INSP-AIRATION: The Stories Behind Your Favorite Air Maxes
There’s no other shoe on the market quite like an Air Max. Since 1987, they’ve carved out a very special place in sneaker culture, and have managed to remain at the top of the list when it comes to innovation.
And the stories behind the shoes? Well, they’re almost as great as the shoes themselves … so we thought we’d share them with you. Some you may have heard already, and some you might not know, but either way it goes, your air knowledge will be at its max (sorry, we couldn’t resist) after you get done reading this. Let’s dive right in.
Air Max I
Introduced in 1987, the Air Max 1 wasn’t the first shoe to utilize Air Max cushioning, but it was the first shoe in which the now-legendary visible Air unit made an appearance. Designed by the legendary Tinker Hatfield (really, who else could have cooked something like this up?), it was inspired by Parisian architecture, and was far ahead of its time, even though some at Nike were skeptical it would succeed when it was first released.
Air Max 90
Another Tinker Hatfield gem (pay the man his respects), the Air Max 90 was originally known as the Air Max III until it was first re-issued in 2000, and took its new name from its original launch year. The shapes and patterns chosen were designed to convey speed and quickness, and the original color pictured above was chosen to exaggerate the thickness of the heel Air unit.
Air Max 95
Designed by Sergio Lorenzo, the Air Max 95 was inspired by human anatomy, with the “spine” of the shoe made to look like a human spine, and the detailing drawing inspiration from skin, tendons, and ribs. Further adding to the unique look, the large swoosh that usually adorned the side panels was gone, replaced by a small swoosh on the heel. It was also the first shoe in the Air Max line to use two separate Air cushions in the forefoot. On a slightly random (but extremely humorous) sidenote, a 2007 British tabloid newspaper study of the UK’s Forensic Science Service’s database of footwear, the Air Max 95 was the #1 choice of British criminals.
Air Max 97
Designed by Christian Tresser and originally inspired by high-speed trains, the Air Max 97 offered an extremely sleek look not usually seen on prior models, and promised extreme performance due to its full-length Air-Sole unit, the first designed specifically for running. The 3M stripe wrapping around the shoe still turns just as many heads today as it did 20 years ago upon its original release.
Air Max 360
Promising runners the “smoothest and most durable ride ever created” the Air Max 360 was the first-ever sneaker with no supportive foam and no real midsole … just a giant, plush, full-length Air Max cushioning system. Head designer Martin Lotti used the shoe as an opportunity to show how far Air Max had progressed (the original red/white colorway was inspired by the Air Max 1, the laser-cut gradated look was inspired by the Air Max 95, and the “striping” is reminiscent of the Air Max 97). There’s a new full-length Air Max ever year now … but the original 360’s design still holds up as one of the best.
What’s your favorite piece of Air Max history? Which of the Air Max models in this article is your favorite? Hit us up and let us know on Twitter, check our Facebook page for updates, and, as always, be sure to follow us on Instagram for all the fire pictures you can handle.