Like his first Air Jordan collaboration, the latest special edition sneaker design from reggaeton superstar J Balvin is a radiant one. His Air Jordan 2, which is finally dropping next week after months of teasers, features a light-up Wings logo on the tongue that illuminates when pressed. More than just a bell or whistle, that detail has an important meaning to the message of the J Balvin x Air Jordan 2.
“Everything I do has to tell a story,” Balvin tells Complex. “I talked to Nike about how I wanted to reflect my mental health journey in a creative way. We discussed how I had to overcome walking through dark moments to find the light. That’s where we came up with the concept for this sneaker. I wanted it to be reflective of how you jump towards the light and your dreams and elevate yourself to get through the dark situations in life.”
The J Balvin x Air Jordan 2, priced at $300, releases on Sept. 15 via the SNKRS app and select Jordan Brand retailers. The project intends to invoke serenity through the colors and materials used in the collection. In addition to channeling mindfulness through the product, J Balvin is also using this collab as a catalyst for conversations surrounding mental health awareness, namely in Black and brown communities.
The J Balvin x Air Jordan 2 uses an energetic blue color scheme and is coupled with cloud graphics on the heel counter and sock liner. There’s rainbow stitching throughout the entirety of the shoe, while J Balvin’s signature smiley face branding appears on the heel.
The sneaker will be available in full-family sizing, but only the adult version of the shoe has the light-up logo on the tongue. That detail on the collaboration was mined from a very specific pair of shoes from the artist’s childhood.
“I had the Buzz Lightyear sneakers and I remember that they would shine with every step I took,” Balvin says. “And that inspired the idea to literally show people that, even when you’re walking through darkness, the light is what’s guiding you and helping you find your way. I wanted to take that excitement from my youth and pair it with my favorite brand, which is Jordan. It blew their minds.”
Aside from the retro 2, the collection has a more casual option in the Jordan Super Play Slide. The team at Jordan Brand that put the footwear together sees dual purposes with the glow. In addition to connecting back to conversations about mental health, the footwear is practical for attendees at Balvin’s concerts.
“Regarding the footwear, we were able to design the footbed of the Play Slide to glow, like the Air Jordan 2, so if you are at a concert or out and about at night, your shoes will illuminate,” says Kim Jabbie, the former Jordan Brand senior PLM of women’s footwear.
In addition to releasing the collaborative Air Jordan 2 and Slide, J Balvin and Jordan Brand’s upcoming capsule includes matching hoodies, a crewneck sweater, t-shirts, fleece pants, shorts, a hat, crew socks, and a basketball. The most notable detail featured on some of the pieces is the brain logo, which is a nod to mental health awareness and the importance of emotional fitness.
“When we were designing with Jose, he was talking about how much yoga and being outside brought him a sense of tranquility, so we wanted to make sure there were products that encouraged movement, like the basketball,” says Matticen Cox, Jordan Brand’s developer of special projects apparel. “Almost all the graphics on apparel, like the screen print and embroidered graphics, are UV-activated. The graphics change colors when you go out in the sun which nod to being outside, the light of the sun, and following your light.”
There are handwritten messages in both English and Spanish on the pieces, which reference J Balvin’s bicultural identity. In this regard he feels he has a kinship with Jordan Brand’s namesake.
“Michael Jordan has always been so kind to me,” he says. “I had the chance to talk to him in person and it was amazing. His family is so welcoming…his wife is a queen. She’s Latina and understands the culture and expectations of traditional careers within the Latin culture.”
Jordan himself may not an official member of Latino Gang, but Balvin believes his proximity to the culture gives him and his family a unique understanding of what his work with the brand means.
“I know they love what we’re trying to accomplish with the concept for this collection,” Balvin says. “This is a huge achievement for the Latin culture.”