Public School on Working on the Air Jordan XV: “It’s a Love It or Hate It Shoe”

Public School is the definitive product of two New York City natives and their go-getter spirits. In less than 10 years since its 2008 inception, founders Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne —who met while working at Sean John— catapulted their own menswear brand to immense popularity with a high-fashion-meets-streetwear approach to design, racking up multiple awards in the process.

While the style and wearability of the apparel made a name for itself, Public School truly claimed its stake as leaders in the fashion industry when it teamed up with Jordan Brand. After working on exclusive friends-and-family versions of the Air Jordan 1, Air Jordan X, and Carmelo Anthony's M10, the NYC-based brand expanded its horizon and launched the PSNY x Air Jordan XII to the public — a dark-grey luxe rendition that resonated with the purest of sneakerheads and menswear enthusiasts alike. The collab was the precursor to three more Air Jordan XIIs that embodied the brand’s hometown of New York City, as well as Paris and Milan.

After a small world tour with the XIIs, the Public School duo is back home for New York Fashion Week to debut their Spring/Summer 2018 collection and a brand new capsule in collaboration with Jordan Brand. Using the black sheep of the Air Jordan lineage, the XV, Public School re-imagined Tinker Hatfield’s original design in ways never seen before. The collection includes Air Jordan XVs for men in black suede, an olive woven material, and for the first time ever, an Air Jordan XV boot for women.

PSNY x Air Jordan XV
Image via Nike

The successful runway show located in the heart of Chinatown was followed up with a nearby pop-up shop, where the footwear and apparel was available for purchase. There, Complex caught up with the PSNY founders, joined fellow Sean John alumnus and current Senior Director of Energy Projects at Jordan Brand Gemo Wong, to talk about the latest drop.

Check out out the latest episode of #LifeAtComplex for a closer look at the star-studded event, inside the pop-up shop, and interview.

How did Public School’s relationship with Jordan Brand first come about?
Gemo Wong: So I’ve known Dao-Yi for a while, we used to work together. As his brand Public School kind of progressed, it felt like the timing was right to do something especially in the apparel space. The partnership started with apparel first and then we kind of explored footwear

After doing your first footwear collaboration, did you know it would become an ongoing partnership?
GW: We just kind of did what we felt was right. It’s all about time, who we [Jordan] are as a brand and who they are as a brand.

What was the motivation behind using the Air Jordan XV for this collab?
Dao-Yi Chao: It’s starts with a conversation. The great thing about working with Gemo and his team is that, there isn’t a set schedule, there isn’t a set plan. We only work when we feel it’s right. When we a great idea, we take it to him and if he likes the idea, he’ll set things into motion. With the XVs specifically, Gemo’s always challenged us to work on shoes that sort of lie outside of the 1s, IIIs, IVs, Vs, VIs, XIs — the really popular ones that iterated a l lot and so we enjoy that challenge. Coming off working on the XII, changing that iconic shoe into something that was definitively Public School, was something that we wanted to carry over on the XVs. It’s a love it or hate it shoe.

Yeah, even Tinker Hatfield, who designed it, has said that it’s his least favorite Air Jordan.
DC: Did he say that?

GW: He’s said that on paper, yeah.

He’s said that on record. Were there any challenges you faced while designing these Air Jordan XVs?
Maxwell Osborne: Not really. Maybe on the women’s side, trying to make the boot.

DC: That was another idea that was born just out of conversation. Like, “Yo, we wanna do it during Fashion Week during the show, but it’s a women’s show. It would be crazy if we turned the XV into a boot!”

It already is kind of chunky like a boot.
DC: Exactly. We wanted to accentuate the obvious things about the shoes. The fold back on the tongue I guess is what you would call it — all of those things we wanted to really build on top of, but make it feel like our own shoe. That’s the point of any good collaboration. You gotta add something to it. It’s already great in its own realm, but how do you add to it and make it something better?

PSNY x Air Jordan 15 Knee-High Boot
the Public School x Air Jordan XV boot for women. Images via Antonio de Moraes Barros for Getty Images

The tongue of the sneakers feature a “WNL” logo. What does the “We Need Leaders” motto specifically mean to Public School as a brand?
MO: “We Need Leaders” for us, was really a call to action. It was for everybody to step up. Us, our team, everybody around the world, just to step up and be better. It also mean when no one’s looking. So, are you the same type of person when the lights turn off and you go home? Are you the same type of person you show face to when you step out of that? WNL mean a lot to us in terms of special leadership and people stepping up to the plate.

When you first released the first grey PSNY XIIs did you expect such a big reaction?
DC: I don’t know, I didn’t know what to expect.

GW: You always have your fingers crossed. You always go in wishing the best. We took a different approach to it, so we were hoping for a good response, especially in [Public School’s] space, the fashion space, it was good overall.

