Tuesday, August 29th 2017 was a very special day for KICKZ, as we had the honor to join a very elusive guest list of 20 people for the Air Jordan XXXII launch in Turin, Italy.
Why Italy? Why Turin? These were the first questions that came to our minds when we received our invite for this spectacular event. Here’s the answer: Turin was picked as the perfect city for the launch of the XXXII, because on the one hand the Air Jordan II, the first luxury basketball sneaker ever, and the inspiration for the XXXII, was made in Italy back in 1986, and on the other hand, Michael Jordan has always been known as an aficionado of Italian luxury sports cars. Since Turin is the home of FIAT (Fabrica Italiana di Automobili Torino) which also owns the brand Maserati, this city was the ideal spot for the launch event.
The connection to Italian cars became even more obvious when we arrived at the hotel, the NH Lingotto. An original 1970s FIAT was parked right inside the lobby. But it just didn’t ring a bell yet… When we sat down for lunch, at last the penny dropped. Our hotel was inside the old FIAT headquarters! A huge building with a legendary history. Originally opened in 1923, the factory featured an oval test circuit on its rooftop, the so called Lingotto Oval, where newly built cars where tested directly after being produced. What a building, a car lover’s dream!
After being introduced to each other, our group, which featured the famous sneaker guru Russ Bengtson, went to have an original Italian dinner including a world class pasta in preparation for the big moment, the unveiling of the Air Jordan XXXII with the corresponding weartest. And boy we had no idea how big this moment would really turn out to be…
Dinner finished. Ready for whatever would lie ahead of us. We still had no info yet… Our group was waiting in the lobby when a friendly lady from Jordan Brand approached us. “Ready? Follow me!” she said. We went out the front door and a fleet of Maseratis was queued up in the hotel driveway. “Get in the cars.” she said. We could not trust our ears, did she just tell us to get into the Maseratis? Yes, she obviously did, because our chauffeurs had already opened the doors for us. What a start! Getting transported to the location in a Maserati…
It turned out that the secret location was quite close and that our chauffeurs were no ordinary drivers at all. After speeding up a parking ramp like in Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift we ended up on the rooftop of the FIAT building, right at the Lingotto Oval. So instead of parking, the drivers decided to take us for a spin through the banked turns first… WOW! I don’t think there could be any better way to start off a shoe presentation.
After our crazy car ride, we entered the location, a glass bowl right besides a heliport. The venue was simply stunning to say the least. And then the curtain finally rose. The brand new Air Jordan XXXII was unveiled. And I have to say, this shoe looks really good in person. In the history of the Air Jordan lineage, there’s always been a balance between innovation and style and at first sight, the XXXII looks like its designer, Tate Kuerbis, has hit bulls-eye with this one. The shoe features high-tech performance materials like Flyknit and at the same time premium luxury materials like Italian leather or suede, depending on the respective colorways. Plus, it’s totally obvious where the XXXII’s roots lie, the Air Jordan II heritage cannot be doubted. As the GOAT himself, Michael Jordan, put it, “We’ve always explored new materials and technology to create the best game shoe. That was evident when we went to Italy to make the II, and it still rings true today. On the XXXII, we challenged our designers to push the limits while staying true to the brand’s DNA.”
Tate Kuerbis and his team certainly did not fall short on MJ’s challenge. The XXXII’s silhouette is clearly reminiscent of the AJII at first sight. But there is more to it, as the materials and technology incorporated in the shoes are clearly top notch. The Air Jordan XXXII is a shoe inspired by the essence of the Air Jordan II, but filled with its fair share of more-than-meets-the-eye tech. While Flyknit has been known as ultra-thin and breathable from running shoes, basketball shoes require more stability and support, thus Jordan Brand has implemented a first-of-its-kind Flyknit upper with high-tenacity yarn (and it feels great on foot, let me tell you).
“With Jordan shoes, we obsess the style in a way that puts many of the performance elements under the hood, so to speak,” explains designer, Tate Kuerbis. “For example, I wanted to make the laces just disappear into the knit structure, but inside there is a whole harness system with webbing that really locks down your foot.”
Formed with high-tenacity yarns, the Air Jordan XXXII’s Flyknit upper propels a new level of performance and comfort for on-court shoes. More flexible than any previous Jordan upper, the XXXII’s knit structure reduces stiffness at the forefoot and modernizes the moccasin-like toe box of the Jordan II. The digital craft of the knit is balanced by a more traditional application of a molded leather or suede at the heel counter – a feature that underscores a level of sport luxury that’s been tied to Jordan DNA since the II.
When it comes to the sole, Jordan Brand did not go as far back as the Air Jordan II to get inspired, but the Air Jordan XXVIII, arguably one of the Jumpman’s best performance shoes to date according to Kuerbis. Its mix of big forefoot Nike Zoom Air bag, Flight Plate and heel Zoom positioned athletes for quick reactions and explosive leaps. “For the XXXII, we pistoned the bag just as much as the XXVIII, but we smoothed out the transition,” Kuerbis explains. “This set-up allows maximum surface area on the court.” It also improves court feel and is aided by a fresh traction pattern, a herringbone formed of a series of almost wiper blade-like shapes.
“We start with athlete insights at the heart of everything we do,” says Jordan Brand VP of Design David Creech. “We craft every detail from macro to micro, obsessing fit, form and function. Thirty years ago, they obsessed those same details when designing the AJ II, which led to the premium materials and the innovative style of Italy. Our goal with the AJ XXXII was to combine the essence of the AJ II with today’s best innovation to create a distinct design language both on and off the court.” From the first impression we got from this presentation, it seemed like Jordan Brand really achieved what they were aiming for with the XXXII, a crossover between superior on-court performance and luxury lifestyle looks. Inspired by a classic, crafted from premium materials and designed with a futuristic twist, this shoe has great potential.
However, you can never tell the real quality of a basketball shoe as long as you haven’t hooped in them… So it was our turn to switch into MVP mode, unleash our inner Russell Westbrook and put these babies to the test. The location was of the chain. A hardwood basketball court, on a rooftop under the night sky in Italy. It felt like being in a real life video game. Absurd! But see for yourselves…
For the first time, the Air Jordan XXXII will launch globally in a mid and low version. Get the ‘Rosso Corsa’ on September 23rd, while both ‘Banned’ versions will release on October 18th.
Stay tuned for more to come soon, including an in-depth weartest of the Air Jordan XXXII!