People are in for a real treat this weekend when the never-before-released Jordan XI IE low “Referee” hits stores. The question now is whether or not this shoe was truly made for referees like most people, including us, have reported. That nickname has been attached to this sneaker since the first images leaked but now sneaker expert Gary Warnett has presented some evidence to suggest that this was actually a scratched sample sneaker.
Despite there being truth to NBA referees wearing these during the 1995-96 season, Warnett recently shared a 1996 catalog clip that displays the all-black XI lows next to the much more recognizable white and “Cement Grey” colorway.
What’s even more compelling is that it shows the all-black colorway in kid’s sizes, too, as if it was truly intended to be general release and then later nixed. To back up his tale, and make us all a little jealous, Warnett shared a story about another person scoring multiple samples of these all-black XIs at a sports shop:
The all black samples would find themselves in a few spots including Arch 47 in Camden back in the very early 2000s. In Sneaker Freaker issue #2, the store’s owner Justin Dickens describes the provenance of his pairs, “I used to have over 25 pairs! Back in 96 I lived up north and worked in a record shop…I started to walk back to work when I noticed in the front of the local sports store they had a line up about 10 metres long of sample Nikes that I’ve never laid my eyes on before. I went in and grabbed a selection of runners and the all black XI low samples. While I was paying at the checkout, I asked the guy if he had any other stuff like this round the back. To my surprise, he dragged out a massive box full of these Jordan XI low samples and said that I could have the whole lot for 20 quid a pair. I bought all of them. I started selling them for £300 and they were selling way too fast. I pushed them up to £350 and they were still flying out the door. I raised them to £650!”