Did the response play a part in following up with the city series or was it already in the works?
GW: Again it all comes down to what we felt was right timing wise, what these guys are into, and making sure the brands are in tune, so as a evolution as the grey we felt like doing the City pack was a good addition.

DC: We say that thing and always felt it was almost boot-like, the way we molded it out, so we just sampled it in a wheat colorway because it felt like a boot. So from there, again, just from the conversation, they put it into work. We it came back we were like, “What if we flip three colors — the Wheat is so New York— what if we created a colorway for Paris and a colorway for Milan?” That’s how it goes, then we try it out. If it don’t feel right then we keep it moving, but if we’re onto something, I think it all clicks with us and we push it forward.

When that release happened launching the collection over multiple cities, it really changed the way retail works. Do you guys plan to do that again, say with this release?
GW: It all depends on the project, the time, how we feel when we all get together.

PSNY x Air Jordan 15 Olive Suede
A sample version of the Public School x Air Jordan XV collaboration, worn by Jordan Brand designer Frank Cooke. Image via Frank Cooker

Gemo, can you explain your role as head of Energy Projects at Jordan Brand?
GW: I’m Senior Director of Energy Projects. That’s everything from what you see here — footwear, apparel, to anything limited and sought after within the brand.

How do you decide on which people to work with like KAWS, Drake, or Travis Scott?
GW: It just all depends on where the brand is at. I don’t want to feel like we have to do collabs. I feel like we should let collabs enhance the brand, rather than we need them for the brand. It takes the pressure off. There is no, “Oh man, I gotta do a collab this month, next month.” As with this project, it’s just timing, where we are as a brand and if it feels right, then we do it.

Why is it important for Jordan Brand to focus on fashion and lifestyle versus just sports?
GW: We concentrate a lot on sports as well. It just so happens that we do some fashion stuff. You look at our portfolio, we still do a lot in the basketball space with athletes like Russ and all their signature shoes, but we also do stuff in the fashion space. Our brand means a lot to everyone, which could be a gift and a curse. As result, we just try to balance it out.

What was it like working with Diddy back during your time at Sean John?
MO: All three of us met at Sean John actually. How did it feel? It felt great! [Laughs] You got Puff’s son behind you.

DC: That brand, that moment in time sort of represented this idea of aspiration. Everything about Puff, even outside of fashion was you should aspire for something better. I think that really stuck with us. That idea of aspiration, doing something unexpected, but always presenting this idea of aspiration to do something better or to make something better. We all went different routes, but that definitely stuck with us.

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Kobe Bryant’s Air Jordan III PEs Sell for More Than $30,000

Kobe Bryant’s highly coveted Air Jordan III PEs recently raked in a hefty sum on eBay.

As pointed out by Nice Kicks, the sneakers were auctioned off earlier this week to an unidentified buyer for $30,400. The exclusives were gifted to Kobe during the 2002-2003 NBA season, when he was playing as a sneaker free agent. At the time, many people believed he was on his way to sign with Jordan Brand, but because he ultimately inked a deal with Nike, Kobe’s Air Jordan III PEs never received a wide release. Though they were expected to appear in a limited Air Jordan pack along with the PE VIIIs, fans are still holding their breath for that drop. 

The sample “Home White” pair came in Kobe’s size 14 and included the production date of 11/26/2002 on the tongue tag. According to the listing, the sneakers had never been worn, but had typical signs of aging. You can check out the IIIs in the images above and below. 

The 'Kobe' Air Jordan 3
Image via eBay

 

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ASAP Rocky’s Biggest Challenge: Making Under Armour Cool

ASAP Rocky has convinced the world that New York artists could sound like they’re from Houston, shown that rappers could dress like they stepped off a Paris runway, designed sneakers with Adidas and Jeremy Scott, and modeled for Dior.​ But now he's signed himself up for one of the biggest tasks of his career: making Under Armour relevant in the world that he's dominated for much of this decade.

By most mainstream measures, Under Armour already is “cool.” They've snatched up big names in sports like Steph Curry, Tom Brady, Jordan Spieth, Cam Newton, and Aaron Judge, and the brand’s on-field success has been nothing short of impeccable. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been quite enough to give the brand cultural impact that transcends beyond professional sports.

The brand is clearly hoping to change that. It was reported on July 8 that Rocky had signed a multi-year deal with the Maryland sportswear company to work on lifestyle product for its UAS range, which is directed by fashion designer Tim Coppens and focuses apparel and sneakers that don’t feature the Under Armour logo — something that's driven style-oriented people away from the brand in the past.

It’s been the butt of many Internet jokes in recent times, most notably its all-white Steph Curry sneakers, and its move to bring Rocky onboard is a clear sign that it’s trying to chase a different consumer; one that’s eschewed its shoes for Nike and Adidas. It’s already worn by suburban dads and young teens who actually play basketball, but convincing everyone else to buy into the sneakers is a different story.

