JB Designer Tom Luedecke Discusses the Air Jordan 2011
SN: You talked a lot about the warrior concept. Every Air Jordan shoe seems to tell a story that embodies some aspect of Michael’s game or personality. Is the Air Jordan 2011 addressing the warrior mentality of Mike’s game?
TL: We lead with performance. We’re leading with a new technology that Jordan Brand is the first to come to the game with, and it’s a new way of looking at footwear for us, and the story of the warrior is what draped it. So it really allows us to do both. To tell a great technology story delivering high benefit to the athlete, and then really paying attention to the outside of the shoe and telling the warrior story.
SN: A lot of recent Air Jordan designs have had a lot going on visually, but the 2011 seems to be a more clean and simplistic approach. Was that something that was in your minds going into it, or did the design just come together organically along the way?
TL: From the very beginning, Tinker also starts with the foot, so it’s building from the ground up. It starts with the foot. It starts with the technology inside. It starts with a way of getting to a new experience for the athlete and I think that’s an important part of this product. When Tinker showed me his first sketches, he mentioned to me very beautiful clean lines and he kept reiterating that throughout the process. ‘Beautiful clean lines. Pay attention to every curve that’s on the shoe.’ So we spent a lot of time refining these lines. If you have very few things going on, you have to pay a lot of attention to every single one of those things. So I kid you not, we spent probably four or five rounds getting just that (overlay) shape right. Same with the leather panel finishes and the throat opening finishes. Every single round, we just pushed and tweaked it and refined it to where now we’re very happy with how it turned out.
SN: To look at the shoe, it seems strange to see the mesh window so high on the ankle. is that just for aesthetic or breathability purposes, or are there some further tech advantages to the placement?
TL: Absolutely a tech advantage. We had it early on in the concept, so it wasn’t something that we just threw on for aesthetics even in the raw concepts. The reason why is that it allows you to have a very tight fit around the ankle, but when you cut, you want some type of collapse to happen. This is a midtop so it’s very versatile. Every player on the court can wear this. With a mid cut, you wanna align the knee with the ankle with the heel, and when you’re cutting, as your heel moves over and sort of rotates in the shoe, you want to be able to collapse the shoe on the medial side and vice versa on the inverse cut so that you have perfect alignment and perfect biomechanics in the cut, which allows you to cut harder and faster and be out of the cut in just a split second. So absolutely, that’s a performance insight and so is the lacing system. It’s something not as overt as other models we’ve had, but it allows you to pull all the way from the midsole so every individual loop grabs your foot and pulls the midsole against it. So that’s another technical advantage of the product that also looks beautiful and clean on the outside. We worked on those things and tech influenced aesthetic and aesthetic influenced tech, always with the goal of very clean lines and a beautiful design.