Michael Jordan and his Charlotte Hornets played host to the 2019 All-Star Weekend a few days ago. It was the first time that the Queen City hosted the NBA’s most famous weekend since 1991, when Jordan debuted a brand new, neck-breaking colorway. That Sunday in February was the first time the world got to see the “Infrared” Air Jordan 6. The black-based colorway featured hits of bright red, accented by an icy outsole.
Jordan wore the “Infrareds” from that weekend in hometown all the way up until the 1991 NBA Finals, when he captured his first championship.
The “Infrared” Air Jordan 6 reached mythical status following that weekend. It’s part of a long line of black/red Jordans that were worn during historic on-court moments. And in the nearly 30 years since it was first released, it’s become a solidified style staple on sidewalks everywhere.
We caught up with Gentry Humphrey, Jordan Brand VP of Footwear, to talk about all-things “Infrareds.” Check it out below.
SLAM: Does Mike get hype for these releases, the special, legacy-type ones with all the buzz leading up to them?
Gentry Humphrey: MJ is more passionate about footwear design than most people I know. He pushes us to maintain the authenticity of the original model, while not being afraid of paying attention to details and craftsmanship. The VI is extra special to him and our brand because he won his first championship in them.
SLAM: The “Infrareds” had a crazy run in the spotlight from the ’91 All-Star Game to the Finals. Why did Mike love this colorway so much?
GH: First, Michael is an intense competitor. He was known to gain motivation in many ways. He felt that black based shoes were meant to be played in the opposing team’s arena. It was a reminder that he had to raise his level of intensity in what could have been a hostile environment. The infrared was a pop of color, that gave a black based shoe, added energy. It was a turn up on a traditional color of red.
SLAM: With that long in-game run in mind, what is the “Infrareds” legacy in the grand scheme of the Air Jordan line?
GH: It’s synonymous with MJ’s success as an athlete, in a relentless pursuit of being a champion. As far as legacy in the Air Jordan line and the entire sneaker industry as whole, you now see Infrared as one of the brand’s bloodline colors. When you see Infrared anywhere, you automatically think of the AJVI.
SLAM: Do you think it’s an underrated silhouette?
GH: It’s been almost three decades since the silhouette’s original launch and you still see people of all ages wearing the AJVI on a daily basis due to its timeless design. Trends come and go but sneakers like the AJVI are always in style.
SLAM: This 2019 retro version is a stitch-for-stich match to the OG that dropped almost 30 years ago. Why is now the right time to return to the materials, the stitching and the color?
GH: Timing wise, it was a no brainer with All-Star being in Charlotte this year. It’s a great opportunity for the brand to provide access the OG fans who remember that ’91 game and also a chance for us to introduce the shoe to a new generation who are pursuing their own dreams and can take inspiration from the story of this shoe and MJ’s legacy. When it comes to the construction, we strive to deliver a premium level of quality and original construction. When MJ saw this year’s AJ VI for the first time, he gave us that MJ smile! It was validation and an indication of a job well done. You could tell it provided a flashback of a very memorable point in time. A smile equaling success!
SLAM: Sneaker nerds are really excited for the 3M’s return, too, another OG detail. Are you surprised to see how much the internet has been fiending for this release?
GH: No, the shoe is an all-time favorite. I believe that our attention to details and pursuit of fine craftsmanship is expected. Our consumers have come to appreciate the additional nuances that we apply on re-released models. It allows them to have another reason to stay connected to an all-time classic.
SLAM: You’ve been around for so many amazing colorways and silhouettes and collaborations. It seems like every time a Bred Air Jordan drops, though, there’s still so much desire, almost like Mike is going to play in them again. Why does the black and red colorway continue to have so much power?
GH: A black and red Air Jordan is always going to be special to people who love sneakers and basketball. When you pair that with the silhouettes that MJ did amazing things in, you truly get to own a piece of history. The beauty of Bred Air Jordan shoes comes from combining MJ’s legacy of playing in them with whatever that particular sneaker means to you and your journey. For some, it was their favorite sneaker as a kid and now they want their kids to have it. For others, it was something they maybe couldn’t get the last time they released so this is their chance to finally own it. Each story is unique and that’s what makes a sneaker like this so special.