Classic | Elite Part 2

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Media, Portfolio | 3 Comments

In yesterday’s post I gave you a breakdown of the first five shoes in my post for ComplexSneakers. Today I give you the final five, check them out below!

  • ComplexClassic-Elite-11
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-12
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-13
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-14
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-15
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-16
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-17
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-18
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-19
  • ComplexClassic-Elite-20

Nike Shox Stunner Elite

This concept is one of two that I would say is more of an inspired by the original and not just an update to what existed. I always loved the concept of the original shoe that it featured every Nike technology it could but still did it in a visually effective way. Often times when you start throwing elements from other shoes together the shoe can become uncohesive and quite busy but the original Shox Stunner was a very focused design.

The element that I really wanted to hone in on was the elastic zipper shroud of the original and I also wanted to try and capture some of the imagination the original sketch featured. If you have seen the original sketch it was much higher and a complete sock that really formed to the foot. So I thought by updating the elastic to a zip shroud, similar to the Glove or Air Jordan XX8, that it would be a good evolution. The next element I wanted to focus on was adding a way to create a contoured fit around the foot.

Sometimes shrouds don’t fit the foot perfectly because it is pulling in many directions so I thought to use the molded foam system of the Pro Combat apparel. What I liked about the Pro Combat is that because the material is sipped it allows the forms to bend and shape around the area it is interacting with. So I placed the foam in key fit and support zones to allow the shroud to fit more naturally. I also liked how the Pro Combat features became a driving visual element that really made the shoe be overly aggressive. The shoe felt like it was battle ready, I feel like an Elite player that was on his way to his first NBA Championship would wear it. It’s raw and militaristic, yet refined.

Nike Zoom UltraFlight Elite

The UltraFlight is one of the three shoes that gave me the most challenges and is also, like the Stunner, one of the shoes that I would consider to be more inspired by. The original UltraFlight was so captivating to me because of the transparent heel that was tinted in various colors. It allowed you to see through the shoe and get an understanding for what was happening inside. What made the shoe so challenging was how simple it was. It’s a lot like the Hyperflight where because it is so simple and pure, updating it could completely kill it. So I had to balance the fine line of what to add to it and what to take away from it. And I had to make sure it didn’t end up being too similar to the HyperFlight.

The first and most obvious idea was to make the shoe completely clear. Which is cool but I couldn’t get over the fact that if I made a clear TPU shell it would be the most unflexible and uncomfortably stiff shoe ever. So I started looking at new ways to accomplish that and I came across the shoes I was currently wearing, last years Nike Free 3.0. That shoe is constructed from a lightweight mesh that has a TPU based synthetic welded to it for extra support. So my idea was to take a highly elastic TPU that is transparent and weld it directly to the inner bootie, therefore getting rid of layers and making it lighter.

The end result is a high gloss and perforated elastic TPU upper that sits on top of a completely clear Zoom Air midsole with tinted clear rubber. I think the shoe does a good job of capturing what the original UltraFlight was but also takes it in a new direction. There are a couple of areas that I would like to refine, primarily the overall proportion of the shape. I think it looks a little heavy. I was trying to keep it looking like the natural shape of your foot since it was so elastic but I think it needs a little streamlining to give it more speed.

Air More Uptempo Elite

This shoe seems to have garnered the most attention out of the collection and honestly it was the easiest. Not to say that arrogantly but the nature of the original lent to this one being a simple update. I knew I had to write the word “Air” on the side of it and I knew I didn’t want to switch the font type up because it wouldn’t flow as well with the upper so I focused on how I could make the “Air” more functional. That lead to me developing what I would assume to be the biggest pieces of carbon fiber ever used on a basketball shoe.

By making the entire “Air” script out of carbon fiber I knew I had to find a way to lighten up the rest of the upper and make it more flexible. So I chose to make the upper out of Hyperfuse with key areas of mesh to allow for better flex. I really wanted the shoe to have more contour to it than the original, which I felt was quite bulbous. So I focused on bringing the silhouette closer to the foot and making it visually less heavy by having a minimal amount of overlays.