The Rock Under Armour
Under Armour has previously used entertainers such as The Rock to try and grow its company. Image via The Rock on Instagram

It was once controversial to claim that artists and musicians are the new athletes in the footwear industry, but Kanye West and Adidas (followed by a whole host of other entertainers and companies) have proved that notion wrong. Yeezys are flying off shelves at a breakneck pace while LeBrons are collecting dust and going on sale. And Under Armour’s move of signing Rocky proves that even the most sports-focused company realizes that it needs to get younger and hipper to grab its stake in the shoe game. The company has already signed The Rock to a big deal, but it didn’t make an impact with the cool-guy demographic, an audience that it so desperately wants to resonate with. It won’t, however, be as seamless as attaching one of the biggest names in hip-hop to a sneaker brand and watching the money roll in. Rocky is going to have to work his ass off to make this partnership truly work.

If anyone thinks Rocky’s contribution, in terms of influence, is insignificant, consider this for a second: With 6.3 million instagram followers, he has nearly twice as many as Under Armour’s main account.

Let’s think of the possibilities for a second. If Rocky is able to create product that truly inspires his fan base, there’s no way that it’s not going to sell out, and it will only create a snowball effect for Under Armour. Don’t believe me? You’d be hard-pressed to find a high percentage of the Yeezy/Boost fanboys who owned a pair of sneakers with Three Stripes on them prior to Kanye and Adidas working together in 2015, but now the brand has, literally, boosted its sales and has overtaken Nike and Jordan Brand in terms of resonance with the millennial audience. 

It’s not going to be easy, though. This isn’t Under Armour’s first foray into lifestyle product. It’s made luxury, off-court sneakers for Steph Curry and even launched them at leading boutique Concepts. The brand made a huge push behind its Tim Coppens line, too, and it’s just fallen flat. It even has Migos promoting the label, but they haven’t consistently worn the product in the public eye and it’s failed to make a huge impact. Rocky could change all of that. His connection as a designer/signature artist is much greater than paying him to simply wear Under Armour. People have spouted on social media that they’re already going to buy their first pair of Under Armours, but all of that will be proven when his shoes finally are available at retail.

What makes Rocky’s partnership with the brand intriguing is that he’s notorious for being someone who won’t wear or co-sign anything that he’s not truly into. It’s likely that he sees this opportunity as a chance to boost his profile as someone who’s taken seriously as a designer in the style world, and who doesn’t want their name attached to a commercially successful sneaker? Imagine if Under Armour lets him design a sneaker for Steph Curry to wear during the All-Star Game? That’s visibility that even his music, likely, won’t achieve. But these are all what-ifs. It all starts with making a good pair of shoes, and the rest will follow.

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Kevin Hart Breaks Down His Second Nike Sneaker

Last summer, Kevin Hart released his very own Nike training sneaker, which was dubbed the Nike Hustle Hart. He showed the sneaker off for the first time during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in January before releasing them a few months later. And now, fresh off the success of his first sneaker, Hart has released a second Nike sneaker that is specifically designed for those who like to train as much as Hart does.

Hart turned 38 on Thursday, and to mark the occasion, he teamed up with Nike again to release two versions of his second Nike sneaker—the Nike Free Train Virtue Hustle Hart Day, which features a Cool Grey/Sport Red/White colorway, and the Nike Free Train Virtue Hustle Hart Night, which comes in a Black/Sport Red/White/Metallic Gold colorway. Both sneakers are available for $130 through Nike right now.

Complex News caught up with Hart behind-the-scenes at the shoot for the sneaker’s campaign at Equinox in New York City, and he explained the role he played in the sneaker’s creation this time around.

“How involved was I? I mean, very much,” he said. “Being a part of it, meeting with the design team, telling them what I would love to see. With anything, you want to progress and not digress. So with the development of the Hustle Hart 2s, you wanted them to be better, and that’s what this is. It’s a shoe that fits me and puts me in a position to perform at the highest level, and that’s what I like about it.”

We also asked Hart if he feels a sense of competition with Drake since he has his own sneaker through Jordan Brand. Hart joked about how he doesn’t plan to send Drake a pair of his sneakers and also revealed that he doesn’t feel like he’s involved in a sneaker rivalry with the rapper.

“No, I’m not sending him a pair, and no, there isn’t a competition because his sneakers stink,” Hart said. “You can only compete with things that are good and his sneakers aren’t good. They’re stupid because Drake is a part of it. Now if Drake wasn’t a part of it and somebody else was a part of it, then it would be cool. But because it’s Drake, it’s stupid.”

You can check out our behind-the-scenes interview with Hart above, and some photos of the Nike Free Train Virtue Hustle Hart Day and Night sneakers below.

