December 29th, 2011 by Aaron Kr.
#10 – AIR JORDAN 2011
Thousands of sneakers are released every year, but only a select number are given legitimate consideration for the Sneaker News Top 30 Sneakers year-end list. Trust us, the task of selecting the thirty best sneaker releases of the year is much more difficult than it seems. We carefully consider a number of factors, with one of the more accurate barometers being a candidate’s cultural impact on the sneaker game. One sneaker that will always score high in its impact is the Air Jordan signature shoe, the flagship model for Jordan Brand’s yearly product output. While the brand has certainly branched out to quite a number of divergent tangents (three completely different signature shoes, performance basketball and training footwear, lifestyle products), the Air Jordan remains as the core foundation for the juggernaut brand. However, it should be pointed out that neither the Air Jordan 2009 nor the Air Jordan 2010 were selected for Sneaker News’ Top 30 lists during the two years prior; both the Air Jordan 2009 and 2010 held the aura of magnificence and resplendency expected of an Air Jordan, but lacked the ‘gotta have it’ urgency. Judging an Air Jordan in somewhat of a negative light may leave you with an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, but that’s only because the Air Jordan is held in such high regard and anything short of amazing is, unfortunately, a letdown.
With that said, the Air Jordan 2011 set off on a mission of redemption. While the Air Jordans of the past had undoubtedly owned up to the standard of the brand in terms of engineering, performance, design, and creativity, the street-wearability was undeniably an issue. The best solution to any problem is often the simplest one, and in this case, the solution was to create a cleaner, more relevant design with a ground-breaking performance feature, which has been the age-old formula for the most celebrated Air Jordans of all-time.
At the helm of the Air Jordan 2011 concept was Tinker Hatfield, architect of some of the all-time greats, and Tom Luedecke, who
spent a good chunk of his tenure at Nike in the Innovation Kitchen, working with the likes of Mark Smith and Eric Avar. Starting with the theme of the ‘Warrior’, inspired by the blockbuster film Avatar, the designers created a stunning leather upper that emanated a level of luxury, with the pressed-leather molded graphic evoking a level of battle-ready ferocity. With the first look at the black toe, white upper first release, similarities to the Air Jordan XI were immediately evident, and that statement alone was enough to prove that the Air Jordan 2011 at least looked like a Jordan should look. And with the intriguing performance technology, it was looking like for the first time in a few releases, JB would have a hit on their hands.
This is where Dwyane Wade comes in. Jordan Brand’s marquee athlete played a major role in tuning the performance technology of the shoe, which, as many previous Air Jordans have, broke conventions of basketball sneakers by introducing something completely fresh. Cushioning is a useful gauge of measuring the quality of a performance shoe, so the Air Jordan 2011 doubled its power by featuring two independent and interchangeable cushioning systems – the Zoom-cushioned ‘Be Quick’ and the Max Air-cushioned ‘Be Explosive’. With the completed design in place, the red carpet had to be rolled out in the only way appropriate for an Air Jordan shoe. Dwyane Wade gave the world an advanced preview of the shoe by wearing it during the highly-publicized Christmas Day 2010 match-up between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers.
A retail launch followed in February during the 2011 NBA All-Star Weekend with several colorways, as well as the limited edition ‘Year of the Rabbit’ edition. The year also saw a slew of other Air Jordan 2011 releases in intense themes, like the Jordan Brand Classic PEs and the the ‘Warrior’ Pack, and in a surprising development, its introduction to Nike iD broadened the dimensions to an incalculable degree and marked a major milestone for the brand and the line, as it became the first Air Jordan model to become customizable. While a new Air Jordan shoe will never universally satisfy the often hard to please masses, the Air Jordan 2011 has gracefully made large strides at regaining the annual Air Jordan model’s rightful place in the sneaker game.