While the word “Air” was the most demanding visual element of the original, I wanted to take the other focal point of the shoe, the full length Air Max and update it to Zoom Air. The other element I wanted to focus on was the color blocking. My favorite colorway of the original was the Olympic colorway. The all white with blue highlights was very bold and I wanted to play off of that but instead of blue I went with gold.

Air Penny 1 Elite

This shoe was by far my most challenging to design. Even thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, I could not figure out how to do it. I wanted to update the Max Air heel to Zoom Air, remove the overlays to reveal the inner bootie, add Dynamic Flywire to support the foot, replace the EVA midfoot wing with carbon fiber and keep a similar color blocking of the original. But for the life of me I could not get the proportion right on this shoe.

I seriously must have revised the overall look on this shoe seven or eight times before arriving at this final version. What made this so challenging is that the original was so round and bulbous that it was hard to slim down and make it more modern. The lines wouldn’t flow well together or the shape of the modernized upper wouldn’t feel like the original. It was a tough battle but I think I accomplished what I was looking for.

One of my favorite details of the shoe is the oversized carbon fiber weave. This shoe was the second shoe I had created so by using the large weave here I chose to carry it out through the rest of the line on the white-based shoes.

Air Jordan XI Elite

This shoe was the most intimidating shoe to update. I hold this shoe, like many other sneakerheads, in very high regard. Simply put it’s the fucking XI. There is nothing else like it and I didn’t want to screw it up. But I must say I didn’t hesitate for a second to put this shoe on my list to get the Elite treatment. The challenge was very enticing to me.

One of my favorite sketches of all time is one of the original ideas that Tinker (Hatfield) had for the XI. It was a black upper with white patent leather and the upper extended higher then the final version of the XI and was lace less. Tinker’s vision was to create a sock that was molded and held your foot into place. My number one goal was to make that a reality.

It didn’t take a lot of sketching to accomplish that goal. The design already lended itself to be a graphic that would look good lace less, so all I had to do was finesse it and work out the details. The way I envisioned the sock being executed was by weaving the Codura Nylon, what the original shoe was made from, with Kevlar. Giving the shoe a high amount of flexibility but stilling having rigidity to support the foot. To aid in support I created a contoured heel counter out of carbon fiber that would provide the athlete with a secure Achilles and ankle.

Overall I was incredibly happy with this design. I think I did it justice as it still felt like an XI but took the idea of what it could be further.


  1. Jamel JD Vaughan
    June 5, 2013


    Hey Brett:

    I must say and can’t say it enough you are and will be the secret piece to Brand Jordan & Nike, But more so Brand Jordan, Am the Brand Ambassador for the Jordan brand, And I did show consumers this design of the Air Jordan Rebirth that you did and a lot of people said that they like this design better than what Tinker did, I said why and they said it looks futuristic, But yes man over all wend I go out on Jordan release dates I go out to see what consumers like and dislike and wend I showed them this they was like wow, I want to get it in color so I can get a better response of the full illustration of the shoe it itself, Jayson Mayden said it best you will be a wonderful asset to any team, But I hope you come to Brand Jordan. JD:-) Keep up the wonderful work toward the future in design.

  2. Melvin Melchor
    June 13, 2013

    Hi, Brett

    I agree with JD. I’m loving that heel counter on the XI Elite- it really complements the organic lines and transitions nicely from the tooling and patent leather rand up to the collar. The Pippen 2 Elite is another of my favorites too with the gesture in the tooling and the podular outsole.

    If I may ask, how do you scan/edit your sketches? I was wondering how to get just the linework and/or markers by themselves without the paper behind, so that I may be able to switch the background. I’d like to be able to clean up my sketches for presentation. Thanks for any tips you may be able to provide.


  3. Showcase23
    October 22, 2013

    Hey Brett. I know I’m late chiming in. Loving the Jordan XI Elite. The laceless look is remarkably amazing. By chance, do you remember the Jordan Two3Relay? It was a slip on version in the Jordan line using the midsole/outsole of the Jordan 7. Do you think you could do a sketch of your Jordan XI Elite in a low cut version. I think this would be incredible. This would would give a new vision to a concept that I think didn’t live up to its full potential.


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