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Jordan 101: The Luxury Performance of the Air Jordan XX1

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If the Air Jordan XX looked to the past to celebrate Michael Jordan’s career, the XX1 did nothing but look towards the future. Departing from the radical design of 2005’s twentieth Air Jordan, the XX1 went back to a more traditional silhouette with a relatively clean and simple design. But don’t get it twisted, clean and simple didn’t mean boring. The XX1 still featured a bold, stylish, and luxurious design packed with plenty of high-performance technology. In this latest edition of our Jordan 101 series, we’ll review the history and design details of the 21st Air Jordan, and see why it’s another one of the undeservedly “slept on” designs within the brand’s lineage.

The Basics
Still less than ten years old at this point, the Air Jordan XX1 debuted in January of 2006. The XX1 released in five colorways in its standard edition, including the striking red suede construction. Along with the initial version, there was also a low-top and “PE” iteration, the latter with a more streamlined design featuring a sheath over the laces and a modified midsole.

Designed by D’Wayne Edwards
The Air Jordan XX1 was designed by D’Wayne Edwards, former Jordan Brand designer and currently the head of the Pensole footwear design academy in Portland, Oregon. “Simple and clean” was the design direction given by Michael Jordan himself for the XX1, which as you can see was successfully achieved by Edwards. The design was also influenced by something not uncommon to Air Jordan and sneaker inspiration: a sports car. It was the Bentley Continental GT, specifically, which you can see comes through within the XX1’s mesh paneling on the midsole that mimics the signature grill of the ultra luxurious sports car.

Luxury Sports Car Inspiration for a Luxury Sneaker
The XX1 was also influenced by something not uncommon to Air Jordan and sneaker inspiration: a sports car. It was the Bentley Continental GT, specifically, which you can see comes through within the XX1’s mesh paneling on the midsole that mimics the signature grill of the ultra luxurious sports car.

Premium Materials
Continuing the luxurious and high-end theme of the XX1, the shoe came constructed with either supple Italian suede or richly textured full-grain leather. Each also came with metallic detailing, a further reflection of the sports car inspiration.

I.P.S.
Like the Air Jordan XX that debuted the technology, the XX1 also featured Independent Podular Suspension (I.P.S.) cushioning. The series of cushioning pods was modified for the XX1, with the feature of an interchangeable pod in the heel for your pick of Zoom or standard encapsulated Air. This was the first installment of the customizable cushioning concept that would show up in later Air Jordan models.

More Tech in the XX1
Along with the customizable I.P.S. cushioning, the XX1 was packed with much more technology in its deceivingly simple build, including the breathable “grills” for ventilation, a carbon fiber shank for midsole support, and a close-to-the-ground low-profile Phylon midsole.

The XX1’s Secret
Like something out of a crime thriller, the XX1 needed a blacklight to expose a secret detail. To help thwart counterfeiting, the White/Varsity Red/Metallic Silver launch colorway features a mysterious message that appears under blacklight on the medial ankle. With a special decoding system, certain letters are rearranged to spell “authentic”.


Michael Was Finished, But Not Jordan Brand
Three years after an aging Michael Jordan called it quits in the NBA, most fans were accepting the fact he probably wouldn’t be making another comeback. After the Air Jordan XX celebrated Michael’s career and signature shoe line in a number of ways (see the XX’s edition of Jordan 101 for all the details), the XX1 did nothing but look towards the future of Jordan Brand’s new era. The sleek and sophisticated, yet simultaneously aggressive high-performance design of the XX1 marked the new direction for the yearly Air Jordan from then on. MJ may have been gone, but Jordan Brand proved they weren’t going anywhere. Even the original Air Jordan XX1 commercial hinted that MJ was ready to bequeath his legacy to the next generation.