Is there a more iconic Jordan sneaker than the Tinker Hatfield Air Jordan 3? Tinker Hatfield doesn’t seem to think so.
Reflecting on the impact of the Air Jordan 3, Tinker Hatfield said, “I think the 3 will be a part of the design process for all things we’re doing with the Jordan brand. The 3 is so iconic that it will always be the source of inspiration for all kinds of products we’re going to do with the brand.” According to Tinker, the Jordan 3 remains the touchstone for all future Jumpman designs.
Let’s take a closer look at how this shoe went from sketch to pop culture phenomenon to grail.
Enter Tinker Hatfield
Nike and Michael Jordan go together: like peas and carrots; like b-boys and breakbeats; like Air Jordans, and well, Nike. The Jordan 1 is a classic shoe, from silhouette to colorway. But the Jordan 3 is the shoe that firmly fixed Nike and Jordan in the pop cultural firmament, cementing a lucrative relationship that only continues to grow. In 1988, however, the future of Nike and Air Jordans was far from settled.
In the summer of 1987, Rob Strasser and Peter Moore, the men responsible for bringing Jordan to Nike and the design of the first two Air Jordans, had left to start their own company and were working to lure MJ away from Nike. The task to create the Jordan 3, and keep MJ in the Nike fold, ultimately fell to the architect-turned-shoe designer, Tinker Hatfield.
(L: Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement”; R: Air Jordan 3 ” White Cement”)
Drawing inspiration from a variety of materials including embossed nubuck and tumbled leather, placing the Jumpman logo on the shoe’s tongue, and Jordan’s own ideas about fashion and design, the Air Jordan 3 was unlike any other basketball sneaker on the planet. Jordan wanted a fashion-forward and functional shoe for his 1987-1988 NBA campaign, and Tinker Hatfield delivered.
(L: Air Jordan 3 “Fire Red”; R: Air Jordan 3 “True Blue”)
With the Jordan 3, Tinker introduced now-classic design elements, including the elephant print on the uppers, the Jumpman logo, a mid-top, and visible air. Since it’s 1988 debut, the Jordan 3 has cycled through at least a dozen retros and reimagined designs.
It’s Gotta be the Shoes!
The story of MJ, Tinker, and the Jordan 3s’ rise to sneaker fame doesn’t end with the shoe’s release. One more element was added to the mix: Nike and Spike Lee’s “Do You Know” advertising campaign.
Through a series of hilarious, and revolutionary, commercials that began in 1988, Spike Lee’s alter ego, Mars Blackmon, attempted to uncover the secret to MJ’s greatness. At the end of each spot, Mars decided that MJ’s superhuman skill came from the shoes. The Spike Lee commercials were such a success throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, that Nike revived the “Do You Know” Mars Blackmon slogan for the February return of the Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement.”
Since 1988, the Air Jordan 3 has been lionized in popular music and regularly considered by sneakerheads as the greatest Air Jordan release of all time.
Tinker Hatfield’s Return
(Above: Look, Ma! There’s a SWOOSH on that Jordan 3 sketch / Photo: Nike)
Nike has been celebrating Tinker Hatfield and the Air Jordan 3 this year. Justin Timberlake got the hype going when he rocked a pair of JTH “White/Cement” at this year’s Super Bowl. And on March 24, the Air Jordan 3 “Tinker Hatfield” will be released, with the addition of the swoosh logo on the middle taken from Tinker’s original sketch, and Nike Air logo on the heel.
(L: JTH Air Jordan 3 “White Cement”; R: Tinker Hatfield Air Jordan 3 “Fire Red”)
2018 is shaping up to be the year of the Tinker Hatfield Air Jordan 3 retro.