M Michael Tesauro

Cement Print, "Is It the Shoes?"

Jan 29, 2017

A good design will always find it’s place in history, and when it comes to Air Jordan’s this has rung true again and again. If you were to drop the phrases “Royal” or “Bred” to the average sneakerhead and they will probably picture of the Air Jordan 1. If you were to casually mention the phrase “cement print,” it’s likely the Air Jordan III will come to mind. First seen on the Air Jordan III, cement print, sometimes called elephant print (there’s really no difference), has become one of Nike’s most recognizable patterns.

Like most early Jordan releases, the Air Jordan III was spearheaded by a creative advertisement aimed at getting the average consumer to buy a pair of Jordan’s signature Nikes. A significant part of the marketing campaign designed around this shoe was a series of short, but now memorable commercials featuring seminal filmmaker Spike Lee. In these commercials, Jordan is praised by a character by the name of Mars Blackmon (played by Lee), leading to the catchphrase, “Is it the shoes?” By combining film culture and sneaker culture,  played a part in Jordan’s transformation from sports star to pop culture figure.

In the realm of basketball, Jordan was a beast during the 87-88 NBA season, but that was only half the appeal of the shoes. To put it into perspective, Jordan took the All-Star MVP and the won the Slam Dunk contest that year, so Jordan’s meteoric rise would be definitely be a topic for avid basketball fans. Yet, Jordan still had an appeal to more mainstream audiences through his media visibility. By pairing him with Lee’s character Mars, who originally appeared in the 1986 film She’s Gotta Have It, Jordan’s persona entered the realm of pop culture.

While the Mars Blackmon commercials are still significant in pop culture, one of big takeaway from the Air Jordan III was the “elephant print” color way that lined the toe box. Like many of Nike’s other groundbreaking designs that came before and would come after the AJ III, the overall design and color way of the sneaker came from the mind of seminal designer Tinker Hatfield. As the myth goes, Hatfield was inspired by elephant skin, amongst other things, when he designed this shoe; it was actually his first for the Jordan line.

In terms of global significance, one could argue that the elephant/cement print was eclipsed by the globally recognized “Jumpman logo.” This is probably true, but the cement print itself has been widely recreated, remixed, and applied to a wide variety of sneakers, clothing, and art. Aesthetically speaking, a Jumpman logo isn’t always going work on a pair of sneakers, but the print always looks clean when done correctly.

It takes a steady a hand to create your own cement/elephant print, but with Angelus Empty Paint Markers, you can. A paint marker is exactly what it sounds like—an empty capsule, that when filled with paint, turns into market. Our Empty Paint Markers are made specifically for Angelus Brand Acrylic Leather Paint, so the whole process is geared toward making your custom sneakers look fantastic. For those still learning, we made a How To video so you can make your own cement print, and have people asking, “is it the shoes?”

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