BEHIND THE DESIGN
AIR JORDAN III 'TINKER'
The Air Jordan III was a make-or-break shoe for the relationship between Nike and Michael Jordan. It was 1987 and meetings about new designs weren't going well. The project, in the form of a folder, was given to Tinker Hatfield with a vague brief: "Just do something with it".
Hatfield had just finished working on the Air Pack, which included the Air Revolution basketball shoe. He opened the folder and found exploration of a new logo—an outline of Jordan's famous legs-spread dunk, traced onto paper.
"I jumped on a plane to visit Michael Jordan and get to know him", recalls Hatfield. "We talked. I realised that he had a good sense of style. He said he wanted a pair of basketball shoes that were comfortable and fresh right out of the box, that didn't require breaking in".
Hatfield then flew back to Beaverton and got to work on drawings and prototypes. Using the midsole of the Air Revolution, he developed a mid silhouette, found softer leather options and made small paintings to show Jordan how the shoes would look on him. He added an embroidered version of the new Jumpman logo and left ample space for the Swoosh. He also recruited a graphic designer to make apparel with the Jumpman for the first time.
Then came the moment of truth. Hatfield remembers Jordan arriving at the final meeting four hours late, sitting down and saying, "Show me what you got". Unbeknownst to Phil Knight and others in the room, Hatfield had a prototype of the Air Jordan III: mid-cut, without a Swoosh, in an untraditional black colourway and underneath a piece of cloth.
"I told him, 'I hope you like what we came up with'", says Hatfield. "'It's unlike any basketball shoe I've ever seen'". After the reveal, Hatfield recalls, "He grabbed it from me. In five minutes, he was smiling and asking all kinds of questions. Within 20 minutes, the meeting was over, and we had the Air Jordan III".
Though the Swoosh has been absent from the Air Jordan III since its release 30 years ago, it will now exist, as it was originally sketched, on the new Air Jordan III Tinker, which comes in a never-before-seen 'Fire Red' colourway. "You can tell that the shoe was designed to have a Swoosh on it", says Hatfield. "It looks better. It has that space right there. But at the time, it was really about making a statement and letting Jordan be his own thing".