GQ – The Man Behind Air Jordan: Tinker Hatfield Talks Inspiration

The Latest issue of GQ magazine features an exclusive and in depth interview with the inspiration behind all of Michael Jordan’s earliest iconic sneakers — including Air Jordan iterations III through XV. The article touches on the collaborative process with Jordan as well some of the items that serve as inspiration to the designer. Much of Nike’s success with the Air Jordan series — and the brand’s impressive resume for innovation can be attributed to Hatfield’s unique approach to design, which has enabled the footwear giant to continuously remain ahead of the competition.

The Flames Less Traveled

“The Jordan V was partly inspired by flames painted on a World War II plane. Michael and I used to talk about zigging while everybody else was zagging, so I made the flames point forward, not back.”

Missed Opportunities

“At one point, I pushed for a less sporty sub-brand called Jordan Beyond. When Michael did SNL in ’91, he wore a Jordan Beyond quilted green jacket. But I couldn’t make it happen. I’ve still got some samples, including a basketball shoe that was perforated like a wingtip.”

Ignore the Naysayers

“I started designing the Air Jordan XI during Michael’s first retirement—I kept saying he would un-retire. People at Nike gave me a hard time, so I wanted to show those assholes that we could make the best Jordans ever. The XI was the first basketball shoe to have a carbon-fiber plate in the sole and patent leather. By the time I showed Michael, he’d started playing again.”