Kevin Hart Day 1.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Day 2.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Day 3.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Day 4.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Day 5.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Day 6.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Night 1.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Night 2.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Night 3.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Night 4.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Night 5.
Image via Publicist
Kevin Hart Night 6.
Image via Publicist

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Sneaker Shopping With Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

Sean “Diddy” Combs and Bad Boy Records changed the hip-hop world, and his documentary, Can't Stop Won't Stop: The Bad Boy Story, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the label that has been a powerhouse for over 20 years. For the latest episode of Complex's Sneaker Shopping, the hip-hop mogul met up with Joe La Puma at Stadium Goods in New York City to talk about the heyday of Bad Boy, a potential Biggie sneaker collaboration, and the sneakers he wore in his iconic music videos.

In the episode, Diddy reminisces on the Air Force 1s he wore in the famous “Mo Money Mo Problems” music video and says that he picked out the sneakers to give East Coast hip-hop a definitive look. He also talked about him and the Notorious B.I.G. buying 20 pairs of sneakers at a time to look fresh on tour. Diddy goes on to reveal in the episode that he's been approached by Jordan Brand and Gucci to make sneakers for Biggie and hints that there might be projects on the way. In the end, Diddy spends over $4,000 on Jordans, Nike SB Dunks, and Chuck Taylors.

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The Best Sneakers of 2017 (So Far)

At this time last year, we were saying, “Damn, this has been a really boring year in sneakers.” The same can’t be said for the first half of 2017. There have been unexpected retros, groundbreaking technology, and an abundance of sneakers from Kanye West. Nike made the VaporMax. Kaws got his own Air Jordan, and the Air Max series got its just due with proper retros. What more could people want?

There are years where it feels like you have to be into one type of shoe to be part of the sneaker scene, 2017 has been anything but that. Check out what’s dominated the world of footwear this year with our list of the best sneakers of 2017 so far. —Matt Welty

 

  • 10. Big Baller Brand Zo2

    Let’s go through some of what we know about the Big Baller Brand Zo2: It retails for $495, we’ve only seen it on the feet of the Ball family (and in one in-house made commercial), it’s only been available for pre-order, and it was apparently designed in a matter of hours. With LaVar Ball pushing for a highly unlikely partnership deal from one of the major sneaker companies, Lonzo Ball’s premier signature sneaker may never be produced in big numbers at all.

     If none of this sounds like anything that would qualify a sneaker for a mid-year best-of list, that’s because it normally wouldn’t be. But while it will be months before the Zo2 runs the streets—if it ever does—the $495 shoe certainly ran the Internet the week it was announced. One suspects this is exactly what LaVar Ball wanted. And the only thing that will bother him about this is the placement. —Russ Bengtson

     

  • 9. Air Jordan 1 “Royal”

    Already making the list as one of the Best Air Jordans of 2017 (So Far), the Air Jordan 1 “Royal” also stands its ground as one of the best releases from all brands this year. Even as a general release, “Royal” 1s  were highly anticipated—and for good reason. Jordan Brand had already been on a roll of releasing Air Jordan 1s in true to original form, so for fans of the silhouette it was another must-have colorway.

    Michael Jordan never wore the “Royal” 1s in a regulation basketball game, but an iconic photo of him wearing the sneakers and a matching sleeveless Flight suit on a jet runway, make the colorway just as desirable as “Banned” or “Chicago” 1s. In the past, securing a pair of “Royal” 1s meant spending well over retail on eBay, so the $160 retro was actually a bargain in the eyes of collectors. Premium leather, OG high-top construction, extra royal blue laces and an original-style Nike box make these the closest pair to 1985. —Amir Ismael

     

  • 8. Raf Simons Adidas Ozweego 2

    When Raf Simons introduced his collection with Adidas back in 2013, I remember thinking it was God awful. And a lot of it was. I never want to see anyone wear platform sneakers or ones that come up to your knee. There were two sneakers that I liked: The Stan Smiths and the Ozweego. The latter was cool because it showed that Raf knew a thing or two about sneakers (which he does) and wasn’t just catering to the fashion tryhards who were just dipping their feet into the luxury pool. It’s based off a '90s Adidas running sneaker, and the colorblocking had the vibe of an “O.G.” colorway. Most forgot about the design for awhile, then it re-emerged with an unseen vengeance. Adidas released a colorway that was reminiscent of the first pair that dropped around 3 years ago, and it was met with open arms by cool guys and sneaker connoisseurs. It also didn’t hurt that ASAP Rocky was rapping, “Don’t touch my Raf,” around the same time these sneakers dropped. Except everyone was trying to get their hands on them. —Matt Welty

     

  • 7. Tom Sachs x Nike Mars Yard 2.0

    Back in 2012, New York City artist Tom Sachs teamed up with Nike to create the NikeCraft Mars Yard, a space-inspired sneaker that was meant to be worn. Sachs did just that, by wear-testing the shoes for years. During that time he realized that the sneakers could’ve been designed better, so nearly five years later the Tom Sachs x NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0 were finally introduced this year. 

