Nike's lead footwear designer tells Fast Company about creating the 2012 Air Jordan with jazz-age styling.
Nike’s 2012 version of their Air Jordan shoe will have wingtips--and what a brilliant pun that is--which we would have all labeled as anachronistic just a few days ago.
Nike Senior Footwear Designer Tom Luedecke tells Co.Design.
“The inspiration from the Zoot Era was important for us--as an anchor to focus on the Audacious, Confident and Daring Style that the Youth and entertainers brought forth during that time. We see a new wave of this mind-set today. It was a break with tradition, a bold departure from the status quo.”
It’s a hook for what’s maybe the most iconic shoe brand that uses little more than a Jordan icon to brand itself. Luedecke acknowledges that Air Jordans aren’t known for specific design cue carryovers from year to year or decade to decade, like your average Porsche, but are defined by “combining performance and soul” and “attention to the crafted details.”
The new shoe is more modular than its predecessors, with the most premium version ($223) including two for inner sleeves and three new options for midsoles, meaning the shoe can be configured six different ways by play style. Thus, in the days of a hyper-competitive marketplace and increasingly fickle sneaker heads, the Jordan brand/Nike is opting for the strategy of mass customization--something akin to the Nike ID program, but this time, with the very fit of the shoe.
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The midsoles are branded to “fly through, fly over, or fly around opponents.” As a consumer, it’s a tough choice to make, inducing the Pokemon “gotta catch ‘em all” syndrome. I don’t even play ball at my local Y, but now I have an extreme compulsion to fly every which way my 12-inch vert will take me. In practical terms, Nike is offering various configurations and shock absorption, suggesting tacitly that every player probably shouldn’t be wearing the same shoe. Whereas a center may be more likely to land somewhat flat-footed (and thereby benefit from “Air Bag” heel to toe air pockets), a point guard flying for the hoop may be more likely to land hard on the heel (and thereby benefit from a “Nike Zoom” in the heel--tensile fibers within a pressurized bladder).
“A modular product allows our athletes to think creatively about their next game or practice, try out a different cushioning system or adjust the product to work for them in very specific situations. It is performance customization brought to life in footwear and puts the athlete in control of the fit and feel of the product.“
If nothing else, the customization looks fun, though let’s all acknowledge that it’s hard to imagine Dwyane Wade switching out a midsole before the last play of the game. He’s circled with his team around the coach during their final time out, studying a clipboard intently whilst hopping on one foot, sweaty particles of cotton sock dropping on the court while one of those dry mop assistants scurries around him to gather up the tidbits.
But what a fantastic clause it would make in Wade’s next endorsement renewal.
COMMENTARY: Nike's Air Jordan 2012 modular and customizable basketball shoes have to be the best I have seen so far. I like the "zoot suit" inspired wing tip design, modular design and ability to customize the shoes for big and small basketball players and different playing situations. Nike has done a truly masterful job of combining great design, color, technical innovation and foot comfort into the design of these new shoes.
Here's Nike's official press release:
BEAVERTON, OR (February 7, 2012) – Today, Jordan Brand, a division of NIKE, Inc., unveiled the AIR JORDAN 2012, the 27th shoe in the AIR JORDAN franchise. The all-new AIR JORDAN 2012 is designed to encourage today’s athletes to rethink performance. This year’s model builds upon the AIR JORDAN 2011’s two midsole modular system by featuring two interchangeable inner sleeves and three interchangeable midsoles for performance customization. The AIR JORDAN 2012 DELUXE will be available in two colorways nationwide on Wednesday, February 8 for a suggested retail price of $223, with the AIR JORDAN 2012 Flight System launching on Saturday, February 25 for a suggested retail price of $180.
The AIR JORDAN 2012 draws inspirational cues from the legacy of Michael Jordan and continues to be one of the best performance shoes available by combining innovative technology and premium materials. The AIR JORDAN 2012’s modular system gives athletes the ability to customize for their unique playing styles and for fit preference by offering 6 different configurations.
"Through comprehensive research we saw an increasing need for footwear that could be customized to meet the needs of the world’s best athletes," said Tinker Hatfield, AIR JORDAN 2012 co-designer and Vice President, Special Projects and Creative Design for NIKE, Inc. "Last year’s AIR JORDAN 2011 began the modular story for the brand with two interchangeable midsoles, but we took it a step further this year by introducing two interchangeable inner sleeves and three interchangeable midsoles to help players 'fly through', 'fly over' or 'fly around' their opponents."
For the player that would like to 'fly around' their opponent, the green midsole features a Nike Zoom unit in the heel for lightweight and responsive cushioning. The blue 'fly over' midsole incorporates a Nike Zoom unit in the forefoot and an encapsulated Air Sole unit in the heel for the perfect blend of responsiveness and impact protection. For the player that would like to 'fly through' their opponent, the orange midsole houses a full-length encapsulated Air Sole unit that provides lightweight cushioning and impact protection for hard landings in the paint.
The AIR JORDAN 2012 also features two interchangeable inner sleeves, one for the player that needs to be quicker on the court and needs more freedom of motion in the ankle, while the high inner sleeve provides more protection around the foot and advanced ankle support.
With legendary shoe designer Tinker Hatfield and Tom Luedecke, Senior Footwear Designer for Jordan Brand at the helm, the shoe's design continues the tradition of using premium materials on the upper by combining Flywire technology with rich, full-grain leather overlays for lightweight support and a premium crafted look. In addition, the AIR JORDAN 2012 features an innovative "Flight Carbon" plate in the midfoot that is made with a combination of glass and carbon fiber and is contoured to the natural shape of the foot for optimal support.
"As a basketball player, I always wanted a shoe that adapted with my game," said Michael Jordan. "On any given night I had to adjust my style of play for countless reasons and the AIR JORDAN 2012 meets those needs with six different configurations. I’m proud to say there is not another shoe like it in the market."
The AIR JORDAN 2012 FLIGHT SYSTEM will be customizable at retail based on the consumers style of play and will feature one inner sleeve and one midsole for a suggested retail price of $180 and will be available on Saturday, February 25. In addition, the AIR JORDAN 2012 will be available on Nike iD on Tuesday, February 14 for a suggested retail price of $205.
AIR JORDAN 2012 DELUXE information
The AIR JORDAN 2012 DELUXE will feature the two inner sleeves and three midsole options allowing for six different shoe configurations for a suggested retail price of $223. The AIR JORDAN 2012 DELUXE will be encased in a premium three-tier package:
• The top drawer will feature the AIR JORDAN 2012 DELUXE outershell with one high and one low inner sleeve option.
• Once you dertermine your fit, the second drawer will house the additional high and low inner sleeves.
• The third and final drawer highlights the three midsole options to allow you to customize your flight.
• Options include: Fly Around (Quick), Fly Over (Air) and Fly Through (Explosive)
About Jordan Brand
A division of NIKE, Inc., Jordan Brand is a premium brand of footwear, apparel and accessories inspired by the dynamic legacy, vision and direct involvement of Michael Jordan. The Jordan Brand made its debut in 1997 and has grown into a complete collection of performance and lifestyle products. The Jordan Brand remains active in the community through its corporate responsibility program, WINGS for the Future, which inspires and enables youth to play sports.
You can view Nike's entire Air Jordan 2012 image gallery by clicking HERE.