It’s not often a that small shoe company makes a splash with big time performance at a reasonable price so after reading raving reviews I decided to see for myself how these performed.
Here is my Aj XX9 Review for reference
I usually don’t write about unboxing a pair of shoes but damn, BB knows its target customer.
Sneakerheads love a nice box and BB doesn’t disappoint. The box really makes you feel like you’re getting something special just like those little blue Tiffany’s boxes.
One other note, I wonder if BB can bottle they new shoe smell? I put the shoes in my shoe closet and it gave my whole closet that new shoe smell. Thanks BB!
BB uses a unique pattern that they call traction blades which works very well when there isn’t dust clinging to them. The rubber compound is very soft and pliable so it picks up everything.
I shot around for three minutes and picked up so much dust I was ice skating but after a spit and wipe they resumed their grippy ways. They required constant wiping at first but got better as they broke in during the game (or they just picked up all the dust on the court and there was no more to slip on 🙂
However, I thought I was being paranoid but after multiple runs traction isn’t as good moving side to side as it is front to back due to the blade set up. Since the blades run mostly left to right rather than a zig zag pattern like herringbone set ups, the dirt can’t be pushed away as effectively on side to side movements; the inside forefoot is slightly angled which helps on push of for cuts but the outside forefoot needs that same pattern for stopping and change of direction. Maybe the next model will feature multi directional blades to fix this small problem.
COMPARED TO AJ XX9
Traction performance is excellent especially moving forward and backward but I feel the AJ XX9 works better overall especially in regard to stopping power during side to side movement.
Jetlon, BB’s proprietary cushioning, runs the full length of the shoe and feels great heel to toe. I tried on my Clutchfits, Rose 5, and Lillards to try to find a close match to what Jetlon feels like and I came to this conclusion: thick Adiprene with more bounce. It has a more muted feel than Boost and Micro G but does have some bounce back. Although the overall set up feels good, I still like Boost and Micro G a lot more. Here is how I’d rank Jetlon compared to other foam setups:
Jetlon is low profile so the shoe sits low to the ground, very similar ride as the Lillard 1 height. I did not list Zoom Air bc it varies shoe to shoe unfortunately but when it is done correctly, it’s awesome.
Compared to the XX9
Although I enjoyed the great transition of full length Jetlon, it’s tough to beat unlocked Zoom even if I preferred the XX8 setup more. Unlocked Zoom is just plain fun.
I went true to size and these fit perfectly. Fit is fantastic thanks to the woven upper and this
The synthetic leather straps wrap around the ankle and totally locked my foot into place at the heel. No side to side movement in the toe box or mid foot either since you can really tighten the laces as much as you want without feeling lace pressure.
The upper is made almost entirely of a woven upper like the AJ XX9 and required zero break in time. It is is a little thicker than the XX9 upper thanks to glue but it remains perfectly flexible with no stiffness, hotspots or weird flex points.
Mid foot w nice perforations for ventilation
Not often you see quality double stitching like this on a mid priced shoe.
Inside collar . Looks Lebron Elite /pro combat esque.
Compared to the XX9
This is really a tough call because we are talking sock like fit with both. I’m going to puss out and say it’s a tie.
SUPPORT AND STABILITY
I personally think this is the shoe’s strongest attribute. The shoe’s super stability virtually eliminates the need for any extra support because it is just plain difficult to make the shoe tip over. I did my heel test and it always wanted to stay flat and refused to turn over. It’s like that from heel to toe thanks to an outrigger at the forefoot as well. Throw in the excellent fit, low to the ground cushioning and you have an extremely stable shoe that still feels natural underfoot.
COMPARED TO THE XX9
The J Crossover 2 crushes the XX9 in this department. The XX9 only support came from a small internal heel counter and its fit but was very tipsy at the heel in my opinion. The J Crossover provides stability and support everywhere without being clunky.
As expected containment was the shoe’s weakest aspect due to the woven upper. I could feel my foot slide out of the footbed on hard cuts since there wasn’t any extra layering or a footstay at the forefoot.
See how how foot is coming out from a static position (just pushing with my right foot).
Here is my foot trying to come out of a shoe with excellent containment, the D Rose 5 (I’m pushing with my other foot as well) and it doesn’t budge
Despite how good the upper feels and fits and how stable the shoe plays, I do not enjoy feeling of my foot sliding out of the footbed. Synthetic, leather, and fuse uppers all have pushback whenever it’s deformed but with a woven cloth upper, you don’t get that since it is meant to be pliable and comfortable. A little footstay or higher wall would easily remedy the containment issues I had.
COMPARED TO THE XX9
I could feel the XX9 plastic footstay flex on hard cuts but at least it had one. A more rigid material like carbon fiber (ala XX8) would have helped a lot more . The XX9 takes this category even though containment is not really a strength of the XX9 either.
Although pricing isn’t a factor in performance it is a factor we all face when we go out to purchase shoes.
AJ XX9: retails for $225 on sale for $125 to $179
J Crossover 2: retails for $140 on sale for $98 to $120
Now that’s a huge $85, 60% gap in the retail price between the two shoes and it boils down to Brand Equity. Jordan Brand has the strongest BE while Brandblack, being an upstart, has almost none. It doesn’t cost JB any more to produce a woven upper (probably a lot less due to economies of scale ie making a lot more shoes costs less per shoe) but their BE is so strong they can charge a lot more for a similar product. This is why consumers have to pay more for the big brands versus generics (think Coke vs Sams choice) even if there isn’t a concrete difference.
Anyway, off my soap box.
Brandblack created a fantastic shoe at a great price point and depending on your wants and needs, could easily supplant the AJ XX9 as the best woven upper hoops shoe. Superb quality and details, great traction, good cushioning, excellent fit, support and stability for under $150 ? If these had better containment these would easily make my rotation but I’m so anal about what I’m looking for that I wont compromise. Regardless of the price, I’d pick the J Crossover over the XX9 even though the XX9 eeked out more categories because it’s so much more stable and supportive than the XX9. I never felt safe wearing the XX9 so that’s why I got rid of them. We all love big brands but it is fun watching new companies show that they can hang with the Swoosh with a budget a fraction of a fraction the size of the big boys. Can’t wait to see what Brandblack does next.