    The updated version looks nearly identical to the original, but there were several key changes. A polyester warp-knit tricot mesh replaced the Vectran upper, the red pull tabs featured much stronger stitching and the outsoles were toned down to be more suitable for urban wear. Interchangeable mesh and cork insoles were also included to make the sneakers suitable for wearing with or without socks. With a very utilitarian approach to design, the Mars Yard 2.0 uses mostly unprocessed materials—the leather isn’t dyed, the cork is natura,l and the polyurethane midsole is raw and unpainted. And to really drive home the message of wearing the sneakers, the box reads, “These shoes are only valid if worn, and worn to death by you. Posers need not apply.” —Amir Ismael


  • 6. Nike Air Max 97 “Silver Bullet”

    The Nike Air Max 97 tends to resurface every few years. It’s been a consistent favorite in Europe, specifically Italy and London, but it’s had a mixed reception in the U.S. It’s always played second fiddle to the Air Max 1, 90, and 95, but this year saw the 97 celebrate its 20th birthday and Nike did it justice. It all started late last year with activations and special editions made for Italy. The 97s, in their original “Silver” colorway, finally had a wide release in the States this year, and it brought a new energy to the sneaker. People who had never worn Air Maxes, let alone 97s, were hunting high and low to get a pair. It didn’t really make sense and made a lot of O.G.s shake their heads at the newcomers, but, in the grander scheme of things, it was a much welcomed change to the typical sneakers that dominate the retro cycle. And if something like the 97 can smash the mold, it can serve as an example that any sneaker can break into the mainstream with the right strategical push behind it. —Matt Welty

     

  • 5. Adidas Futurecraft 4D

    What actually makes something 4D? I don’t know, that just sounds like some made-up marketing speak to me. But Adidas made a 4D running sneaker this year, and it’s really good. 3D printing is the future of footwear manufacturing, and Adidas has taken it one step further with its ongoing Futurecraft program, which implements the most cutting-edge design practices into wearable shoes. Only 300 pairs of the 4D sneakers were given to influencers and industry insiders this year, but Adidas is set to release 5,000 more pairs by the end of the year, which should make everyone lose their minds. And I don’t blame them: The shoes have a clean upper that’s similar to an Ultra Boost, and a mind-blowingly futuristic midsole. The balance between the simple and the extreme makes the 4D runner a clear-cut winner, and it doesn’t hurt that people are shelling out $3,000 on the secondary market for them right now, either. —Matt Welty

     

  • 4. Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 v2 “Zebra”

    When the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 v2 debuted in September 2016, it was well received because it was simply a new Yeezy sneaker. Shortly after its initial release, more colorways including several “Core Black” pairs and the “Zebras” surfaced. The black and white Primeknit upper and white outsole made the sneakers like the “Turtle Doves” of V2s or, even arguably, better than the original Yeezy Boost 350.

    While, all the “Core Black” pairs that released over the holiday season were relatively easy to come by, the “Zebras” were the complete opposite when they launched in February. Only 34 Adidas Original stores worldwide stocked the colorway, with just four of those stores being in the U.S. They released exclusively through Adidas Confirmed—there was no online release and no additional retailers that carried the shoes. Luckily, Adidas is treating Yeezy fans well with a much wider restock this weekend. Even with the sneakers becoming less exclusive, the “Zebra” colorway makes these one of the best Yeezys Boosts ever and one of this year’s best sneakers. —Amir Ismael


  • 3. Atmos x Air Max 1 “Elephant”

    In celebration of last year’s Air Max Day, Nike introduced Vote Back—a new poll that gave the public a chance to bring back one specific Air Max sneaker for 2017. When sneaker enthusiasts realized they had the opportunity to bring back “Elephant Print” Atmos x Air Max 1s just a year after Nike re-released “Safari” Air Max 1s, the 2007 classic won easily.

    With the release date locked in for 2017 Air Max Day, it became one of this year’s most anticipated sneakers nearly in advanced. While the 2016 “Safari” Air Max 1s had several questionable changes, the recent “Elephant Print” Air Max 1s gave diehard Air Max fans exactly what they were looking for by staying true to the original.

    In addition to the Vote Back release, Atmos surprised fans with another iteration of the colorway in a first-of-its-kind Air Jordan collaboration. Still sticking to the highly sought after black, white, jade, and Elephant Print colorway, the pair done in collaboration with Jordan Brand featured minor changes in detail like a semi-translucent black outsole with Jumpman branding and Elephant Print insoles. Give the people what they want, when they want it, and they’ll always be satisfied. —Amir Ismael


  • 2. Kaws x Air Jordan IV

    The Kaws x Air Jordan IV had all the ingredients necessary for a huge sneaker hit—a classic Air Jordan model, a collaboration with the right artist at the right time, premium construction, thoughtfully designed packaging, and limited production numbers. All that would have been enough even without the sneaker itself being terrific. But it was.

