words & images // Zac Dubasik
In celebration of Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit, here’s a detailed look at the shoe he did it in: the Jeter Cut. This shoe, Derek’s 10th signature model, also marks the beginning of his ambassadorship of Jordan Brand’s training initiative. While most obviously known for their hoops line, the Brand is placing a new emphasis on providing training solutions to athletes across all sports, with highly versatile footwear. “You really can’t dictate how each athlete is going to train. They just need a shoe that can do it all,” explains designer Octavio Lubrano. Based on findings from their work with the NSRL and the University of Oregon, the Jeter Cut takes a stripped down approach to training, with a heavy emphasis on natural motion. Check out the details below.
Zac: Could you tell the story of where the name of the Jeter Cut came from?
Octavio Lubrano: The first time I met Derek, December 13th, 2008, I asked him what training means to him. And I wrote a little note down, and thought one day I might use it. He said that for him, it was like an uncut diamond. The more you polish the stone, the better the stone becomes. And it’s funny, because it plays into who he is. When athletes get a little bit older, you wonder how they’re able to perform at a high level. And the training does matter. When you get older, you don’t jump higher, you don’t run faster. But for you to remain an All-Star, there’re other things you do. I thought that was an interesting thing that led to the diamond cut, and that led to the performance part of it.
So, that’s when I met with the NSRL [Nike Sports Research Lab] and asked if I could take the analogy of the cut, and turn that into a performance feature. We wanted the shoe to have natural motion. … This is probably the best job we’ve done so far of really making a super flexible shoe. It’s a little bit different, because it’s so aggressive but we really wanted to make it a serious looking training shoe. With the defining moments, I wanted to bring some of the retro and lifestyle in. That’s how we began, and then it grew from there.
ZD: Could you talk about the main performance areas you focused on with the shoe?
OL: We wanted to make sure that when we build a training shoe, that there is a point of difference from basketball. So, the four primary areas are comfort, lateral and medial stability, traction, and light weight. I think comfort and light weight are two parts of performance that are going to be seen in all of the Brand’s shoes. Stability and traction are two areas that I think kind of separate the training aspect. … From an upper standpoint, talking about lateral stability, one thing was when you are cutting. When you are planting you are actually pulling from your arch, and then it’s going to the lateral side. … The straps are free floating, and it’s kind of anchored from your arch to your lateral, and then back in. With that I wanted to take the function, and then build the upper around it. And as far as traction, we are finding out that especially with the different surfaces, training is a challenge – you have dirt, rubber mats and artificial turf, so we decided to blend in the nub traction for your rotational traction. Traction works together with flexibility. You can have very good grip, but if the midsole doesn’t flex, you’re [compromising traction]. First, we dissected the flexibility of the shoe, and then we added traction where we needed it. The interesting this is that I took the diamond concept, and created kind of a diamond-cut herringbone traction pattern. Obviously, for wooden floors and rubber mat floors, herringbone is still a key detail. … We put a lot of work in it, and sometimes we don’t tell the performance story, because we get right into Jeter and the inspirations. … If you wear this, versus all the other training shoes out, this is going to be the best training product. We feel that strongly about it.
ZD: One of the first things you notice on the Cut, from a cushioning standpoint, is moving from Air to a Phylon midsole.
OL: Running is a big part of training, and I wanted to go back to basics, almost like the Nike Pegasus. I wanted to add comfort by just adding EVA, taking everything out, and moving towards natural motion. We stripped things down and made a really comfortable and flexible shoe. It has duel density Phylon in the forefoot, where you need it, and everything else is really simple. One thing that allows you to do is expose EVA through the flex grooves, and cut out some weight and material. It was about not overbuilding the shoe, and that’s the approach we’re going to use going forward.
ZD: Could you talk about the lower collar height in this year’s shoe?
OL: Another thing in talking to players at the University of Oregon, a lot of kids loved last year’s Throwback cleat. But a lot of the shortstops, a speed position, said, “Wow, if that was in a low, that would be great.” They loved the shoe, but they play in lows. And Derek is unconventional because he plays in a mid. … We took the “Cut” very literally, by changing the cut. We asked Derek if we could get him to just cheat down a little bit more, and he said he’d give it a shot. He was understanding that if we made it a little bit lower, we could get more of those true shortstops wearing the product. That was a nice translation where we went from the trainer to the cleat. We’ve been committed to Derek, regardless of whether training is trending or not, or performance is in or out, and this is his 10th signature shoe. He’s still the only baseball player that has his own signature trainer, cleat, and we also have batting gloves. I worked with the glove team, and they are using the same lining material that’s on the shoe on the glove. When he’s up to bat, you see the gloves. And hopefully, when he’s up to bat to get his 3000th hit, these two items [points to the cleat and glove] will go to the Hall of Fame. It’s kind of nice to work with an athlete, and have an opportunity to do that.
ZD: One thing I notice in the Jeter Cut, and I’ve liked it in every shoe Jordan Brand has used it in, is the molded notch in the collar. Could you talk about how there are certain features on a shoe that apply to particular sports, but there are also some that apply across all sports?
OL: The collar becomes more important as you move towards a lower cut. A basketball shoe can be high enough that you are lacing up high. But once you start getting into a low-cut, those foams really become important. They start locking down all the negative space and surround your ankle bone. This started on the Air Jordan XX3, and we keep adding that in the heel. The challenge is to make sure the foam density isn’t too hard or to soft. So we’ve played around with that, and we gave it an unconventional cut.
Nick DePaula: As his career goes on, and maybe even after he retires, are you looking at still having him attached to the training segment of Jordan Brand even after he’s done playing?
OL: That’s always a tough topic. I’ve been thinking about this. He’s the oldest shortstop to ever start in a World Series. After the age of 34, a lot of times athletes can’t play the shortstop position anymore because they aren’t athletic enough. So, as they get older, they move them to third base. He’s already the oldest; he’s been to seven World Series and won five. And he’s still playing the position. It’s hard too – he’s six-foot-three and bigger than most guys, so he should really not be doing what he’s doing. I’m sure that when Melo is 34, he’ll want to be winning a championship and still be an All Star. Same thing with DWade and all the other athletes. But Derek is already going it. For his sport, he’s really he closest to MJ. … Who’s to say that Derek can’t keep doing it for a while. I don’t think he’d be able to be where he’s at if he wasn’t training. It’s hard, because he doesn’t embellish himself, or talk about all the things he does, but he keeps himself in good shape, and I think we play a part in helping him do that.