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The Air Jordan 33, Proto React, And Apex-Utility Deliver The Wow Factor

By John Kim

Jordan Brand is looking to hit the reset button, sorta. While much of its identity is tied to its retro product, the newer product and messaging is what the brand is working tirelessly on to ensure it stays relevant to future generations who view Michael Jordan as more of a historical figure rather than an immediate idol. There’s been clear emphasis on expanding Jordan’s reach, which is why you see his logos on Paris Saint-Germain football kits, the jerseys of the Michigan Wolverines, and footwear for hip-hop superstar Travis Scott.
 
 
As for Air Jordan footwear, it has the curse of being constantly compared to its predecessors. Starting with the Air Jordan 31, the Jordan creative team chose to put the onus on themselves by infusing elements of the past – specifically from the respective model thirty chapters its senior. That said, anticipation for the Air Jordan 33 has been mounting for two years simply because it was married to one of the greatest sneakers ever, and what resulted is nothing what we expected.
 

THE FUTURE OF FLIGHT

 

I’ll start out by saying that I am extremely relieved that the Air Jordan 33 features no Flyknit or elephant print. On some level, both were expected to appear given the Air Jordan 32s use of the material and the fact that the grey/black crackly print is pretty much a signature of the AJ3. The elements of the Air Jordan 3 certainly exist, but designer Tate Kuerbis and the Jordan design team did an excellent job at infusing its character without letting it dominate. The Air Jordan 31 looked too much like the Air Jordan 1, and the Air Jordan 32 looked too much like the Air Jordan 2. The Air Jordan XXXIII, on the other hand, is its own unique shoe thanks to the subtle applications of Air Jordan 3 detailing. The oversized tongue with the Jumpman logo, the mudguards on the heel and the forefoot, and the toe-box structuring are all impressive nods to the 1988 model, but my personal favorite is the circular window beneath the sole that reveals the FastFit mechanism – a nod to visible Air.

  • Air Jordan 33 10.18.18, $175

  • Air Jordan 33 10.18.18, $175

  • Air Jordan 33 10.18.18, $175

  • Air Jordan 33 10.18.18, $175

  • Air Jordan 33 10.18.18, $175

Year in and year out, the new Air Jordan introduced a performance innovation that was not seen in the industry. In this case, it’s the new FastFit technology that allows the XXXIII to be completely devoid of shoelaces. Once your foot is in (which we admit is a bit of a struggle to do), the shoe locks down by pulling up on the black cord that sits across the midfoot. That activates the FastFit system, which locks down to your foot for a true one-to-one fit. As mentioned earlier, you can see the FastFit mechanism in action through the circular window under your foot. To loosen, just pull the yellow/black cord. All of this functionality is presented rather simply through informative design.

  • Air Jordan 33 Upcoming colorways

  • Air Jordan 33 Upcoming colorways

  • Air Jordan 33 Upcoming colorways

  • Air Jordan 33 Upcoming colorways

  • Air Jordan 33 Upcoming colorways

The overhanging “space flight” theme of the Air Jordan 33 is also apparent in the design of the shoe. It looks like footwear meant for walking on the moon, but without the oversized bulk. The exposed stitching, untucked seams, visible moving parts, and even the gold foil detailing all speak to that space travel aesthetic while touching on the current “deconstructed” trend. More of this instructional design is revealed via the red outlines that denote the Zoom Air bags on the forefoot and heel. A nice easter egg is on the tongue and heel pull-tabs; the lines are textured for grip, but if you fold them at their peaks, the number “33” is revealed. On a design standpoint, the thirty-third model is one of the best Air Jordans from the 21st Century.

PURPOSE AND IDENTITY

 

The first shoe that was actually unveiled at the launch event was the Jordan Apex-Utility. Originally leaked by a Jordan employee earlier this Summer, this model informed the world of the brand’s new direction with Nike’s REACT Foam technology. The upper consists of a translucent shroud with exposed taping and stitching, while the body underneath is that of the Air Jordan 1 Flyknit. Additional design elements in the heel strap and padded ankle and tongue further add to the moon-boot look, while the REACT cushioning with its noodling traction pattern lends to the all-terrain capability. What an unbelievable shoe.

  • Jordan Apex Utility Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Apex Utility Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Apex Utility Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Apex Utility Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Apex Utility Coming in 2019

BUILT FOR MOON WALKING

 

If Tom Sachs designed an Air Jordan shoe, you’d have the Proto React. Similar to the Apex-Utility, the Proto React lifestyle shoe utilizes a REACT Foam cushioning with the same udon-noodle tread. The upper shroud exists in several forms and colorways, but the one that I gravitated to the most was the dark grey duct-tape looking beast with a black trim and an opaque rubber outsole. The branding is absolutely subtle and refreshing, while the other colorways feature JUMPMAN boldly printed on the exterior heel strap.

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

The Proto React, as mentioned earlier, is a lifestyle shoe. This is territory that Jordan Brand isn’t exactly used to as all of their new products are designed with performance in mind, but keeping it core performance isn’t a pragmatic approach considering most of athletic footwear is worn casually. There is potential in this unfamiliarity, and the Proto React and Apex-Utility are prime examples of just how promising this new direction is.

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

  • Jordan Proto React Coming in 2019

ENGINEERED FOR FLIGHT

 

In tandem with the footwear was Jordan Brand’s latest collection of apparel, which catapults from the brand’s unveiling of their monotone white/black collection from one year ago. There were two distinct directions that tied to the space travel theme with the translucent shell jacket and utility pants, while the retro-themed product utilized tonal blocking that blended a high-end look with its casual appeal.

  • Jordan Apparel Engineered For Flight

  • Jordan Apparel Engineered For Flight

  • Jordan Apparel Engineered For Flight

  • Jordan Apparel Engineered For Flight

  • Jordan Apparel Engineered For Flight