Tate Kuerbis recalls the moment Michael Jordan put on the final sample of the Air Jordan XXX3. Kuerbis, senior footwear designer at Jordan Brand, was tasked with designing MJ’s 33rd signature sneaker, and felt as if Jordan was back in the NBA when he was putting on the brand’s latest silhouette.
“I probably saw Michael in [this shoe] more than any other game shoe,” says Kuerbis. “When we got to the final sample and he put it on, he pulled it and in my mind I could almost see him back on the court.”
What Kuerbis references Michael pulling was the FastFit pull-tab, Jordan Brand’s newest technology implemented into the XXX3 that serves as the primary lacing component that secures the foot for that lockdown feel. Although the brand steered away from using a traditional lacing system, a first-ever in His Airness’ sneaker line, the AJXXX3 is equipped with technological features to make it one of the most innovative performance sneakers the brand has to offer.
“The first thing we talk about is how we’re going to provide a product for athletes to perform at their best,” says Gentry Humphrey, Jordan Brand’s vice president of Footwear. “Our goal was that we created a lockdown fit so the guy has zero distractions when he cuts from Point A to Point B, and FastFit technology allows us to accomplish that.”
Since the AJXXX1, Jordan Brand’s designers have paid homage to the past, incorporating innovation in newer silhouettes with a nod to its predecessors. Upon first glance, the AJXXX3 is no different and has similarities to the Tinker Hatfield-designed Jordan III: the Jumpman logo on the tongue, Nike Air on the back and the side panel (minus the iconic cement print).
“I think it’s our way of respecting the past a little bit,” says Humphrey. “The product of the past has a loyal following, so if you can give a little bit of a head nod to the past but show people where we could go in the future, I think it allows people to stay connected to the DNA of Jordan … and allow them to see it’s OK to move forward.”
Inspired by outer space, the shoe also features pull-tabs on the tongue, heel and a velcro strap. FastFit holds 10 inches of cable made out of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyurethane (think materials in parachutes), and can click up to 20 times for support.
On the inside portion of the shoe, an “Eject” tab is placed that makes a popping sound when pulled, indicating that the shoe is fully loose. Beneath the shoe is where consumers can see how the sneaker fully functions with a visible spool dead center in the sole that rotates with every pull.
“The time that went into making sure that it truly worked was tough,” says Humphrey. “Each eyelet is strategically placed based on several wear-tests programs that we went through. The parachute-lacing itself … it was a lot of testing that went into it.”
Earlier this month, Jordan Brand teased two photos on its Instagram account – one with a pull-tab and a rotating mechanism – and promo videos of Victor Oladipo and Maya Moore wearing the sneaker before officially unveiling it Sept. 20 in Los Angeles. For the event, a myriad of media was shuttled over to an undisclosed location in downtown L.A. to learn about the newest sneaker in the Jumpman line, put through a series of wear-tests along with getting a first look at the brand’s holiday footwear and apparel collection.
Jordan Brand endorsers like Mike Conley, Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard have been seen wearing the AJXXX3 in training camp. Guo Ailun, Jordan Brand’s first Chinese signature athlete that was signed in 2017, is also receiving a jade-colored pair that’s a China-only release.
For now, the AJXXX4 is more than likely in its early development stages, but Humphrey looks back and praises the longevity the brand has maintained since 1985.
“To see that it’s come this far after Michael is no longer playing the game is pretty amazing,” he says. “Where we’re at our best is when we create an aesthetic that people fall in love with or aspire to. It’s not always easy, but it’s been a great challenge for us throughout the years and I feel like we’ve done a good job.”
The AJXXX3 hits retailers Oct. 18 for $175 ($185 globally) with more colors set to release later in the year.