The Air Jordan 33 Is Designed To Change The Game
Recently in Los Angeles, Jordan Brand took flight. The basketball powerhouse unveiled its latest game shoe, the Air Jordan 33, in an immersive experience that featured everything from a first look at new apparel to movement-mapping sessions that compared attendees' hangtime to the GOAT's. (Shocker: He's better at jumping than pretty much every other human.)
But the real star of the show, obviously, was the flagship sneaker and the brand-new technology built into it: FastFit. Go ahead, take a look. See those laces? No? That's because the 33 instead uses a series of cables that are connected to a single forefoot strap. You pull on the shoes, pull the strap, and you're fully locked in with one simple motion. Taking a cue from actual jet ejection seats, the system releases when you pull a loop on the side of the shoe.
"I think it's going back to leading with innovation," explains Jordan Brand vice president of design David Creech. He references the Tinker Hatfield-designed Air Jordan 3, which was the first to use an exposed air bag to show off the technology under the proverbial hood. "The Three led with innovation on the air bag," Creech says, "and the FastFit technology is getting back to that."
All you need to do is look at the sole to see what he's talking about. The 33 features a circular cutout that lets you see FastFit in action, with a mechanical apparatus clicking along as the support gets tighter and tighter. Pull the eject cord, and you can watch the component parts disengage. It is, frankly, fun as hell to do, regardless of the fact that observation wouldn't really be possible when the sneakers are actually on your foot (and definitely not in a game situation).
But really, function is king here. And that function took a lot of time to get exactly right. "This was the craziest. You can see all the iterations we went through," says Tate Keurbis, designer of the 33, while pointing to printouts of design sketches and a photo of a truly impressive pile of rejected samples. "It took a long time to really perfect the FastFit and get it to work just the way we want it to."
"Every red line here is a different revision," Kuerbis explains. "That’s all me drawing in a computer." That sounds exhausting. "I feel bad for the pattern guy at the factory!" he laughs. Apparently, he set a bit of a record. Each different iteration of the Air Jordan 33 was labeled with a letter during the initial sampling stage. Kuerbis and company went through the alphabet twice before landing on a final design.
But that final design, and the way it works? That's what makes all the effort and testing and wrangling media in Los Angeles worth it. Asked what the best part of designing Jordan's new flagship shoe was, Kuerbis doesn't hesitate: "When I handed it over to an athlete. There’s such a ritual for them to tie their shoes and get it just right. And then you hand them this product and they put it on and in their mind they want to tie it, but instead they pull, and feel it engaging around their foot—and they can’t stop smiling."
The Air Jordan 33 launches at select global retailers and online on October 18.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.