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JORDAN 101: Notable Facts of the Air Jordan XX

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The Air Jordan XX is back. On February 16th, the first-ever retro of the 20th Air Jordan outside of 2008’s Countdown Pack is set to drop, with the Air Jordan 20 Retro “Laser” in a bold blend of crisp white and reflective silver and featuring the model’s iconic laser print. The return of #20 has been a bit of a surprise, especially since it’s one of the most polarizing designs of the entire Air Jordan series. With the XX’s return in mind, today we launch Jordan 101 – an ongoing series aimed to educate you on the basics of each and every Air Jordan in history.

Love it or hate it, the unique silhouette is an important edition in the Air Jordan line, rich with symbolism of Michael Jordan’s career and all twenty of his shoes. Upon its original release, it also featured a couple of firsts, as well as a couple of notable returns to Air Jordan history. For either a refresher course or your first lesson on the Air Jordan XX (depending on your age), continue reading for all of the noteworthy facts about the distinct and innovative shoe. Enjoy this first installment of Jordan 101, and stay tuned to Sneaker News throughout the year for an education on the basics of your favorite Jordan models.

The Return of Tinker

After a four-shoe hiatus, Tinker Hatfield—legendary Nike designer and the man responsible for all your favorite Jordans—was back again to lead the design team for the 20th anniversary model. As usual, Tinker created an innovative and groundbreaking new addition to the Air Jordan lineage.

Motorcycle Racing Inspiration

While the Air Jordan XX had a few specific influences, its biggest inspiration was Michael Jordan’s then-new love of motorcycle racing. The shoe incorporated elements of design from high-performance motorcycles as well as the heavy-duty boots racers wear on their bikes.

Independent Ankle Collar

The Air Jordan XX’s most recognizable and unique design feature is the free-floating ankle strap. The idiosyncratic strap was designed to offer support, but strip away weight by doing away with the typical mid-top basketball shoe composition. Giving you options, the strap can hang free, or be attached to the rest of the shoe with a small velcro piece.

Even More Straps

The XX’s distinct straps don’t stop at just the ankle, as the shoe has another strap on each midfoot. The large velcro straps lockdown each midfoot, almost eliminating the need for laces at all. They’re also adorned with the lasered graphics, which we’ll get to next.

Debut of Lasered Graphics

The Air Jordan XX debuted the now often-used lasered graphics synonymous with Jordan Brand. Designed by Mark Smith—Nike’s innovation kitchen member and frequent collaborator with Tinker Hatfield—the detailed lasered graphics feature a mosaic of various Air Jordan models, logos, and stories from MJ’s career.

Medial Side Toe Piece

Among the XX’s many distinct characteristics is the toe piece on each medial side of the shoe. Constructed with Nubuck on the original colorways, the toe piece offered unique style as well as protection, inspired by the toe drag that often occurs while playing basketball. The protective piece is also found on some motorcycle racing boots.

Six Rings

Filled with symbolism from Michael’s career, the Air Jordan XX also incorporates his six NBA championships with six metallic “rings” at the rear of each shoe. Leading back to the motorcycle influence, the rings were also inspired by the chrome exhaust of many racing bikes.

Independent Podular Suspension

The Air Jordan XX introduced a brand new cushioning system: Independent Podular Suspension. Inspired by the shape and flexibility of speaker cones, IPS is a series of pods on each sole placed in strategic locations to offer cushion and support. The pods have multiple densities, with softer cushion in the heel and firmer cushion in the forefoot.

A Celebration of Twenty Years of Air Jordans

As the landmark 20th Air Jordan model, the Air Jordan XX is rich with symbolism celebrating the legendary sneaker line’s 20th anniversary. “85” and “05” can be found at the heel of the left shoe to represent the years of the release of the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 20, and each shoe has ten IPS pods, adding up to a total of twenty.

All Twenty Air Jordans Represented

In addition to the many Jordan models seen on the lasered strap, the twenty IPS pods between both shoes have illustrations of recognizable features from all twenty Air Jordan models (including the XX).

Spike Lee Back

Tinker was back on for the Air Jordan XX’s design, and so was Spike Lee for the ad campaign. Gone since the days of the early Air Jordans when the then relatively unknown but now famous film director played Mars Blackmon, Spike joined on for the “storybook” campaign.

Forgotten Retro

Oft forgotten is the 2008 Countdown Pack Air Jordan 20 Retro, which featured a “Black Cat” colorway complete with the famous lasered design across its entirety. Unfortunately, its bad material quality have ended up making it widely considered as one of the least favorite of the CDP bunch.

Polarizing Design

Like a few of the innovative, radically-designed, yet great sneakers out there, the Air Jordan XX and its extreme silhouette garner a love/hate judgement from most Air Jordan fans. Many love them, many hate them, and you’ll find few opinions on the shoe that remain somewhere in the middle. Now it’s back for its ten year anniversary, ready to force the next generation to take a stance on its unmistakable design.