Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Fusions & Hybrids | Hero or Villain

Can you name all the sneakers bastardised in this fusion nightmare?

It has now been two weeks since Tinker Hatfield and Josh Heard unveiled the #AirJordanXX8. The shockwaves have passed and the dust settled again allowing the sneaker community to return to its accustomed sense of normality. So the time seems more than right to objectively review the impact that this shoe has had. 

On the face of things it has professedly been a long time since Nike and more specifically Air Jordan have so energetically developed and hyped a basketball concept shoe. Wether this is down to the power of Michael Jordan's persona or the the strength of the brand, the one message for the us to take home is the Jordan Brand are at last making an asserted push for new technologies and new levels of performance in their footwear to match their continued reinventing of the basketball aesthetic. But just before there is a huge sigh of relief I feel the urge to play devil's advocate and challenge the majority consensus. Is the Air Jordan XX8 not just a glorified #NikeZoomFlight98 (aka The Glove) or some hi tech fusions? Is it really something revolutionary or not simply the recycling of past ideas or worse still the ideas of market competitors?

The reason that these questions are so easy to ask is that the visual similarities to past sneakers is so strong.  You could easily be mistaken to believe that the XX8 is in fact the eight or ninth generation version of the original ZF 98. On paper this should not cause problems but because this latest offering has been marketed as the future of basketball footwear, it has not delivered the aesthetic impact that is fit for such an introduction. There is a huge gulf in the complexity of the performance technology built into the shoe and its overall appearance.  This is disappointing because #Nike has wowed its consumer fan base with this same silhouette back in 1998 with the ZF 98. They could have simply retro-ed the originals (as promised for this year) allowing them the freedom to create something genuinely new and exciting rather than a shoe who's identity is slowly being tarnished by the talk of being a fusion. Like the clever fusions of the past (AJF3 and AJF5) the XX8 has incorporated a deceptive design that draws attention from the fusion aspect and centres on over accentuation the core classic design that is the sheathing of the inner shoe first used on the ZF98. If you are like me and catch yourself reacting to the aesthetics in such a way why would you not just buy the original, which is what we were sweating over as kids to begin with and still truly want? In truth Nike could have played things better. 

Now for the second part. If you are someone who rigorously wades through all the promotional material released by Nike in the wake of a new shoe then you would have inevitably come across the interviews with Tinker and Josh. Aside from the joy to be had from designers lifting the lid on their creations, what their creative thought process has revealed is how murky the world of intellectual property is. This sentiment is inevitably heightened since the on suing of FlyKnit-gate but there still seems to be a couple of things to worry about. There was continuous mentioning of the design process being led by the image of a sprint spike for basketball players. If 
#Adidas were feeling bullish there would seem to be enough evidence to start locking legal horns with Nike once again but personally on these grounds alone to me there just is insufficient evidence. There's no denying Adidas were per suing the same performance goals with the Derick Rose line but Nike have a long track record of historically developing their footwear in this direction. If history relates then most recently it was the Air Jordan 2009 that was the most recent shoe to be influenced by sprinting as well. After all Nike signed April Holmes and her prosthetic leg inspired the hell of the 2009. But just to make things more complicated, the Adidas Supernatural Creator came out around 2009 and is arguably exactly the same as the Jordan but with just a bigger bootie. 

What is more interesting is the similarities in the construction of the sole units shared by the XX8 and the Adidas Puremotion golf shoe. Aesthetic similarities are the first pointer. The technological similarities the second. You just have to have a close look at the XX8's midsole and flight plate to get a sense of where this comparison is coming from. Where the crucial difference might just be is that judging by the full view of the outsole, the midsole and flight plate aren't popular like the Puremotion. This all may sound overly technical but to wrap things up I'll let you decide with a good old fashioned exercise in compare and contrast below.          

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