Air Jordan 33
The Air Jordan XXX is a unique synthesis of Jordan’s evolution as a player and a design collaborator. Each of the shoe’s elements results from a key performance insight or design inspiration fundamental to the player and Jordan Brand’s evolutions.
An “XXX”, signifying 30, transformed into a basketball net. Stars symbolized the athlete’s otherworldly talents and planets orbiting the Jordan universe took on surfaces — elephant print or carbon fiber — related to innovations initiated by past Jordan models. Elaborating his drawing, with help of fellow designer Mark Smith, Hatfield broadened the Jordan narrative and formed the story of the Air Jordan XXX, one that references a storied yet timeless lineage with an eye towards the future.
“I remember thinking about how silhouettes are important in the world of basketball, not just for performance – whether it’s a mid cut or high or low or something in-between – but as a hallmark of that year,” explains Hatfield, recalling how changing the top line of a shoe from one Jordan model to another became a standard brand practice. “We kept marveling at how we were able to keep the dimensions down and make it look slick,” says Hatfield. He also recalls that Jordan’s singular demand was to “make it look fast,” a request augmented by the “XXX” graphic that wraps the heel and extends through the forefoot.
Another trademark of later Jordan silhouettes is a smooth toe piece. “Michael has always been very infatuated with the toe-down look of a shoe,” notes Hatfield. A prime example can be seen on the XI, where the patent extends up the vamp so gracefully that its protective properties appear almost as an afterthought.
Less apparent than the collar and toe, but nonetheless important, is the traction treatment. The FlightSpeed architecture of the Air Jordan XX9, Hatfield explains, is “probably the best performing Jordan chassis we’d ever done.” Still, Hatfield and Smith didn’t just serve up a new herringbone pattern on the Air Jordan XXX. Instead, they drew a new traction system inspired by the Jordan quote: “Excellence is never second place,” which has been rendered in 3D to serve the needs of pinnacle athletes, like Russell Westbrook.
Since the brand’s inception, material interplay has also been critical to the success of Jordan silhouettes. Likewise, a proprietary mix defines the upper composition of the Air Jordan XXX, which debuts an exclusive mix of woven, knit and printed materials. For Hatfield, it’s about putting the right characteristic in the right place. The woven upper provides “strength,” he explains, “and makes good sense for the body of the shoe, because you can bring in strength and graphic elements that are actually woven right in.” At the ankle and through the interior, knit offers “softness and breathability.”
Knit also allowed the designers to consider the shoe’s fit, from the inside out. “We go to great lengths to make sure that when you put on a shoe, your calcaneus, which is the bottom part of the heel or the bony part of the heel, is locked,” says Hatfield. On the Air Jordan XXX, a knit cradle keeps the heel in place and at the same time reduces the amount of glue needed to make the shoe. “We should be gaining wisdom and learning from our mistakes and successes,” confirms Hatfield.