    Kaws had done sneaker collaborations before, most notably with Nike on a set of Air Max 90s. But a Jordan collaboration was different. And Kaws had a higher profile now than he did back then, as did the sneaker world as a whole, so this was his most heavily anticipated project yet.

    Again, it did not disappoint. The monochrome suede build was broken up by different textures of suede and subtle grey-on-grey embroidery, Kaws’ signature “XX” branding on the heel tab and hangtag, and set off by a glow-in-the-dark sole with Kaws’ Companion hands detail underneath. A leather lining and Jumpman/Kaws dustbag finished off the package, which came in a Kaws-specific Air Jordan IV box. The toughest decision? To stash, or to wear right away. —Russ Bengtson

     

  • 1. Nike VaporMax

     Nike desperately needed a win this year. Adidas has been slapping the living daylights out of them left and right, sneaker release after sneaker release. Nike just hasn’t been able to keep up in terms of innovation and cool over the past couple seasons, but all of that slightly started to shift with the launch of the VaporMax this year. Nike was able to create a sole unit that was completely full of Air, and it was just as practical as it was visually appealing; the bulbous Air unit is something out of a cartoon. It was a much-needed win against Adidas for the Swoosh, and it’s rare that a brand-new sneaker is the shoe that everyone’s been talking about. We’ve seen it in the recent past with the Adidas Ultra Boost;the VaporMax had the same energy around it. This is only the beginning for the technology and the silhouette, though. There’s still another half of a year to shine and the sole is going to be used over and over again until we’re sick of it. But at the moment, we’re going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths because we’re still still not full on the VaporMax just yet—it’s that good. —Matt Welty

     

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Nick Cannon Shows His Sneaker Closet

Wild’ N Out host Nick Cannon has been making people laugh for nearly 20 years, and he has the same dedication to his sneakers as he does his craft. For the most recent episode of Complex Closets, Joe La Puma met up with Cannon at his house in New Jersey and got a tour of his legendary footwear collection.

In the episode he shows the world’s most expensive shoes, a $2 million pair of Tom Ford diamond-encrusted slip-ons. When it comes to the sneaker portion of the segment, Cannon shows off a pair of custom Gucci Air Maxes, a never-before-seen Goyard/BAPE/Jordan 1 custom, and then reveals for the first time his exclusive Wild N' Out Air Jordan VIIs.

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The Best Air Jordans of 2017 (So Far)

The past few years have been a strange time for the once-mighty Jordan Brand. The company has been instrumental at nearly every defining instance of footwear culture in North America, but recent days have seen the rise of Adidas and an increased popularity in lifestyle running sneakers. The brand’s making more sneakers than ever, and making them pricier than before, so the mystique that Jordans are impossible to get has all but faded. But this new set of business challenges also brings an exciting time for consumers: Jordan Brand has been forced to try new things instead of re-releasing the same sneaker over and over and over and over…

This year has seen Jordan Brand take on big-time collaborations and ways to rejuvenate its business through storytelling and product that feels special, rather than mass-produced sneakers that are passé. As a result the company is trying special release strategies and even releasing player-edition sneakers to the public. It’s been an interesting six months to say the least. With that said, here are the best Air Jordans of the year so far. —Matt Welty

 

  • 10. Air Jordan IV “Royalty”

    Here’s a recipe for success: Take a good shoe, make it with good materials, and do it in a colorway that doesn’t suck. That’s what Jordan Brand did with the “Royalty” IV, and the results were great. It was black, white, and gold, a combination that looks good on any sneaker. There’s not much to say other than an Air Jordan IV will always be good and simple color schemes reign supreme. —​Matt Welty

     

  • 9. OVO x Jordan Trunner

    Drake’s ongoing collaboration with Jordan Brand has drawn the ire of true footwear connoisseurs, and the Xs and XIIs that he’s slapped with OVO branding are starting to feel really tired. Instead of reworking another silhouette that’s been reworked a handful of times already, Drake and Jordan Brand decided to take a surprise approach with the release of an OVO Jordan Trunner at the grand opening of Toronto’s Jordan Brand store, and it was just what the company needed to break up the monotony of its biggest partnership right now. 

    The shoe was good for several reasons. If you’re not a fan of basketball sneakers in general, it’s really, really hard to get into the faux nostalgia that helps push Jordan Brand forward. And getting a pair of running sneakers from the brand is like looking for the vegan options at a steakhouse: you’re going to be disappointed no matter what. But the Trunner is something different all together. It’s not trying to be something that Jordan Brand is not — it’s the one training shoe for the person who loves the Jumpman. The black-and-white colorblocking didn’t feel played out on the Trunner, and the OVO owl on the heel was just enough to satisfy Drake fans, especially those who have been into his Stone Island-heavy, European-inspired looks as of late. —​Matt Welty

     

  • 8. Air Jordan IV “Pure Money”

    The Air Jordan IV was always more of a technological accomplishment than a design one, as Tinker Hatfield essentially created a lighter-weight version of the Air Jordan III using the best technology available to him in 1988. Mesh inserts both cut weight and provided far better ventilation, while synthetic “wings” provided extra support. Other than that, the sole units and cut were fairly similar, while an ACG-esque spatter treatment on the midsole and “Flight” patch on the tongue did more to separate it stylistically from its predecessor.

