The Story Behind The Air Jordan 11 Low IE

By Jay Casteel  |  09/18/2015

With the release of the Air Jordan 11 Low IE this weekend, legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield reveals the design process behind the classic shoe.

The story begins with the first models, the Air Jordan 1 and 2. After the release of the iconic shoes, Jordan Brand's signature retro line developed a regular cadence: mid-cut shoes, delivered in late fall or early spring, in a singular articulation. That is, until 1996, when the Air Jordan 11 Low IE arrived.

"We were looking at how we could extend the original performance basketball shoe into something that could further the design, but turn into a low top," says Hatfield. "I wasn't interested in an exact replica of a XI in a low top; I was more interested in doing a low top that was partly the Jordan 11, but fresher."
As a result, the Air Jordan 11's most instantly recognizable element, patent leather, disappeared.

"I felt like [patent leather] was contrary to the summer feel," he continued. "The shoe didn't need to feel so stiff and heavy. For the summer, I wanted something that was lighter and easier to wear."

Instead, as Hatfield elaborates, the upper composition featured a seasonally adaptable solution.

"I changed the pattern to put breathability in the right spots. Then, when you look at the different compositions, you want to fill in the gaps with something that could be decorative, like elephant print. I thought about trying textures and stitching. The mesh said something about summer, and the stitching we did really artfully. Doing that for the initial Air Jordan 11 Low actually helped me think about how I was going to design the Air Jordan 12."

Nearly two decades after Michael Jordan wrote the Jordan 11 Low IE in the 1996 playoffs, the shoe is back.

Its latest colorway, nicknamed "Croc" or officially black/militia green, arrives Sept. 19 at Jordan Brand stocklists, as part of a three-shoe collection, including the Air Jordan 1 High the Return and the Air Jordan 1 KO.