Game Worn: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins Stays Present in the Jordan Delta
The multi-hyphenate talks about his career on- and off-camera and how he balances a busy lifestyle.
Words: Darren Griffin
Photography and Collages: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
Renaissance men aren’t extinct; they just go by a slightly different moniker for a vastly different era. The Renaissance man of old is the multi-hyphenate of today. And if anyone fits the definition of the latter, it’s Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins. As an on-air personality, podcaster, DJ, writer and photographer, the New Jersey native turned Morehouse grad represents a new class of creatives who defy the notion that singular specialization is the only way to be successful.
Creatives and athletes have long shared a common drive focused on excellence. Jinx’s versatility, though seen in cultural realms, compares to remarkably skilled, dual-sport athletes from throughout history — those rare talents who maneuvered from sport to sport, simply because they were driven and exceptional. Jinx moves fearlessly in many spaces, true to his creative coterie, from the television studio, to the broadcast booth, to the stage where turntables cut and mix. Like those aforementioned athletes, Jinx touches each playing field in sneakers that help propel him towards his goals.
In his work with Jordan Brand, Jinx helped launch “The Ones” campaign in 2018 with an interview series focused on defiant individuals and the Air Jordan I. His stories and behind-the-scenes photos captured the uninhibited essence of his subjects, proof of his shared bond with and empathy for leaders across sports and culture.
Our new series “Game Worn” explores the breadth, nuance and stories behind the modern entrepreneurial mindset, as well as the sneakers that support subjects in their pursuit of greatness. To kick off the series, we talked to Jinx about the organized chaos that shapes his day-to-day, slowing down in the time of social distancing and the all-encompassing nature of the upcoming Jordan Delta.
Talk a little bit about your creative process. How do you approach new or existing projects?
They all differ. There’s a difference between podcasting or maybe getting a rundown for a TV show. The first thing is understanding what I have to cover, digest, talk about or capture. Then, there’s heavy research. From there, I’m forming my opinion on this thing — whether it makes me feel good, if it’s something important for people to hear, if the story is captivating or dramatic or if it’s a subject that’s dangerous or has great consequences to discuss. Everything starts with that assessment and politicking in my head how I feel about it.
On a normal day, you’re on the move from the office to the studio or a live set. How do you balance your routine?
It’s all about being present and considering what’s urgent at that moment. I’m constantly uploading and downloading in my mind. It’s knowing the difference between what’s important and what’s urgent. On the surface, those things might sound similar, but they’re not. There are occasions when I have those marathon days, where I might get off a flight, and then run to a TV show. I have to consume information really quickly and be show-ready. From there, I may leave to go do a podcast, which is an entirely different way of thinking, with different subject matter and different personalities to manage. From there, I might leave to do an interview out of a basketball arena. There are days I’ll go DJ after all of that.
“It’s all about being present and considering what’s urgent at that moment. I'm constantly uploading and downloading in my mind.”
It’s also important to make sure that you’re balancing mental and physical health during hectic days. How do you do that?
I’m doing better. At the start of the year, I made sure I was going to the gym and not starting my day with coffee, just being mindful of the stuff I put into my body. You need something that makes it easier to get moving in the morning and keep moving throughout the day.
For mental health, again, I think a lot of it comes down to presence. These things require you to be so immediately present, whether you’re DJing and performing live, or you’re on a television show that’s live. All these things require me to be in the moment. But when I’m not in those moments, where I don’t need to be on, I’m very good at vanishing. I’m quick to dip out the scene.
The Internet doesn’t need to hear from me all the time. Sitting in my apartment with the TV off, watching a funny show, reading or catching up with family is a different kind of presence. Doing nothing is being present with myself. You have to treat the health of your body and your mind with some urgency, too. And if you can’t treat it with urgency right away, don’t forget that it’s important.
You’re a big sneaker guy. How does your daily mood affect or inform your sneaker choices?
As my life has changed, it’s been more about a balance of both. When I was younger, it was 100% mood. Walking down the hallway in school or on a college campus, there’s an audience, whether you see it that way or not.
First and foremost, you have to feel good. That might be a new pair of sneakers or your beat-up pair of sneakers, but you gotta put yourself first, because you need to get through that day. You don’t want to put on something uncomfortable just to impress people, because at the end of the day, that’s a little annoying.
There are days when I wake up, and I really just want to wear white Air Forces all day, but I’m headed to set, and I have to be on a show, between two rappers. So, you got to come with it. Some days it’s Jordan Is. Then some days, it might be a pair of boots. The schedule means people are going to see it, but the mood is still foremost. You gotta dress for yourself.
How does your thought process change when you have a big event coming up or a big guest on your show — someone you know is going to bring some heat?
