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Tinker Hatfield Delves into the History of the Air Jordan 3

The Nike design legend on one of his greatest creations
Image via: Jordan

Image via: Jordan

Jordan Brand is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Air Jordan 3 with a number of high-profile releases, including the highly anticipated Black/Cement colorway with Nike Air. There's even an Air Jordan 3 for golfers, and a special-edition pair made in collaboration with Justin Timberlake. If you've wondered how the one of the most beloved silhouettes in the Jordan franchise came to be, your best source is Tinker Hatfield, the Nike design legend who created the Air Jordan 3. He sat down a while ago with a select group of collectors and designers to run down the shoe's origin story. Here are a few key takeaways:

Tinker's first sketches of the Air Jordan 3 included a Swoosh:

Even though I didn’t know him that well, I thought it would be really great to talk to MJ about having his own brand. But I was conflicted. I thought the swoosh looked good on the shoe. It was designed to have a swoosh – that’s why it works; there’s a good place for it.  

On the other hand, I had this Jumpman logo and knew it would be right for the shoe.

Michael himself gave the final approval for the tumbled leather and elephant print:

In the second meeting, I had a whole stack of different, unique kind of leathers that I had researched and found. That’s when we found elephant skin and the tumbled leather, which we called floater at the time. I showed them to him and he thought they were cool.

People told me we couldn’t use the tumbled leather for a footwear because no one ever had. I said well, we’re going to give it a go. We want the shoe to be soft and kind of luxurious right out of the box. When MJ first saw the shoe I knew we made the right call.

Why the shoe was made into a mid-top:

There was never any conversation around a high-top. MJ didn’t want the weight. He wanted just enough support, more than a low-top.

I had just worked on this mid-cut Air Trainer and thought there was something worth exploring further for the MJ3. So we landed on a 5/8 collar height. When I first presented it to MJ, he said ‘That’s so radical but perfect. Everybody is going this way and that way, but we’re going to do this.’

Check out the entire piece here.