Jordan Brand seems to always give us some sort of fodder when it comes to sneaker news and updates. Sure, the name is so huge and popular within the sneaker community that MJ so much as sneezing in an “unseen” pair of sneakers is worthy of wide scale news alerts. But, there’s more to it. Being that Jordans are such a huge part of pop culture as a whole, there are a number of ways to discuss them in several different contexts. For now, I wanted to briefly touch on how the storied brand is actually slowly veering away from pop culture in one respect.
As most of you are well aware of by now, the Air Jordan 32 has been revealed. Perhaps it wasn’t officially unveiled – with all the pageantry and speeches that make up a Jordan Brand event – but we now know what to expect later this year. The reactions have generally been what you can expect when it comes to previews of a Jordan sneaker: a chorus of “Christ, AGAIN with this?!” bordered by the fringe “I don’t know, this is kinda dope” or two. Though the design of the shoe itself isn’t quite what we might call timeless, it’s extremely telling.
Ever since the Air Jordan 29, there’s been an unabashed and tangible shift from the Jumpman. From a time when the aesthetics and story behind the sneaker took priority – the 13, 14, 15, and 16 come to mind – we’ve seen a move away from marketing and towards the court. The 29 introduced the brand’s most impressive use of performance woven uppers, basically a variation of the knit build every sneaker company was looking to adopt. The Air Jordan 30 promised a new degree of lockdown and traction – to be fair, the verdict on both of these characteristics is still a bit fuzzy. Then came the Air Jordan 31, a knit + leather upper sitting on a slab of full-length Zoom so robust it felt like you were balling in soft clogs.
The Air Jordan 32 is perhaps the loudest screech in the brand’s turn towards more performance-minded design. Even with the 31, there was the effort to connect it all back to the OG of OGs, the Air Jordan 1. The design made it seem like a deliberate attempt at touching on some nostalgia while connecting the shoe to one of the most popular pieces of the retro line to date. The 32, on the other hand, looks like it could more feasibly pass at the next Melo sneaker: forgettable at best. But, the caveat here is that this outlook is only when we think about aesthetics. Considering what we’ve seen from Jordan from their previous signature drops, this sneaker will be fitted with advanced cushioning. Furthermore, we already see from the preview shots that the upper sports a knit construction and support features similar to the KD 10.
That comparison, to Durant’s tenth signature, is telling. As polarizing as KD is, his sneakers have been markers of Nike’s progress in the performance basketball market. Standing in between the monstrous LeBrons and minimalist Kyries, the KD 10 is the closest thing to a shoe that matches the game’s multifaceted evolution. That the Air Jordan 32 would drop aesthetics and replace a focus on stories with performance minded design is even more telling when it borrows from that very same KD 10.
We don’t know a ton about what the 32 is like on the court. But, it’s safe to say Jordan Brand is done designing pretty shoes.