Brandon ‘Jinx’ Jenkins celebrates the brotherhood of Morehouse men with his Nike Yardrunners collaboration
The shoe also honors a special professor
One of Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins’ first conversations with his roommate during his freshman year at Morehouse College was about his most prized possession. “I remember getting on campus and I had a little chest [filled with my sneakers] that I had to talk to my roommate about the first day like, ‘Yo, bro, this is my pride and joy. You need to protect this like we protect the rest of the room. Don’t let no one steal my s—.’” he recalls.
Now, the multi-hyphenate journalist, writer, podcaster, DJ, television personality, and photographer can share his pride and joy with the world while adding designer to his long list of creative pursuits with the new Terminator High sneaker he created with Nike’s 2023 Yardrunners 4.0 campaign to represent his alma mater.
Started in 2020 by a group of grads of historically Black colleges and universities working at Nike, Yardrunners partners with HBCUs across the country to celebrate the unique culture, style, and history of those campuses, students, and alums through events on campus, scholarships, as well as sneakers and apparel. Jenkins was a member of the Yardrunners 3.0 cohort, highlighting HBCU alumni building a legacy to inspire future generations. This year, he is one of five former Yardrunners, including alumni of Spelman College, Tuskegee University, Alabama A&M and Tennessee State, to get the opportunity to design a sneaker. The storied Terminator High is this year’s model for collaborators to use as a canvas.
The weight of representing such a storied institution was not lost on him. “Morehouse has that long legacy, that long lineage,” said Jenkins. “The first time you get to campus, they let you know that you’re standing on the shoulders of people before you, and it’s on you to keep that baton passing. And I thought a lot about those days and that conversation throughout the design.” The shoulders on which students and alums stand include members of Congress, titans of industry, and stars of film and stage.
So how do you draw the through line between the dignified style of Morehouse men such as civil rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Julian Bond to sneakerhead (and director) Spike Lee to current students? “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, this is my chance to make a sneaker. Let me put some zippers on it and 20 Air bubbles,’ ” Jenkins said. “I know how the Morehouse dudes dress. When you’re a freshman, you wear suits like, three days out of the week. It’s like, all right, can this sneakily go with a suit? Can you wear them out at a club? Can a freshman wear these and beat them to s— for years by the time he’s graduated?”
There’s also the fact that the Terminator is a model associated with the rugged Georgetown basketball teams of the 1980s. Just the squeak of the black and gray high tops across hardwood evoked feelings of fear in opponents. Transforming the model into something that instead evokes something more elegant was Jenkins’ challenge, one he was prepared for as a decadeslong Nike enthusiast and former Foot Locker employee.
Morehouse’s maroon and white colors were a good starting point, but Jenkins chose rich shades of each, which Nike lists as night maroon and summit white. The word “brotherhood” is printed on the laces, nodding to the bond among men who graduated 50 years ago to the Men of Morehouse who haven’t yet stepped onto campus. He also brought an understanding and respect for the history of his alma mater and Nike sneakers to his design.
“The most selfish aspect of the design was two things. It was the Morehouse tiger on the front of the tongue tag, and I put the swoosh in the tiger’s mouth,” Jenkins said. “Nike used never to let anyone touch the swoosh, and Morehouse won’t let anyone touch the maroon tiger. And I thought if I can kind of marry these two and show that they have an intimate relationship, put them together, and make one logo that can last the test of time, that was something I knew immediately that I wanted to do.”
The final touch was more personal.
As a freshman engineering major, Jenkins struggled. His grades slipped, and he considered leaving school. A chance encounter with a professor in a different department changed his life. “Dr. Elania J. Hudson caught me at a time in life when I just needed a ton of help,” Jenkins remembered. “I ended up in her marketing and advertising class, and she just took me under her wing and gave me a ton of confidence, perspective, and inroads into my future.”
Jenkins and Hudson stayed in contact even after he graduated with a degree in marketing in 2009. “We constantly exchanged messages. I remember she came to visit me when I used to work at Complex. The two things she’d always stated to me was, ‘Stay excellent,’ and, ‘You got this.’ ”
Jenkins printed those words on the inside of one of the sneaker’s tongue tags, along with her name, as a tribute. Unfortunately, Hudson died in 2019. “She loved Nike. She loved Morehouse, and she loved her students,” said Jenkins. “I can say that without a doubt, I would not be where I am without her. And I was like, ‘Man, if anyone would be more excited about this project than me, it would be her.’ My only real regret about this project is that I can’t get her a pair to wear, and I can’t open up that box with her and show her how far we’ve come.”
HBCUs have long been capital “I” institutions in the Black community. Still, campaigns like Yardrunners and famous advocates like NBA stars LeBron James and Chris Paul have brought these integral bastions of Black excellence further into the mainstream. Having a Nike sneaker with Morehouse colors and branding, designed by a Morehouse alum, is undoubtedly cool, but there’s more to it than that.
“I would say it is official,” said Jenkins. “We can see it in any avenue of social, political, or cultural support. Being official makes it real. Dealing under the table or giving me the dap when no one’s looking isn’t the same thing as saying, ‘Hey, we’re in partnership as equals, and we see you and we understand it’s a value exchange.’ This isn’t charity. We’re not looking down. We’re reaching across the table and doing it on the record.”