     The somewhat busy design is perhaps best appreciated in a simple makeup, hence the all-black “Black Cat” and all-white “Pure Money” makeups. Released just in time for the start of summer, the “Pure Money” re-retro features hits of chrome on the lace loops, just enough shine to draw attention but not too much. For a 12-year-old take on a 27-year-old shoe, the “Pure Money” Air Jordan IV still shines. —Russ Bengtson

     

  • 7. Air Jordan XXX1 “Russell Westbrook PE”

    Ever since Michael Jordan retired, Jordan Brand has had to find another endorser to be the primary face of the flagship shoe. For a while it was Dwyane Wade. Now it’s Russell Westbrook, who’s been holding it down since the shrouded Air Jordan 28. As the standard bearer, he’s gotten special makeups of each, some of which have reached the marketplace—remember the WHY NOT? 28s? This year, he got the most special one of all. 

    Westbrook’s Air Jordan XXX1 PE was more of a XXX.5, the woven upper of the XXX1 paired with the sole unit of the XXX, which Westbrook preferred. It’s not often a hybrid like this gets offered at retail—it took Jordan 30 years to actually release the Jordan 1.5 that Mike wore in ‘86. Inspired by his coveted Air Jordan III PE, Westbrook’s XXX1 featured cement print on the heel/ankle area along with hits of Thunder blue and orange. The ultimate would have been to release it in a pack WITH the III, but alas, we can’t have everything. At least, not yet. Russ Bengtson


  • 6. Atmos x Air Jordan III

     Nike has started to give people what they want, and the brand’s done so in the form of letting its fans vote on which classic Air Max model they want to be brought back each year for Air Max Day. Last year people voted for Atmos’s “Elephant” Air Max 1 from 2007 to be retroed, and Nike kept its promise on making the shoe return. But the brand didn’t stop there, and also let the Japanese retailer also work on the Air Jordan III, outfitting it in a colorway similar to its “Safari” Air Max 1, the first-ever collaboration on the sneaker, which released in 2003. The sneaker was an odd choice for sure. To put it simple: The majority of those who really freak out over Air Maxes typically live in Europe, where Jordans don’t share the same popularity as they do in the States. But for those who are more inclined to basketball sneakers, the Atmos collaboration was just what they were looking for. It came with black suede, Safari print that replaced the sneaker’s typical Cement print, an icey sole, and the icing on the cake: “Nike Air” on the heel.

     It was an execution so solid that even Air Max enthusiasts were impressed with the sneaker. And they had to be, because it was only sold in a limited-edition pack with the bringback of the Air Max 1 and came with a retail price of $400. That pack now resells for an average of over $1,000. While the Air Max 1 from the duo is infinitely better than the Air Jordan III, you can’t fault Jordan Brand for trying to bring some much-needed buzz to their brand in the form of an offbeat collaboration. —Matt Welty

     

  • 5. Air Jordan IV “Do the Right Thing”

    As he tells it, Spike Lee wasn’t a huge fan of the Air Jordan IV when he first saw them in the summer of 1988. So rather than wear them himself as Mookie in 1989’s Do the Right Thing, he instead blessed Giancarlo Esposito and his character Buggin’ Out. From that, one of the iconic sneaker scenes in movie history was born—Buggin’ Out’s pristine Jordans marred by a careless pedestrian pushing a bike on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Even worse, a careless white pedestrian, in a Larry Bird jersey, no less. It’s one of the best scenes in the movie, one that effortlessly cut drama with humor, and one that firmly imprinted the importance of sneakers on celluloid. 

    For the release of the IV-inspired Fly 89 casual runner, Jordan made up a super-limited run of Do the Right Thing inspired white/cement IVs, right down to the NIKE AIR heeltab, the African-inspired wrap on the laces (something Esposito did himself to the pair he wore in the movie), the unconventional lacing, and—of course—the scuff. As movie sneakers go, these might not be as iconic as Back to the Future’s MAGs, but they’re a million times more wearable. And if the scuff bothers you as much as it did Buggin’ Out, well, Jordan provided a toothbrush to take care of that. Or try, at least. If only Martin Lawrence was around to provide commentary while you tried. —Russ Bengtson


  • 4. Just Don x Air Jordan II “Arctic Orange”

    The Air Jordan II is by no means the most popular Air Jordan sneaker, but when Don C got his hands on the silhouette, he gave it a new life. Taking a high-end luxury approach, the Just Don x Air Jordan IIs feature suede, quilted leather and leather lined insoles. The silhouette previously released in “Blue” and “Beach” colorways, so for the third installment Don C went in a completely different direction with an “Arctic Orange” colorway—which really looks more like a pale pink.

