Basketball shoe aficionados across the globe recognize the Air Jordan XI Low IE as an instant and undying classic. Whether you’re on the court making defenders look silly or off it chilling with friends, the XI Low IE is instantly identifiable as one of the most iconic sneakers in history – and certainly gets the job done in terms of both substance and style.
But legend of the XI Low IE is even larger than the vast majority of sneaker-heads understand. In conjunction with the September 18 release of a new colorway for the cult classic kicks, Nike Vice President of Creative Concepts Tinker Hatfield reveals the design process behind the XI Low IE.
“We were looking at how we could extend the original performance basketball shoe into something that could further the design, but turn into a low top,” says Hatfield. “I wasn’t interested in an exact replica of a XI in a low top; I was more interested in doing a low top that was partly the Jordan XI, but fresher.”
Originally released in 1996, the XI Low IE was met by a fair share of vocal skeptics. After all, omitting the patent leather that made the original Jordan XI such a smash hit was a bold, daring choice. But Hatfield says making a lighter sneaker was paramount in designing the Low IE, a choice he used to his advantage by replacing that famous shiny black with an incredibly unique blend of pattern and breathability.
“I felt like [patent leather] was contrary to the summer feel,” Hatfield explains. “The shoe didn’t need to feel so stiff and heavy. For the summer, I wanted something that was lighter and easier to wear.”
“I changed the pattern to put breathability in the right spots. Then, when you look at the different compositions, you want to fill in the gaps with something that could be decorative, like elephant print. I thought about trying textures and stitching. The mesh said something about summer, and the stitching we did really artfully.
The result is what’s made the XI Low IE arguably the most stylish Jordan sneaker of all-time, leather detailing on the upper featuring elephant print and a mesh interior. And in our humble opinion, it’s even flier than that original patent leather.
The black/militia green colorway of the Jordan XI Low IE drops with the Air Jordan I High the Return and the Air Jordan I KO on Saturday as part of a three-shoe collection.