A Closer Look at the Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’

January 11, 2023 by Joey Birch

A Closer Look at the Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’

Jordan Brand seem to be going on a victory lap over the latter part of 2022 going into 2023, revisiting the original colourways of their classic silhouettes from the highly anticipated Air Jordan 1 ‘Lost and Found’ which released in the later stages of 2022 in addition to the once dismissed ‘Chicago’ Air Jordan 2. 

Celebrating the sneaker's 35th-anniversary in 2023, Jordan Brand is continuing its run of lovingly reimagined retroes with the release of the Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’. As soon as images began to emerge of the upcoming colourway, there were already talks of the sneaker hitting the top spot on the 2023 sneaker of the year list, and for good reason. 

As the age-old story goes, in 1985, a fresh NBA player by the name of Michael Jordan hit the hardwood floor wearing a sneaker that would change the game forever, the Air Jordan 1. After narrowly avoiding losing the then-rising star to adidas, who were ready to sign MJ with the adidas Forum, Nike debuted their first basketball sneaker designed by Peter Moore, the same mind behind the Nike Dunk which also arrived the same year. 

While the AJ1 wasn’t instantly as popular as it is today, a story retold in the 2022 retro, Jordan Brand were keen to create a follow-up pair. To ensure the second release was better than its predecessor, Jordan Brand brought in Bruce Kilgore to assist Peter Moore. With two masterminds at the helm, what would be created should have been a marvel, or so they thought. 

When the Air Jordan 2 was released in 1986, the response from both the player and the fans was far from perfect and as a result, the deal once again fell into turmoil with Jordan being swayed by the allure of adidas for a second time. Following this almost detrimental stumble, Jordan Brand needed to rethink the plan, and fast. 

It wasn’t until 2 years later that they were able to implement their new strategy, having gone back to the drawing board due to both Peter Moore and Nike’s then VP of Marketing Rob Strasser leaving the company to start their own brand ‘Van Grack’. What at the time may have felt like a final straw for the already wavering deal with Jordan, was simply an opportunity waiting to be taken. 

That opportunity came in the form of young designer, and architecture graduate, Tinker Hatfield. After recently working on the groundbreaking Air Max 1 and Air Trainer 1, Hatfield was called in to meet with Michael Jordan to develop his next signature model. 

It was the choice of materials, in addition to the mid-cut style and overall lighter finish, that sealed the deal on the Air Jordan 3. It was a well-known fact that, despite only being 24 years old at the time, Jordan loved luxury. As a result, Hatfield and Sports Marketing Exec Howard White spent the day before the presentation shadowing MJ while he went to a tailor to get a new suit. Seeing the athlete's knowledge and passion for materials sparked Hatfield's inspiration for the tumbled leather in conjunction with the elephant print trim which has since become an iconic feature on the AJ3. 

The next day, after keeping Hatfield and Nike’s founder Phil Knight waiting for 4 hours, MJ turned up the meeting in which Hatfield would present his latest project for the first time. “He [Phil Knight] welcomed Michael into the room and ‘I’m glad you finally made it’...I’m not sure he really knew what else to say”, Tinker tells ESPN in a 2018 interview, “So I presented, it was fun because he was in a bad mood and then 20 minutes later he had the shoe in his hands…and that was a turning point” he reminisces. 

And so, in 1988, Jordan Brand officially revealed the Air Jordan 3. After a last-minute change which saw the Swoosh taken off the upper, which can be seen in early images of the shoe, Hatfield opted to keep the silhouette minimal with a key focus on Jordan himself, marking the first Jordan Brand sneaker to include the iconic Jumpman logo on the tongue. 

A forefoot and heel Air Unit is featured, including the infamous visible air curated by Tinker Hatfield, acting almost as a signature touch, sitting below the instantly recognisable elephant print and supple leather upper. 

While most recent Air Jordan 3 releases see ‘Jordan’ on the outside, alongside a Jumpman logo on the heel, the originals featured ‘Nike Air’ on the heel in conjunction with ‘Nike’ written on the outsole. It’s these features, amongst other smaller details including a slight widow's peak on the leather of the toebox and under the laces that make the upcoming Air Jordan 3 ‘White Cement’ so special. 

Unlike the return of the OG ‘Fire Red’ AJ3, that seemingly went under the radar in 2022’s sneaker of the roundups, the 2023 version of the OG classic see’s an aged design similar to the Air Jordan 1 ‘Lost and Found’ which, while turning off some, provided a refreshing feel, juxtaposing the point of the pre-aged aesthetic.

Going into 2023, Nike is continuing to provide collectors with impeccably designed shoeboxes. Whether it’s the Concepts Air Max 1 from 2022 which saw a bright, intriguing design, or the Air Max 97 retro which featured its OG ‘97 finish, Nike is paying attention to deal outside of their regular red box. 

Once again, in the same vein as the AJ 1 ‘Lost and Found’, the shoebox for the upcoming ‘White Cement’ includes a similarly aged finish in addition to an old school card breaking down the sneaker's design.

While it hasn’t been confirmed, it can’t go unmentioned that there were four distinct colourways of the Air Jordan 3 that arrived in 1988 with the additional two being the ‘True Blue’ and the incredibly sought-after ‘Black Cement’. Seeing as Jordan Brand released the ‘Fire Red’ variant in 2022 and the ‘White Cement’ has been confirmed for 2023, will/when we see a return of the ‘Black Cement’?

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