    DJ Khaled was the first person to be seen with the new Just Don IIs, as he rocked them with a pink satin suit to announce the title of his forthcoming album Grateful. Shortly after, his son and fiancee were blessed with pairs, which ramped up hype for the release of the first Just Don x Air Jordan IIs coming in youth sizes. When official released information surfaced, it was announced that the sneakers would be available from toddler to grade school with sizes extending up to 9.5, which left out most guys out of copping a pair. It’s rumored that the “Arctic Orange” Just Don x Air Jordan IIs will re-release in full men’s sizes, but for now DJ Khaled and Just Dons are the only ones with pairs. —Amir Ismael


  • 3. Air Jordan 1 “Royal”

     As long as Jordan Brand keeps putting out original Air Jordan 1 colorways, people will buy them and that was surely the case for the “Royal” colorway. Following two of 2016’s Best Air Jordans—the “Black Toe” and “Banned” Air Jordan 1s—the “Royal” 1s came as huge treat for fans of the silhouette. When the sneakers last released in 2013, they were of a much lesser quality when compared to its 2001 predecessor. Still, the shoe sold out and even resold for hundreds of dollars more than the $140 retail price. Despite using a new tumbled leather, this year’s release was a breath of fresh air. The sneakers use a true high-top construction, Nike Air branding on the tongue and insole, and are packaged unlaced with extra royal blue laces, just like in 1985. These are an absolute must-have for any Air Jordan collector. —Amir Ismael

     

  • 2. Air Jordan 1 “Satin Royal”

    A lot of purists will say that making an Air Jordan 1 in satin is sacrilegious, and they have good reason: Making a shoe completely in a delicate fabric is counterintuitive to how you design sneakers. But there was something special about the “Satin” version of the “Royal” Air Jordan 1s. 

    For starters, Jordan Brand made 700 pairs, so people were going to want them regardless. But they were also following up last year’s “Bred” version of the shoe, which now resell for upwards of $2,000 a pair. Where Jordan Brand nailed it with the “Royal” version was the rollout. Many people will tell you that “Black/Royal” is the best colorway of the Air Jordan 1, and they’re not wrong. So it’s not hard to sell folks on the sneaker, but Jordan Brand decided to only launch them at Walter’s Clothing in Atlanta and Active Athlete in Houston, two old-school, mom-and-pop sneaker shops. It’s those details that elevated these “Satin” Air Jordan 1s to one of the best sneakers that the brand has put out this year so far. Because satin sneakers are stupid, except for these. Matt Welty

     

  • 1. KAWS x Air Jordan IV

    If you call yourself a streetwear fan and you never were into KAWS, you don’t deserve to have say in what’s cool or not. Or you’re under the age of 15. The man has been at the heart of the culture for decades now, and everyone who’s had an interest in sneakers since the rise of hype culture on the Internet is familiar with his work and past collaborations. It took Jordan Brand sometime, however, to make a project happen with KAWS. And it was pretty damn solid.

    The reaction to the KAWS x Air Jordan IV, however, was mixed when it first came to light. There were many who thought it was too simple or past its prime, but the execution on the collaboration was top notch. The suede was through the roof, and KAWS’ “hands” art was stitched throughout the upper. But the most important detail on the sneaker was the replacement of the “Nike Air” on the heel with “XX Air,” a nod to KAWS’ signature style (the same artwork came on the hangtag, too). The glow-in-the-dark outsole with the KAWS hands just added to the project, although an early sample showed that the sneaker first featured the Xs on the sole. When it comes down to it, what makes this sneaker great is that Jordan Brand took one of its best sneakers and made it a bit more covetable. It’s really, really easy to fuck these sort of things up, and KAWS and Jordan didn’t do that. So everyone is a bit more grateful. Matt Welty

     

More from Complex

Sneaker Shopping With Jimmy Butler

There's a nostalgic feeling around Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, whether he wants to admit it or not. He plays in Chicago, gets buckets, and is sponsored by Jordan Brand. Sounds familiar, right? He's also the latest guest on Complex's Sneaker Shopping with Joe La Puma, and they got together to browse the shelves at Saint Alfred, Chicago's finest sneaker boutique.

In the episode, Butler talks about playing basketball against Michael Jordan, but there's one thing he didn't do: Talk about Adidas, his former sponsor. He also got to visit the White House and meet Barack Obama, all while wearing a pair of Air Jordans. Turns out that Obama was feeling his bold style choice.

To see what he purchased, watch the video above.

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