The Air Jordan Legacy – Part 3 of 5

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Like the 13s the Air Jordan XIVs arrived to a bit of a frosty reception, however, in the end they had the last laugh. What do Michael Jordan in his prime and the Ferrari 550 Maranello have in common dare you ask? Well both were beautiful, sleek, lightning quick, responsive, high-performance machines. Described as ‘essentially flawless’ by one online magazine this was one baller than truly had it all. Engineered with minimal padding and a slimmer design with the intention that the AJXIV was to be an extension of the foot it contained a low-profile Zoom Air support that gave a comfortable yet non-pillowy ride. Along the way, the XIVs started a few trends such as metallic lace tips with jumpman engraving and release in a wide range of daring, experimental colorways such as ‘Oxidized Green’. Perhaps because people were unaccustomed to the new style and Michael had recently retired, the 14s did not sell well initially, however, as buyers adjusted sales picked up. Today, the AJ XIVs, unlike the 13s, are almost universally, widely respected for both their looks and performance; the high prices for deadstock pairs on eBay serve as a reminder of the legacy of the 14s.

Now if you think the 13s and 14s were controversial shoes wait until you check out the Air Jordan XVs. Inspired by the revolutionary NASA X-15 top secret super sonic jet this is really one of the more controversial love it or hate it shoes in the Air Jordan Collection to date. This shoe offers a minimalist/sleek design that is offset by an intruding AJ signature tongue (inspired by the man himself marauding to the hoop) and flashes of color (although the XVs reverted to more traditional colorways). Besides the protruding tongue and sonic jet styling the other innovative feature on the XV is the Pebax supportive heelpiece. This shoe broke new ground as the first to come in two different flavours; the usual lowtop and the ‘Moc’ version consisting of ‘shoehorn’ tongue and interwoven upper.

The AJ15 is a good conversation starter and some of its design features should stand the test of time.

Looking for a new creative challenge after some experimental yet controversial releases Tinker Hatfield stepped away from designing AJs for a while. The most interesting new development on the AJXVI, besides the gaiter feature that gave this shoe a distinct character, was the development as it was designed by Wilson Smith rather than Tinker Hatfield; Smith had worked with Hatfield for many years previously to designing the 16s and like Hatfield also started his career as an architect (he now designs ‘homes for the feet’ he says). Wilson Smith’s influence on the shoe could be felt in the following ways: the removable gaiter with magnetic and Velcro fasteners, a mix of quality materials on the upper including leather, mesh, suede and patent leather, blow moulded air pockets in the heel, a clear rubber outsole and detailed Jordan/Jumpman branding details throughout the shoe. What is really striking about this shoe is the patent leather and of course the AJ16 signature gaiter aka shroud; it meant that MJ the businessman could make a seamless transition from taking care of business off the court to on it by removing the gaiter and exposing the mesh, laces and attitude of a true baller. Another trademark of the XVI is the clear/digital motif outsole design combined with the cozy fit of the midtop with the gaiter attached (the 16 also came in a low that had an option to flip up the collar for some extra swagger).

While the 16s were pioneers in sneaker design/fashion thanks to the removable gaiter the AJXVIIs also made their mark as the hefty price tag launched AJs into the luxury good realm. The Air Jordan XVII is most memorable in connection with Michael’s final comeback with the Washington Wizards and the buzz it created throughout the NBA. It is remembered from the standpoint of a shoe as being a streamlined, sophisticated sneaker with top of the line technological response not to mention the $200 price tag that moved footwear into a whole new fashion bracket from shoe to luxury item. All things considered in spite of the media hype associated with what would be Michael’s final and short lived return to the league and the lofty sticker price slapped on the 18s, this really was architecturally and artistically speaking an impressive creation. The AJ XVII although not designed after a stylish yet high performance automobile is definitely a lean, mean machine whose look is simple and clean with all the functioning parts contributing to the overall effectiveness. The blow-moulded air unit in the heel provides comfort and the rich leather upper offers class and like all impressive mechanical designs touches like the lace toggles provide functionality as well as looking the part. Upon testing out the sole you’ll discover the 17s offer serious traction and happen to be one of the best performing Jordans. Not only do they look good, they’re also the real deal on the court. Work or play these Js have got game.

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Source par Andy Campbell