not only because of the story behind it, but because Whitner and his team were able to create a memorable sneaker. They stripped the Air Jordan 3 down to its simplest form and added luxury touches in line with A Ma Maniere, a sneaker boutique that’s also known for being a high-end retailer. The brand set out to design a sneaker for women that men would want to wear, too.
“Taking [elephant print] off was a no-brainer. Suede for [elephant print]. Done. Then it was really about what colors spoke best to make women feel like they were included, but to not make men feel like they were excluded,” says Whitner. “You hear women say so much, they want to participate in the journey with men. They just want to buy dope stuff and we just wanted to be mindful of leading with women but including men and doing something that spoke to A Ma Maniere with the subtle details, like the suede. The sample came back and we’re like, ‘We’re done.’”
Other design elements that stick out on the sneaker are the Nike Air logo on the back, the satin liner, purple hits on the midsole, and maxims such as “All We Have Is Each Other,” and “You Have to be Comfortable Walking Alone,” hidden on the back of the heel tabs. Another detail of the Air Jordan 3s that might go unnoticed, but is essential to the core of this sneaker, is the writing “Work Harder,” on the shoelace aglets. The phrase was inspired by A Ma Maniere team member Kev Chao, but takes a bigger meaning in the overall of the shoe.
“Kev Chao came on our team. I don’t know if I drove him crazy, but his screen saver was ‘Work fucking harder,’ and we couldn’t put ‘fucking’ on the shoe,” says Whitner. “It’s the idea of, it’s never over. I’m a Black man in an industry of primarily white faces, so the fight looks different for me. Every day I gotta wake up and be ready to go at it.”
Whitner doesn’t want the story of the women who inspired the sneaker to get lost amongst the hype of release that’s set to happen. He says, “I always want to put that message to others, especially women, because if anyone has it worse than Black men, it’s Black women. And people don’t talk about that at all. It’s the understanding that they never say it, but it’s ingrained in them that they gotta show up better than the rest of us every day.”
As the sneaker’s name suggests, women play a central role in A Ma Maniere’s Air Jordan 3. When the sneaker was first unveiled, it came with an accompanying black-and-white video that showed Black women working intensive jobs and ended with Vice President Kamala Harris on a television screen. Harris, who has been spotted in sneakers as of late, also has a connection to Whitner. Her episode of Complex’s Sneaker Shopping was filmed at Social Status in Charlotte, North Carolina, which he also owns, in the leadup to the presidential election. When asked if his upcoming collaboration might get laced up by the VP, Whitner says, “That could get interesting, bro, anything can happen.” He says he hasn’t reached out to her team, but if she wants them, she’s going to get three pairs.
Whitner also has a personal relationship with Michael Jordan, who was seen wearing a shirt from the collection courtside at a Charlotte Hornets game. Whitner says Jordan told him, “I really like the shoe.”
The plan, though, is to get the A Ma Maniere x Air Jordan 3 in the hands and on the feet of women. Last year saw Jordan Brand release an Off-White collaboration on the Air Jordan 4, which was released in a way that gave select women early access to the sneaker. Whitner has similar plans for his upcoming Jordans.
“Women will be very happy with the plan we have to make sure that they get the shoe. We understand how sneaker culture works,” he says. “When it’s a zoo, women don’t get the chance to participate the way they should be able to. We have a ladies-first plan, and they’ll be excited once they hear the details.”
There’s been a lot of scrutiny over limited-edition sneakers as of late. Consumers feel the odds are stacked against them and that they won’t be able to get the sneakers no matter how hard they try. In a day and age where bots rule drops and a Nike VP and her son recently got caught up in a reselling scandal, Whitner recognizes the frustration.
“The only thing we can do is make sure the shoes get into the hands of people, and then it’s their choice. We’re going to be surgical, making sure it’s a one to one, no address gets more than one shoe. No person who shows up to get a shoe isn’t getting a shoe unless the size on their feet aligns to the size they’re buying,” Whitner says. “Based around everything that happened recently at Nike around bots, we understand the optics of it, it’s our job to have the most integrity that we can and make sure kids feel like they win. If they choose to sell them after that, that’s on them.”
Whitner has a personal relationship with Michael Jordan, who was seen wearing a shirt from the collection courtside at a Charlotte Hornets game. Whitner says Jordan told him, “I really like the shoe.”
But when it comes to who the sneakers will mean the most to, the women in Whitner’s life, it’s already expected that he’s going to tell these stories, that he’s going to give a voice to the unheard. “I haven’t even spoken to my mom about it. My daughter’s seen it, but she kinda knows who I am. The mother of my children, she’s seen it. But they know who they’re living with everyday,” says Whitner. “It’s one of those things, where I’m not saying they don’t appreciate me, but there’s an expectation to be who I am, it’s just the way we hold each other accountable. They expect me to be consistent and be who I’ve been and tell our stories.”