Man, that’s actually part of the conflict. Everyone doesn’t always agree with the things I like. So, I may be like, “Oh, I wanna wear these sneakers,” and the people I’m working with are saying, “Oh, I would have worn…”
I’m constantly trying to bring my personality to whatever I do. I’ll say the mood is the last frontier. It’s always going to be the thing I hold on to the most. I’m trying to work hard enough and be successful enough that my mood is the only thing that matters.
The idea of “Game Worn” often refers to athletes, but are there any sneakers you wear during significant life moments? Or any shoes you hold in high regard because of the experiences you had in them?
I had great days literally working at Foot Locker and wearing “Cool Grey” Air Jordan IVs back in the day. But honestly, those feel more like a “Season Worn” sneaker for me. My “Game Worn” sneaker is really anything that’s an Air Jordan I. That’s a go-to sneaker for me. I’ve DJed in them, I’ve gone to work in them and I’ve been to festivals in them. That’s the sneaker you’re probably going to see me in more than others.
But those “Cool Grey” IVs…?
Yeah, man. It’s my favorite sneaker from my time in high school. I remember wanting to get a new pair for years! I finally bought an old pair, and then they retroed. So now I’m sitting on a totally torched pair from HS and another pair that are from that time. I also bought two pairs when they re-released recently. So I went from having one pair that was torched to now having four pairs.
Your normal days include going from the set to the studio to the stage. How important is it for you to have a sneaker that’s both stylish and comfortable for those unpredictable “in-between” days?
The crazier my day, the more important it is, because I’m not really sitting down a lot. I might literally be running from one meeting to the next, or running from this project to that one. It’s possible that I’ll start my day in the car, headed towards a podcast meeting, then leave and go to set, and after that leave and go do some more interviews. Finally, by the end of the day, my night’s starting at 11:00 pm. I know I’m going to be out ‘til 3 a.m. DJing. You need to have something that’s comfortable for those settings but also something that looks good.
What makes the Jordan Delta a good day-to-day shoe for you?
Sometimes you just have a good first impression with sneakers. When I put the Deltas on for the first time, I said, “Yo, this is comfortable.” I wasn’t sure if it was the React, all the cushioning inside, or that they’re pretty lightweight, but they felt good.
This is going to be the shoe that I’m running around in. But also, if I’m back in that other mode, that self-preservation mode, that self-care mode, and I just need to chill, I can put them on and feel good.
Things are pretty strange right now for obvious reasons. How have you learned to adjust your on-the-go schedule to being productive while working from home?
I took the practical approach, being that if I can avoid being out in the world, and putting pressure on society, I’ll stay indoors. Many of my collaborators are doing that, as well. And even those who didn’t, at first, I forced them to. We need to be inside.
You have to tip your hat to the creative minds right now. Creative minds are getting more creative in how they create. So, for the television show I’m on, State of the Culture, we just resorted to staying at home, in our own little home studios, while finding spaces in our apartments that feel display-ready.
I was able to assemble a home studio for podcast work in my sneaker closet. I’ve spent more time in this makeshift office/studio in the last two months than I have in the four years I’ve lived in this place.
I’m finding a lot more peace with being inside. I’m realizing how much stuff I can actually do from the crib. I’m also separating these places, making sure that my living room, my bedroom and my kitchen are still places I go to relax, turn down and maybe get on the phone with family or cook.
You have a passion for photography and capturing people. How did that start?
I can look back to moments when my father put a disposable camera in my hand. I definitely give credit to just growing up in a household where people had creative talents. There was also a real moment, around the time I first started working at a creative agency, which is now part of Mass Appeal magazine. Mass Appeal was trying to archive every physical issue. So, I had to re-read every single issue.
I came across this photographer by the name of Jauretsi Saizarbitoria in the back of the magazine. It was this photo set of Polaroids taken at a party. The work was really cool. Polaroid had a little office in Soho around that time, in 2011-12, so I googled the location, went down there and bought a Polaroid camera. Then, Instagram was starting to pop off, and the dude who was just doing laps around everyone was 13th Witness. He was the first photographer to blow up off of it. He used to come into the office I worked at, back in the day. At the time, I was trying my best to imitate his work.
Fast forward to years later, and I started bringing and taking Polaroids at every interview I had with artists. So, I guess it started out as being very impressed by other people and then wanting to do what they do. Somewhere along the way, you end up doing what they would do, while being yourself.
What is it about film photography that helps capture moments so well?
If you shoot film, you become extremely economic with your shots. And I don’t even mean that financially. You could step out of your house and have 10 rolls on you, but it’s never enough, not if you’re out there getting busy. You start to understand what you like really, really fast.
Film photography makes your mind really game-ready, because when you’re in the shot, you’re adjusting really quickly. You know that this moment’s going by, and you might only have one chance to get it. You get really good at making decisions really fast.
Really, the texture of film lets people know this was one and done. It’s at the buzzer: three, two, one. That shot means more when it goes in. It’s the game winner. People understand that the pressure’s on. That added sense of pressure makes you better.