While the Air Jordan XIII is one of the most popular sneakers in Nike's history, it was also the first of the company's shoes to be designed on a computer.
If you purchased a pair of Air Jordan sneakers in the 1990s, chances are you were wearing a Tinker Hatfield creation. In a recent oral history of the Air Jordan XIII on the pop culture website The Undefeated, the lead designer of 15 Air Jordan sneakers reveals how the Air Jordan XIII was the first Nike sneaker designed on a computer.
In 1996, Hatfield used a computer to design the Air Jordan XIII for the same reason anyone uses a computer — he was tired of writing by hand. Hatfield sketched numerous drafts before engaging Mark Smith from Nike’s graphics department to bring his thoughts to digital life. Hatfield says “a lot of the refinements were done on a Macintosh,” a secret he says was previously only known by people at Apple.
“It’s very likely that it’s the first shoe in our entire business that was designed on a computer, using Illustrator and Photoshop,” Hatfield said. The first Air Jordan designed on a computer was also the lightest Air Jordan at that point and featured a 3D hologram. It was one of the more technologically impressive Air Jordan sneakers up to that point.
The Air Jordan XIII made history in other ways. When it was released in 1997, it was the first sneaker under the newly created Jordan Brand subsidiary of Nike, the first time Nike ever gave a sports player his own clothing brand.
Hatfield is now Nike’s vice president of creative concepts and also the mastermind behind Nike’s latest technological breakthrough: Nike Hyperadapt 1.0 self-lacing sneakers. He originally designed the epochal self-lacing sneakers shown in 1988’s Back To The Future, but they were merely a prop. He and teams of Nike designers worked on making the Nike Hyperadapt 1.0 mostly between 2005-2016, a feat Hatfield keeps close to his heart. “I’m more excited about this than any project I’ve ever been involved with,” Hatfield said in a Wired interview from last year.
Now, all we need is to get Tinker in front of a supercomputer so we can finally get hoverboard sneakers.