Earlier this week, the Air Jordan XX8, the 28th shoe of the famous Air Jordan franchise, was unveiled by Jordan Brand before a packed building of specially invited media. Immediate reactions were mixed, to put it nicely, as people got a first glimpse of a shoe featuring a monochromatic black upper stretching eight inches high with a zipped up outer skin. Initial comments on social media streams like Instagram, twitter, and Facebook shared reactions that included ?worst Jordan shoe ever? and ?who could possibly wear this??
But when the zipper came down, exposing what was beneath, you could tell that yet again, Jordan Brand was playing with our minds. While the silhouette was unlike anything the market has had the opportunity to purchase, the Jordan XX8 revealed that it still did look somewhat like what we know as a ?shoe.? Toying with the emotions of sneaker connoisseurs and Jordan heads is nothing out of the ordinary for Jordan Brand. Year after year, the brand pushes the envelope in a new direction, never resorting to what is considered to be safe, a sure bet, or a guaranteed seller. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not, but it is the risk that Jordan Brand takes with each model that is very much part of the identity of Jordan.
Even before Jordan was a brand, and even before we knew Jordan as the Jumpman logo, the line pushed limits. The Air Jordan 1 was banned by the NBA for violating the uniform policy. As a high-flying rookie, MJ grabbed the attention of many from the basketball world, but the very point that he wore a shoe that was banned by the NBA (and cost $5,000 a game in fines) earned attention from many who had little interest in the sport. The Air Jordan 1 became a symbol of not going with the grain and not going with what ?the man? says is acceptable.
Year after year, model after model, we have seen new technology and innovations brought to the Air Jordan series, with sources of inspiration from World War II fighter planes (Air Jordan 5), to lawnmowers (Air Jordan 11), to MJ?s own Ferrari (Air Jordan 14). Technology and innovation have pushed footwear design forward in a way similar to the automotive industry. With new technologies developed and new ways to execute and use them in shoes, designs evolve year after year. While, as a business, Jordan Brand needs to produce shoes for the mass consumer base, it doesn?t always have to do so with its flagship models.
Using the automotive parallel, the Jordan XX8 is the concept car of the brand. Challenging the limits of style and performance, the shoe, by design, is made to only appeal to a small market. While a concept car is something that few will get to enjoy, it?s greatest contributions is to the industry challenging and inspiring designers and subsequently consumers.
On the performance side, the Air Jordan XX8 is not designed for everyday use, but rather it is designed for athletes performing at their peak. Much like with a concept Ferrari, it can serve to execute everyday tasks, but only a finite number of individuals can push the shoe to the redline and maximize its performance capabilities. On the style side, the Jordan XX8 is clearly not a shoe everyone can pull off right out of the box, but rather presents a challenge where by one invests time and thought into how to wear the XX8 – something, deep down, you know Jordan Brand wants.
As Jordan Brand has invested greatly into the design and development of the Jordan XX8, they want you to invest into the product beyond the monetary exchange at the point of purchase. With this repeated cycle with each time you lace up, and in this case zip up too, the relationship between the brand and consumer continues past the moment the shoe is bought.
As a consumer, it might be tough to hear that maybe this product isn?t for you – but it is that challenge that urges athletes to hone the skills necessary to maximize their performance, non athletes to hone in the right pieces for their wardrobe, and pushes designers to create such boundary breaking shoes. ?That very challenge or complexity is something that we expect from Brand Jordan each year with the flagship model whether we want to admit it or not.
The Air Jordan XX8 isn?t for everyone, but is it for you?