Last night in Las Vegas, the highly anticipated, (yeah, like all of them haven’t been highly anticipated) Air Jordan XXXI was officially and publicly revealed. While photos leaked last week, yesterday marked the night when we’d be able to hear all about it. But this isn’t about that shoe. Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s more about the development of it from an idea to release.
I’ve always love the sketches… the storyboard of the shoe. What elements went into what. What objects in our world sparked a design feature. Everything. But I have to say that the guys at Jordan Brand dropped the ball on this one.
As some of you may know, in 1999, I helped with the creation of NikeTalk. The internet, still relatively new, had a handful of ‘somewhat’ reliable sites for pictures and information, but many of these, which operated as message boards, were littered with a bunch of ‘shit’ for lack of a better term. NikeTalk was designed to appeal to all sneakerheads of the time by doing so in a well run and well organized forum.
Flash forward to 2002. An aspiring sneaker designer who used the handle “ALPHAPROJECT” had garnered a lot of attention with his concepts and sketches. Very clean, VERY progressive and very representative of the “A L P H A Project” lineup of releases Nike was putting out at the time. I put the following challenge to “ALPHAPROJECT” about something I always wanted to see via a NikeTalk post:
Almost exactly 2 hours after having seen my request, this is what was submitted:
“A lil’ something…”.
“I did this in an hour…”
It’s fucking genius. Let’s see this again… and be sure to read the comments for a little surprise.
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I've been seeing much praise for the concept sketches of the Air Jordan XXXI tonight. While sketches are great and definitely tell the story from idea to execution, I'll take this Air Jordan I sketch I had Jason Petrie, @sevenzro1, do in 2002 on @niketalk when he went as "AlphaProject". This sketch from nearly 15 years ago blows the doors off what was drawn and essentially executed with the XXXI. #SneakerHistory #Brannock #SMYFH #Shoepreme #SneakerFiles #Sneakerholics #SoleCollector #SoleToday #IGSneakerCommunity #NiceKicks #KicksOnFire #WDYWT #WearYourKicks #Finishline #SneakerMafia #ComplexKicks #ComplexSneakers
Over the course of time, we got to find out that the man whose NikeTalk handle was “ALPHAPROJECT” was really named Jason Petrie. We followed him. We rooted for him. Today, he is a household name for sneakerheads because of his work on the LeBron line.
Jason garnered quite the following based on many of the sketches he posted and invited us to see. A lot of his concepts from that era can still be considered forward, however we can see design elements from these early sketches:
- The styling in the “Shoxposite Concept” looks to be a precursor to and an early representation of elements in the upper of the LeBron XI.
- The “JUMP” sketch screams LeBron IX and XIII with the tri-blade boomerang styling in the transition from lateral to heel counter to collar.
We are now in an era where sneakers designers are becoming as popular, well, almost as popular as the players who wear their designs. Take a look back at Jason Petrie when he was just an “ALPHAPROJECT”…
Sure, ALPHAPROJECT was a NikeTalk superstar, who became a FILA superstar who became a global superstar at Nike, when he reverted back to his Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne status. But 18 months to design the Air Jordan XXXI? C’mon guys, you’ve had it for 14 years in the design portfolio of one of your best designers.
While all of these sketches have been readily available on NikeTalk forever, it was this little “challenge”, made in the afternoon, then executed in the early AM the following morning in less than 2 hours which I’ll always remember. It was, and still looks today like the perfect marriage of the past the present and the future… and it was 14 years ago…