Last night I watched a documentary series called Abstract that focused on famous designers from all around the world, and all aspects of design. The episode was based on Tinker Hatfield; Nike’s Vice President of design and one of the most influential members of Nike’s success. This episode caught my attention because of my love for sneakers. I don’t consider myself a “sneakerhead*”. I don’t stand in lines for days prior to a release or attend sneaker conventions to trade kicks. I’m just a guy who grew up in an area where what you had on your feet said a lot about you before you even opened your mouth. I was lucky enough to always have a fresh pair of kicks and knew what was in or “hot”. As I get older and look at today’s sneaker culture, it makes me sick! The whole process of using bots to win drawings for the limited release sneakers, all to just throw them up on the web to resell for 2 or 3 times retail price is one of the biggest problems. I can honestly say that I don’t own a pair of sneakers that I have not worn.
I just had to get that off my chest - now onto the real reason for this post. Hearing Tinker talk about his design process and what went into certain sneakers makes me appreciate the sneakers a little more. His approach in making the Jordan sneakers for Michael Jordan was very involved, not only because MJ was tough to please but he was considering leaving Nike after the Jordan 2. Tinker was tasked with creating the Jordan 3 to try and keep Michael from jumping ship, and with his great listening skills and innovative thinking he was able to create one of the most iconic sneakers to date. Michael's needs, wants and concerns were all addressed in every sneaker which helped keep Nike thriving, Jordan excelling and Tinker's designs evolving. His thought process on designing is “getting out and experiencing life, it gives you a library to translate into new, unique designs”. He “thought further into the future” and his designs reflected that. Take for example his Jordan 15. Jordan had been retired, AGAIN, for over a full season, the shoe fit terrible, the court feel was off, and the design of the non-traditional tongue wasn’t enough to carry the show. Some consider this shoe one of the worst sneakers of all time. For Tinker it was a reflection of what he was going through at that time. He had just lost his mentor and his father, and was ready to move on from sneaker designs. I never owned the 15’s or (wanted to) but I vividly remember when a friend wore them to school I thought to myself, “that is a sneaker I would never wear”. There are a lot of sneakers I would never wear because it’s either not my style or there is too much hype around them. But just like any creative project, each one has a different impact on the viewer.
Think about your favorite song, movie, meal or sneaker. I bet for one person who agrees with you there are ten more who hate it. That doesn’t change how you feel about it, right? Tinker said “as a designer, if people don’t either love or hate your work, you haven’t done that much”. Designers of all levels have affects on people whether they know it or not. Be open to new ideas or thought processes; THINK OUT OF THE BOX! You might just design someone’s next favorite pair of sneakers!
1. A person who collects limited, rare, OG, or flat out exclusive kicks.
2. A person with background knowledge of certain sneakers.
- Anthony, Marketing Manager