The Air Jordan 36 was officially unveiled by Jordan Brand today, but it already has an Olympic gold medal on its resume. Jayson Tatum wore the model, the latest from Michael Jordan’s multi-decade-spanning signature line, for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics—including during his 19-point and 7-rebound performance in USAB’s gold medal game.
For this latest entry of the game shoe, Tate Kuerbis, a 26-year Nike veteran, once again got the call to lead the team. The 36 marks the sixth-straight Air Jordan that Kuerbis has designed and his eighth overall. The shoe builds on a platform that began with the Air Jordan 34, and focuses on a theme of “light” this time around. The concept is multi-faceted, referring to both the shoe’s weight, and the fact that daylight can actually pass through it thanks to a new upper technology.
“The idea of taking back the courts, that’s been our big sole mission over the years,” Kuerbis says. “Looking back at it, the Air Jordan 34 was really the starting point of something new for the Jordan Brand and the Air Jordan.” That model introduced Eclipse Plate, a technology that built off the brand’s existing Flight Plate tech, aiming at maximizing the effectiveness of existing Zoom Air while also removing material from the shoe’s midsole. “When we moved on to the 36 we felt like if there was one thing we could do, we could really focus on creating one of the lightest weight Air Jordans we’ve ever done before.”
This weight reduction was led by Jordan Brand materials designer Jacqueline Lefferts, who brought an upper created using jacquard leno-weave. Lefferts obtained a master’s in textile design from the Royal College of Art in London and has been with Jordan Brand for four years. She’s touched nearly every performance silhouette the brand has produced in that period.
“When you look at [the 34], it is so light looking and lightweight, so we were like, ‘How do we make material that’s lighter than that?’” she explains. “Tate and I decided in order to do that we really needed a new method of making material and a new innovation.”
Lefferts says that weaving is an obscure thing to be obsessed with in the first place, “but even within the weaving world, leno-weave is a type of weaving that most weavers don’t even know about. In my last year of university I became really fascinated with it and explored and experimented for about a year.”
She explains that it’s a specialized technique that utilizes yarns that are twisted around themselves. “What that’s doing is creating these really open structures. Because it’s twisting, we’re able to remove a lot of yarn, and any time you take away material you’re making something lighter. But even though you’re removing yarn, it’s just as strong—if not stronger.”
The result was a material that came in at 33% lighter than the upper material used on the 34. It’s also extremely translucent and allows for color shifts based on the viewing angle.
On the cushioning front, Eclipse Plate is back on the 36, but has undergone an evolution.