Fresh into the middle of summer sneaker season, Nike is dropping another instant classic with the Air Jordan 11 “Concord Sketch,” available in kids’ and women’s sizes in the US. The low-top edition of this throwback is clean, sleek, and glossy, seamlessly blending the aesthetic of the ‘90s while looking as fresh as ever. In this colorway, black and white serve as the neutral canvas for the striking concord grape purple. Sometimes, restraint speaks louder than bold color blocking, and these shoes show just that: elevated simplicity.

The “Concord Sketch” low-top begins from the bottom with its translucent, almost oceanic outsole that looks like it grants the wearer airlessness. These are basketball shoes designed for an athlete with an insane vertical, aren’t they? Like many other variations on the Jordan 11, these immediately appear built for both performance and comfort. Visually, the most magnetic feature is the concord grape patent leather wraparound, a saturated shade that appears closer to true blue than deep purple. The original concord/white/black colorway was released as Jordan and his Bulls were battling the blues against the Orlando Magic, so this can be seen as a direct challenge to the wearer’s foes. The white ballistic mesh upper offers increased lightness of weight, adding to the gravity-free functionality of this famous footgear, and the tongue features the rune-like text that says “Jumpman Jordan,” long a token of the AJ XI in both original and reissues. Three Jumpman logos adorn the shoe; small and subtle on the heel, hidden in the insole, and prominently behind the clear rubber bottom. There is no doubt, this is yet another strong foot forward by Nike and Jordan Brand.

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These days, if you say the number “eleven” in conversation, the pop-culture savvy start talking Stranger Things. On the other hand, the number 23 immediately evokes His Airness, Michael Jordan. (Also, a very bad Jim Carrey thriller.) When it comes to Jordan and the number eleven, many more words spring to mind, such as “Chicago” and “championship.” After all, it was the 1995-96 season that MJ and the Bulls began their repeat of the three-peat, winning the first of three consecutive NBA rings. It’s that spirit of rebirth and victory that can be placed onto the Air Jordan 11 throughout its history of releases and retros.

The Air Jordan 11 is most famous as the first basketball shoe to incorporate patent leather, the signature strip of skin that encircles the shoe. The glare that draws stares, this central visual and tactile element took Tinker Hatfield’s previous designs to the next level. Hatfield is, of course, the visionary designer responsible for many of the most innovative releases in the original Jordan line, the wizard behind Michael Jordan’s footwear magic. As MJ made the transition back to basketball (after his bizarre baseball career), he and Hatfield knew they needed to make a grand statement asserting his return to the top. What the masterminds came up with was a basketball shoe like no other, challenging the norms of NBA uniforms and shoes. The sheen of the patent leather gave the 11 an appearance of formality, leading the original wave of wearing J’s and ties into the business world. Mimicking both athletic and dress wear, the Jordan 11 violated the NBA’s archaic dress code and drew ire from league officials. Naturally, MJ paid his measly fines and Nike released more colorways.

The other number that springs to mind when reminiscing about the history of this particular entry in Jordan genealogy is 45, the jersey number donned by His Airness upon his un-retirement in 1995. Many fans were up in arms at the notion that the GOAT could be represented by two different digits, that their jerseys of yesteryear were somehow invalid. By the start of the ‘95-96 season, MJ knew he needed to reignite the fire in his fandom, and that meant resurrecting his golden number and reclaiming his place above the elite. Once Jordan’s legacy had been reclaimed, he went on to win the MVP award in the All-Star Game, NBA regular-season, and of course NBA Finals en route to his fourth championship banner. As Jordan climbed the ladder back to the top, his shoes reflected light and refracted a myriad of hues, blinding everyone in his path to glory.

When it comes to cataloging your collection, Instagram is an invaluable platform, so make sure to check out our exclusive offer for free Sneaker Shields if you want to stay photo-fresh. Our product is guaranteed to keep your J’s crease-free for years, either with regular wear or in storage. Nobody wants to be seen wearing Air Jordans that look cheap or busted, so make Sneaker Shields a part of your routine shoe care.

The Air Jordan “Concord Sketch” is the realization of a mock-up originally made by Hatfield during the 11’s initial run, making it a sort of bridge between MJ’s glory days and the sneaker of the future. The XI has a long history of holiday retros releasing in December, so that makes this kick a Christmas-in-July stocking stuffer. Women and children deserve just as much of an opportunity to upset and offend haters on the highway, so why not pick up a pair before the celebration ceases. There’s just nothing that hits the heart like the heat generated by the ire of an envious enemy, and isn’t that really what sneakerhead culture is really about?
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