The Tinker Hatfield archives include some special designs, and one more comes to life on Aug. 6, when Jordan Brand releases the Air Jordan VII Retro “Tinker Alternate,” a patriotic take that was first designed for 1992.
Hatfield, whose first AJ design was the Air Jordan III, took an international perspective when designing the VII. When it came time to turn that international flair into a Barcelona Olympics colorway, Hatfield landed on two final options, one largely white-based and one with more contrast. Jordan chose to wear the white in the Olympics, tucking away the Tinker alternate for 25-plus years.
In line with the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Hatfield and MJ were ready to reveal that other Barcelona-era choice. “My recollection was that MJ thought the original one was really cool because it still fit with everything we talked about—the cultural and racial and national influence from some other part of the world and how it was applicable to our world, and all of those things,” Hatfield tells SI.com.
The original AJ VII started a new era for the line with Hatfield removing the Nike Air branding, adding a neoprene Huarache bootie for support and using a geometric pattern inspired by a poster for the long-running Afopop Worldwide radio program.
Hatfield used that international poster as inspiration for the VII, with a geometric graphic landing on the tongue and sole of three of the five original colorways.
But the more colorized version of the sneaker was still left on the design board. “Michael was fine with it, in the end,” Hatfield says about bringing it back out, “and I was just happy we got a chance to do that shoe again.”
Hatfield says that with the VII he was trying to set a mood. “That board was all about taking an idea to Michael Jordan himself and then he sprinkled his holy water on it,” Hatfield says. “I’m always asking him questions about his life. He said something about he thought it was time to take a risk and he didn’t know what that meant from a design perspective, but it was something on his mind.”
That’s why the colors “are a little bit of, kind of purple,” Hatfield says.
Getting to do a shoe again excites Hatfield, and it brings to life the Jordan-Hatfield archives.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums to sneakers—and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.