How Tinker Saved Nike just posted this brilliant exposé highlighting the creation of the Jordan III and how it basically saved the brand from losing one of the most polarizing (and profitable) athletes the world has ever seen. If you’re an avid sneaker aficionado you’ll probably already know the history and how important the III’s are, what you may not know however, was how instrumental Tinker’s material research and architectural background was in creating one of the most iconic sneakers ever produced.

“While researching materials, he’d come across some suede-like nubuck embossed with a pattern that resembled fake elephant skin, perfect for the trim. He also used a material called floater, leather that’s been tumbled so the natural wrinkles lost when it’s tanned and processed reemerge as a texture. It had never been used in athletic shoes before, as tumbled leather can grow softer (thus weaker) when processed. But Jordan wanted to wear a new pair of shoes every game. The tumbled leather wasn’t just a nod to Jordan’s love of fashion and those Italian leather shoes he was now sporting. It also served a practical purpose: Jordan wouldn’t have to break the shoe in.” –

“When Jordan talked about the styles and performance elements that he wanted in a shoe, Hatfield did something no other designer and executive had: He listened. A basic principle in architecture states that you can’t design a great house without knowing the people who will live in it. Hatfield applied this with Jordan. “I don’t think Michael had ever been worked with that way,” he told the Portland Tribune in 2005, “In fact, I don’t think anybody in the footwear business had done it that way.” –

The iconic nature of the III’s is likely to never truly be duplicated. Not only were these the shoes Jordan wore while winning the 1988 NBA Slam Dunk Contest (the one where he jumped from the free-throw line), but he also wore them during the All-Star and league MVP awards. They were also part of one of the most iconic tag lines of any ad campaign in the Spike Lee–directed Mars Blackmon spots (“It’s gotta be the shoes!”). Not to mention, these were the shoes that essentially kicked off the re-releasing of ‘retros’ and helped create an entire culture of sneaker obsessed collectors, willing to pay top dollar for shoes they were unable to cop when they originally released.

Not only from the design side of things, but the level of execution of these shoes on every single level, was just scary good. You can read the article in full, here.





Mr. Bailey

Product Designer + Footwear Architect | Founder of @ConceptKicks |

Join the conversation

  • Satan Is My Lawyer - 5 years ago

    Nike is a marketing company.