words // Josh Swade
images // Damion Mardel
I’ll never forget the moment I first saw the Air Max 1 sitting on a Foot Locker shelf at the mall. It was in 1987, soon after they had been released to the public — the shoes were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.
They had a throwback quality to them, yet they were futuristic at the same time. They were clean yet relatively complex. Like no shoe before it ever had, the Air Max 1 was calling my name, begging me to wear it. It seemed like all I had to do was slide into them like slippers, and I’d be walking on Air… literally.
So much of the Air Max’s soft, inviting aesthetic came from the materials used in the uppers. Instead of cowhide, the shoe utilized nubuck, a type of leather that produced an almost velvet-like surface. The nubuck, in bright red and light grey, was set alongside a pillowy white mesh that covered the toe box and tongue in the most complementary way possible. The whole thing came together like a beautiful work of art.
While the upper of the Air Max 1 was instantly eye-catching, it was the midsole, with its visible Airbag, that truly pushed the sneaker into instant legendary status. It would later be revealed that Nike designer Tinker Hatfield came up with the idea to cut a hole in the shoe, after being inspired by Paris’ Centre Georges Pompidou, a building turned inside out.
As I lifted the sneaker off the shelf in the store, the Air in the midsole shone through like some sort of magical illumination — I instantly fell in love. For the first time in my life I wanted to wear a running sneaker, not to run in, but to just wear. All the time, every day.
“The whole thing came together like a beautiful work of art.”
I proceeded to buy and wear as many Air Max 1s as I could. And I never stopped. I kept buying… and buying… and buying.
Like so many sneakerheads out there, I grew especially fanatical in the late 90s and early 2000s, a period that brought a renewed sense of fury and hype to sneaker culture. While I amassed way too many Jordans, SBs and Air Max 1s, my New York apartment became covered top to bottom with an absurd amount of shoeboxes.
Eventually however, my collection dwindled. I grew jaded with the never-ending re-releases of OG Jordan colorways. All the retros made collecting them feel less and less special, so I got out of the Jordan game altogether. As Dunks became more of a mall shoe, rocked by everyone and their mother, I too got out of the SB game. That left me able to focus on one shoe and one shoe only: the untouchable Air Max 1.
Through the years I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on so many grails. From the original mesh releases of ’99, to the heat fest that was ’04 (Urawas, Teals, Greystones, Wings & Waffles, etc.), to special collabs like the Pattas and the Kid Robots, my collection has literally grown up with me.
Then it suddenly came to a halt. As Air Max heads know, it all changed in 2008 when Nike altered the shape of the AM1 to a silhouette so far from the original that it felt like a different shoe. While a slew of messageboarders and Niketalkers bemoaned the lost silhouette, I, secretly, was pleased. No more waiting in line for hours upon hours, no more maxing out credit cards and spending money I didn’t have, no more dealing with resellers, internet hype and the agony of not copping. Finally I could focus on getting my last few remaining grails and be done. After all, as a collector, there is something beautifully satisfying about the definitive start and end to a collection.
But here we are: March 26th, 2017 – 30 years to the date from the release of the greatest sneaker of all time, the Air Max 1.
To celebrate the occasion, Nike has brought back the OG shape. I can’t say that I’m surprised. Why wouldn’t Nike bring back the shoe in its true 1-to-1 form that perhaps more than any other, set the stage for the company’s complete and utter domination? For my money, the Air Max 1 still represents the most seismic design breakthrough in athletic footwear history.
So now, it’s back to the grind. I gotta dust off the old rolodex and outsmart these kids who are out there copping with things like apps and bots and proxies. (Whatever those are.) It might take me a minute, but I’ll figure it out. I gotta say, it feels good to be back.
Josh Swade is a New York based filmmaker who’s last film ONE & DONE on #1 NBA draft pick Ben Simmons is currently airing on Showtime. The film gained notoriety for its exploration of the “one and done” rule in college basketball and the way in which it lent transparency to the world of recruiting, agents, runners and shoe companies. Swade has directed and produced several films in the ESPN 30 for 30 series as well as several music related films on artists like The Black Keys, Major Lazer, Sheryl Crow and Ringo Starr. He is currently working on a feature length film called, “Homeboy, Throw in the Towel” on NYC street photographer Ricky Powell.
Today is the big day for Air Max fans as around the globe sneakerheads celebrate Air Max Day. Born in 2014, the annual event pays tribute to not just the product line of Air Max that has revolutionized sneakers, but also the people that make them great.
This year, Nike teamed up with some of the biggest Air Max aficionados to create the Nike Air Max 1 “Master” that sported materials from some of the most iconic Nike Air Max 1 releases over the past 30 years.
Canadian based graphic designer RJ Viquiera, known as @arrjae on Twitter and Instagram, envisioned what would the “Master” version of the Nike Air Max 90 look like. RJ took a similar concept with playing up the mudguard on the shoes and cooked up both a black and white based colorway to incorporate as many legendary Air Max 90s as possible.
Some old, some new, some collaborations, and some limited drops all are represented including:
- DQM x Nike Air Max 90 “Bacon”
- Nike Air Max 90 “Infrared”
- HUF x Nike Air Max 90 “Hufquake”
- Nike Air Max 90 “Curry”
- Nike Air Max 90 “Crepe”
- KAWS x Nike Air Max 90
Let us know in the comment section what you think of these two make ups. Should Nike do the same concept with the Air Max 90 as they did with the Air Max 1?
