It’s been 33 years since #23 stepped onto the court and, Jumpman jack flash-forward, Jordan Brand’s now flying first class. This year has seen Jordan embrace high fashion and high tech with signature wide open arms.
Last year's Air Jordan 1 fever didn't get a chance to cool down as ‘Royal’, ‘Top 3 Gold’ and Off-White's AJ1 kept heads heated. However, as consumers began to tire of the endless run of retro releases, Jordan appeared to recognise that a little bit of innovation may be their saving grace.
Take a seat courtside, down your ‘Last Shot’ of the year, and check out Jordan Brand’s 2017 slam dunks.
Jordan Enrol in Public School
Jordan have been taking lessons from Public School New York this year, and the high-fashion colab resulted in some top-of-the-class sneakers. The highlight of this epic group project was surely the sell-out Air Jordan 12 trio that dropped back in June.
These classmates became very close in 2017; so close, in fact, that the fashion house presented their New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer collection in conjunction with Jordan Brand. Olive and black PSNY x Air Jordan 15s tore up the runway, and a knee-high boot saw the 15 silhouette on serious steroids.
It was uplifting to see the brands showcase the 15 on male and female models, proving that sneakers look just as good (or probably better!) on girls. This move was reflective of Jordan’s broader efforts this year to break down the industry’s ‘boys’ club’ reputation. For example, Jordan’s 2017 Aleali May colab was the second time a woman has ever collaborated with the Jumpman, and it was the brand's first female-designed release to drop in both men’s and GS sizes.
Jordan’s moves towards high fashion and gender equality earn them an A+ in our books.
KAWS Helped Jordan Glow
If we’re judging Jordan’s 2017 plays in terms of consumer demand, hype and resale value, well, the KAWS x Air Jordan 4 probably takes the cake. Aside from Abloh’s AJ1, KAWS' 4s were one of the most hyped Jumpman releases of the year. A grey model released in March followed by a black iteration in November. A glow-in-the-dark outsole took us back to the kicks we coveted as kids but, alas, times have changed.
It wasn’t just the suede upper that killed our childhood nostalgia. With an increasingly rampant resale culture drastically changing (destroying?) the sneaker landscape, KAWS tacked a contractual term onto his black AJ4 release; terms stipulated the shoes must be purchased for ‘personal use’ only.
No one paid attention, of course, and resellers made bank. What were Jordan going to do? Send the kids to sneaker jail? It’ll be interesting to see how the brand addresses this issue in 2018.
Westbrook Emerged as Potential Heir to the Jordan Throne
When KD departed the Thunder on that glorious Golden bandwagon, we were a little concerned for OKC. Rising from the ashes, Russell Westbrook now stands as one of the league’s most clutch players. As the reigning MVP, it was an obvious choice for Jordan Brand to place Russ at the centre of September's Air Jordan XXX2 release.
As a Jordan-sponsored athlete, Westbrook was also part of last year’s Air Jordan XXX1 campaign. However, the unveiling of the 31 was a bungled, blink-and-miss-it affair. With Russ opting out of the Rio Olympics, the shoe was rather unceremoniously debuted by Jimmy Butler and Melo in an official team shot. Thankfully, when it came time to drop the 32, Jordan Brand rolled out the red carpet for Mr. MVP.
The Brodie’s fingerprints are all over this sneaker; there’s even a herringbone sole grip to reflect his penchant for matching suits with sneakers. Lead designer Tate Kuerbis noted that Westbrook’s opinion on aesthetics and wearability was of prime importance as they pieced together the shoe. The 32 aims to push style boundaries on and off court – if this isn’t Westbrook in a nutshell, what is?
Westbrook and the Jumpman’s meeting of minds made for a pretty sweet release. The 32 used high-tenacity yarn alongside a plethora of Nike tech to lock down areas of your foot you weren’t even aware needed locking down. Heir Westbrook had us flying high with this one.
Someone needs to ascend to the Jumpman throne, as the brand is plagued with complaints of stale retros and lacklustre lifestyle offerings. It seems like the time is right for Russell to assume his rightful crown.
With #0 and some killer collaborators on board, we’ll surely be jumping like Jordan into 2018.