The first time I saw Lebron XI's, I dismissed them almost immediately as the ugliest sneaker I had ever seen. Bulky and seemingly overcomplicated, I found myself wondering how anyone could wear them and feel like an acceptable human being, let alone actually play basketball sporting these atrocities. Granted, as someone coming from the world of #menswear, the only basketball shoes I fuck with at all are Air Force 1's and Jordans I through XII, but still, to me the 'Brons looked more like ski boots than sneakers. When I was told I was being foolish and that people actually really like these, like, a lot, I just figured they were either all idiots or Lebron fanboys.
But because I'm someone who thinks colorways are the ultimate decider between amazing sneakers and garbage sneakers, the new "Away" black/red colorway caught my attention. Whereas previous iterations of the style (as well as soon to be released models) are overwrought with different hues typically attributed to some stupid concept I don't care about, the away colorway is simple enough to basically get the fuck out of the way and let the shoe's technology do the talking, which is the real star here. See, the Lebron XI is Nike's most technologically advanced basketball sneaker ever, period. It incorporates Flywire, Hyperfuse, Foamposite AND a Zoom sole, which is pretty fucking impressive regardless of one's aesthetic preferences or, you know, whether or not they even play basketball.
Certifiable sneakerhead and Four Pins editor Nick Schoenberger often criticizes me for basically blanket dismissing Nike's new sneaker designs (the one exception being Flyknits). Nick respects classics like Air Max 1's and Air Force 1's, but is seldom impressed by new colorways of sneakers he bought when they were released 20 years ago, long before they were appropriated by the fashion community (me). It's ironic that here the 'old guy' is more willing to accept innovation and the 'young gun' is the one who's scared of change, but Nick's points never resonated with me until now. By taking the time to appreciate the Lebron XI from a tech standpoint, I realized that Nike is fully aware that they have eternal grails in their '80s and '90s silhouettes, but rely on shoes like the Lebron XI to demonstrate their continued dedication to innovation. And innovation, after all, is what makes Nike, well, Nike. In fact, these new styles further solidify the older styles' nostalgic appeal by creating more distance between past and present. And sometimes, with the right colors, the new shit can even start to look wearable.
Ultimately I don't think technologically advanced basketball sneakers are poised to catch on in the fashion or menswear community, but don't be surprised if you catch me out in the streets in these sneakers alongside a decisively dope alphet consisting of black jeans, a western shirt, black topcoat and beanie.