BREAKDOWN OF PANELS
photos, interview & words // Ray P.:
Whether you’re a straight up sneakerhead or use sneakers as a form of artistic expression, it’s deeper than just rubber soles and laces. Kyle NG, artist and Nike Revolutionair, is a perfect example of the latter. From Nike using waffles to design shoes to having guys on the team named The Architect, it’s evident that inspiration for what you wear on your feet extends beyond the simple concept of footwear.
The Swoosh invited 12 chosen ones to reimagine Nike Air Max styles as part of their “Revolutionairs” campaign. Using Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, as their playground these artists, designers, DJs, and retailers were tasked with reimagining the most iconic cushioning to ever hit the pavement. The Revolutionair’s shoe with the most votes in their favor will actually have his or her Nike Air model released in 2018 on Air Max Day.
Read ahead for a discussion with Kyle NG on the deeper level meaning of his shoe design, what artists inspire him daily, and more in the interview below:
Ray P: High key, when I wore the Air Max 1 Flyknit Ultra last Spring, it was the best feeling Air Max that ever graced my feet. So, when I saw your Revolutionair design, I immediately knew you knew what’s up. You picked a great base shoe that I think a lot of people are sleeping on. What made you choose that specific version of the AM1?
Kyle Ng: I come from a design background and art community rather than the sneaker world. I love the idea of Flyknit and the artisanal idea of mechanized craft. The rich idea of weaving techniques really drew me to the shoe. A lot of my design is about California art and tactile art, the touch and quality of craftsmanship. If you go to Palm Springs you’ll see a lot of art and my design is representative of that, too. The colors give off a real organic feel. The polka dots you see along the uppers represents artist Sister Corita Kent and all the amazing political activism as well as art she put effort into.
The Air Max 1 itself has a rich heritage in art and design coupled with great story with Tinker Hatfield and his background in Architectural design.
RP: If you could choose one model or celebrity to style in your shoe for a lookbook, who would you bring on board to represent the future of Air with you?
KN: I love the artist David Hockney. He has the illest style in the world.
RP: I just googled the guy, you weren’t lying, ha! Dude’s style is sick.
Earlier, I interviewed fellow Nike Revolutionair Sean Wotherspoon and asked him the same question, how has sneakers changed your life?
KN: I wouldn’t consider myself a super sneakerhead kid, but I love sneakers as a design object. I have a lot of shoes, but I wear everything. I don’t keep anything on ice. I started with Nike SB because I skated all the time. I love the idea of shoes having more of a story than just a normal thing. Sneakers are the one design object you wear every single day. I think it’s important to have the thing you use most in your life to be of super quality, you know? And to me, Nike has always been that brand that go-to brand. The Air Max line incorporates the stuff I love like design ethos and puts it into a shoe itself. SB’s and Air Max’s changed the way I looked at shoes.
Really it’s about the idea that you’re using the foot as an action to make movements. And not just a physical movement, but a political movement or any kind of movement artistically and creatively
RP: I love your perspective. Nike SB did that for me as well.
Before we go head into the SNEAKEASY Pop-up, It’s the last day people can vote for you… what do you want the people to know?
KN: The shoe is about inspiring the idea of creativity. It’s more of a social message. The words on the back of the shoe “Give a damn” is based off the artist I mentioned earlier Sister Corita, it’s a nod to a pin that she used in one of her prints that I own.
Really it’s about the idea that you’re using the foot as an action to make movements. And not just a physical movement, but a political movement or any kind of movement artistically and creatively. That’s what I wanted to show, a shoe that goes beyond something you work out in, train in or skate in, it’s more about a spiritual, next level idea of what shoes should be.
Sneakers are a vessel to create more ethos. I tend to pick shoes that inspire me to do something bigger.
RP: I always tell people sneakers are the most powerful statements you can make without ever saying one word. So I appreciate your time and you definitely took sneakers to a deeper level of thinking than most would anticipate. You’re dope.
KN: Man, thank you. That’s what it’s all about. Peace.
VOTE FOR KYLE NG’S NIKE AIR MAX 1 FLYKNIT ULTRA HERE
Nike isn’t done with the Dunk High by a long stretch. Last year they returned the model in OG colorways fresh from the “Be True To Your School” pack. Now the silhouette is set to explore modern-day color palettes like this “Cargo Khaki” iteration.
The two-tone aesthetic pairs a white base with olive overlays for a simple yet potent look. No release date for the Nike Dunk High “Cargo Khaki” is available at this time. Stay tuned for more for details.
Nike Dunk High “Cargo Khaki”
Colorway: Cargo Khaki/Cargo Khaki-White
Alongside several of its adidas EQT counterparts, the extremely sought after Support 93-17 drops in its White/Turbo Red colorway today.
Undeniably the most popular EQT model thanks to its molded Boost cushioning, this effortlessly cool summer colorway in white knit construction with pops of Turbo Red and black at the heel will be everywhere in the warm weather months ahead.
The adidas EQT Support 93-17 White/Turbo Red lands today at select shops like afew for $ 170.