* I hope to make this a bit of a regular feature on here—closer looks at what I feel are the more significant sneaker releases as they come out. You hear me, shoe company folk? *

The Converse Wade 1.3 is the second signature shoe for Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade—so, if someone can explain the whole "1.3" thing, I'd appreciate it. The way I see it is that Wade's number is 3, hence the 1.3, but it seems to imply that the shoe is a placeholder that's only a third of the way to the 2. Which probably isn't the case.

Converse, as many of you probably know, was purchased by Nike, which means that the Wade was designed by Nike designers, using certain elements of Nike technology (although not Air) and little Nike details (more on those as we go). It's a Nubuck shoe (at least in the black and white colorway) with a patent toe and a TON of red contrast stitching. The midsole is overlasted, meaning you can't see it, and it's a midcut, as is basically every other basketball shoe these days.

There are three details that stand out in this shot. The most obvious, of course, being the number 3 on the tongue, one of many Wade-specific elements. There's also the overlapping material on the tongue, which is an element that is also seen on the back of the shoe (that shot's coming later). Seems to me that particular element adds too much stitching for a basketball shoe (adding unnecessary weight and wear points), but maybe that's just me. You can also see the textured liner (which is a variation on Nike's Sphere technology—something to keep your feet dry) and the triangular lace hole, which is a slightly larger version of what appears on the Zoom Kobe.

This shot, at the toe, gives a look at the contrast stitching and the hidden "ghilly" lacing system (all except the top two triangular eyelets). It also reveals more Wade branding—and as the "3" in 1.3 is the same as the "3" on the tongue, it figures that the "3" indeed references Wade's jersey number. The patent toe is more than a style element—Tinker Hatfield originally used patent leather on the Air Jordan XI because it doesn't stretch, and it should decrease rollover and extend the life of the shoe. Not that MJ ever wore a pair of XIs for more than one game anyway. And it's likely that Wade doesn't wear a pair for very long, either.

Top portion of the back upper. Typical Achilles cutout, with a small extension (complete with Wade's "star" pose—it's no Jumpman, that's for sure). More contrast stitching. And a better look at the liner. Good stuff. Great use of color—not that you can ever really go wrong with black, white and red.

This is where things get weird. The lower portion of the back upper (yikes) has that layered look, that uses an awful lot of stitching and makes the shoe appear to decrease in size as it approaches the sole, cyclone-style. While forefoot cushioning and traction is much more important in basketball shoes (especially one built for a speedy guard like Wade), it still just looks odd.

Two noteable elements here: first being the black-on-black Converse star, which is a good look. A little subtlety on a somewhat loud shoe (the black Nubuck has a gator-print pattern that may not even be visible). The second is the stability "wing" on the outsole, an innovation that Nike has been perfecting for years (a good example of a shoe that utilized it is the Zoom Flight 2K3. Round off the outsole on the medial side, add the "wing" on the lateral. Just another way to avoid inversion, or rollover.

Then there's the little "FC" on the outside, apparently a reference to Wade's crew, not "Football Club" as our European readers may expect. That little element will change on each shoe—it was his Finals PPG on his first-game shoe (the Bulls, obviously, were unimpressed) and will be a candy cane on his impossibly-garish Christmas versions (which you can scope on the Converse site).

I suppose I could have shot the outsole, but it's a fairly standard basketweave-style herringbone pattern. To sum up, the Wade 1.3 is exactly what it's supposed to be: a lightweight guard shoe from a company with all the heritage in the world (and Nike's technology and design). It's also Wade's first design after winning the Finals MVP, so it's got that collectibility factor (especially for the first-game, all-black colorway). Heck, the last Finals MVP to wear Converse was probably either Magic or Bird. And now there's D. Wade, with the Spike Lee-directed commercials and the kicks to match. Not bad. And even though I feel some of the design elements are a bit much (the excess layers of material, mainly), they don't seem to add much weight—and the stitching isn't anywhere where it should a) wear through quickly or b) chafe against your foot. And at least they don't have any superfluous straps or lace covers.

* I hope to keep it coming with the Class of '03 shoes this week, including the LeBron IV and the Melo. Stay tuned. *