Air Jordans XX8 Show Interesting Attempt at Innovation from Brand

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2012

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There are a lot of adjectives you could use to describe Nike's unveiling of the Air Jordan XX8 shoe. The Jordan brand would like you to use words like innovative, original and stealthy. More than anything, though, the Jordan XX8 shoes are desperate. 

If you're not familiar by now, the Jordan brand introduced the world to the sneaker on Dec. 3 before a crowd of about 100 people (per ESPN's Darren Rovell). For a good look at the Jordan XX8s, here are a few choice pictures courtesy of ESPN's Darren Rovell:


The Jordan XX8 will be a very polarizing shoe. Shakes up the brand that has played it relatively safe…

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) December 3, 2012



The inside of the Jordan XX8 is definitely unique…

— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) December 3, 2012


In the seconds, minutes and hours since the shoe's reveal, the reaction has been polarizing, to put it nicely. 

The design was lovingly called "not a rain shoe" by Yahoo!'s Ball Don't Lie blog, "hideous" by USA Today and "not for everyone" by the shoe's own promotional video, according to

To me, it seemed like these kicks were designed by the people running the popular Tumblr feed devoted to Michael Jordan's fashion mistakes. And it also seemed like perhaps the biggest design misstep in the Jordan brand's history. 

In the always-volatile shoe market, it's not shocking to see a company create a non-beloved pair of kicks. It's bound to happen eventually and most are here and gone with little fanfare.

But Jordan is not just any shoe brand. It's the shoe brand.

The one that almost never makes gaudy design mistakes, and if they do, it's an under-the-radar release like last month's Jordan IX "Olive" edition

Jordan was the brand that always eschewed the latest trends, instead choosing to set them with relatively conservative design and consistency. In that way, it's arguable that Jordan became the Rolex of basketball shoes. 

This may be a bit hyperbolic, but the Jordan XX8s tarnish that reputation somewhat.

Not so much that people will abandon the brand or even enough that these kicks won't be top sellers, because curiosity alone is going to have these flying off the shelves. 

Instead, the Jordan XX8s will go down as the one gigantic misstep from an otherwise great company. Essentially, the Jordans XX8 are the brand's New Coke, Pepsi Clear or Gretchen's desperate attempt to make "fetch" happen

Shoes aren't going to suddenly start having zippers, just like people over six and under 80 didn't suddenly stop tying their shoes once Velcro was invented. No one wants their shoe opening like a butterfly escaping from its cocoon. 

Perhaps these are the best basketball kicks ever in terms of technological advances. Perhaps they hold the weight of the ankle in a way that will help avoid sprains and breaks like never before. 

It doesn't matter.

The Jordan XX8s are so aesthetically off-putting that very few will want to wear them. Remember, people will choose vanity over personal health nine times out of 10.

So, yes, the Jordan XX8 shoes may cause the social media uproar that the brand was looking for. But they won't be revered or sought after for a re-release from collectors like previous iterations. 

Long the preeminent name in the basketball shoe business, you could argue that Jordan felt pressure to create a new buzz akin to when Apple releases a new product.

Unfortunately, the buzz went too far in the wrong direction, and the XX8s play off more as the brand's midlife crisis than a brilliant stroke of innovation.