Streetwear is ubiquitous. It goes beyond what you wear and how you wear it, but encompasses the music you listen to, the sports you play, the people you hang out with: it’s how you live and what you do.
At the same time, we’re also at a point where Nike is at the top of its game – a position that’s grown gradually by a brand that made the right moves, contributing to a scene and a movement but in equal measure being informed and fueled by it. Simply plotting ‘Nike’ and ‘streetwear’ on a timeline, you’d see the two rise in prominence in parallel.
The new Tech Pack collection from Nike arguably represents what a large part of streetwear today has become: fused with sportswear, incorporating tech elements as functionality becomes more of a defining factor. After all, one of streetwear’s fundamental roots is of course sportswear. As well as skateboarding, graffiti culture and hip-hop, street- and sportswear are strongly linked partly because the two share an inherent functionality. In fact, the sidewalk is probably more demanding than the track: everyone walks the street, but not everyone runs the course.
This heritage can be traced back to various stages in Nike’s history. The Beaverton brand’s track and field products were some of the earliest examples: runners such as 1972’s iconic Cortez, to ’73’s Waffle Racer (which immediately made the successful jump into a lifestyle sneaker), and finally to the 1978 Tailwind, the first sneaker to use air pockets in the sole unit.
Another great influence that has helped make streetwear what it is today is basketball, and specifically the courts and culture of New York. Nike was there from the very beginning with the Blazer Mid debuting in 1972 and becoming an instant classic on New York courts and streets at the very moment the sport was in its most fundamentally formative years. Then there was the Dynasty and then, in 1982, Nike rocked the scene once again with the Air Force 1 – informally known as “Uptowns” in reference to Harlem’s famous Rucker Park – with its sole unit air pockets quickly helping it become the No. 1 seller in the history of athletic footwear.
In this respect, the signing of Michael Jordan to the Nike roster in 1984 cannot be overstated. The man and the brand inexorably changed the way people dressed. As the ’90s rolled around, Nike’s dominance on professional courts (think 1996’s Air Jordan 11 Black/Red, the earlier Nike Air Penny 1 in 1995, and the Nike Air Max2 CB ’94), combined with the popularity of the sport and Jordan’s own inexorable rise to living legend, saw the cementing of Jump Man sneaker hype – something that still runs through to today.
As if from the ground up, in the mid-70s Nike apparel soon followed suit thanks to key pieces such as the late-70s designed Windrunner and the Destroyer bomber – the latter a garment that blended collegiate styles with military design flourishes. Meanwhile, the Windrunner was revolutionary for three reasons: firstly, it was actually spurred on by advancements in Nike’s track and field sneakers (the aforementioned Cortez and Waffle Racers); it was a direct response to what was needed by athletes, with heavy cotton not exactly the most comfortable thing to wear when you’re out training and sweating (in rain or shine); and, finally, it forced Nike to seriously ramp up its apparel department. What resulted was a design honed and tested by real athletes, and an iconic series of loud, vivid, dynamic colorways that illustrated an era. The Windrunner, with its single-layer nylon lightweight construction and shorter cut to aid mobility, was instantly adopted by a diverse range of subcultures: everyone from b-boys to ravers wore it, as well as the runners it was originally designed for.
The ’80s and ’90s were a time for bold visual experimentation anyway. Vivid patterns, neon accents, and statement motifs populated the era and Nike’s own art department played its part, experimenting with color and technique to produce some of the era’s more iconic textile colors and prints. With digital technology in its early days, prints were shaped by hand before then being digitally copied or textured and played with through light, exposure, and different transfer techniques – giving garments a genuine made-by-hand feel. Even key collaborators such as Mr. Jordan himself, as well as director Spike Lee (who directed several of the brand’s ads during this period), reputedly pushed the department’s designers to new creative heights as well.
Nike’s Tech Pack is arguably the culmination of these various strands, traditions, knowledges and innovations. Developed from decades out on the street, in the court and on the track, Nike’s Tech Pack is a collection that seamlessly blends the modern tech the Swoosh has at its fingertips with the essential functional requirements of today’s streetwear.
Take a look at our exclusive shots of the new Nike Tech Pack collection before diving into the details at Nike.com.
Check out upcoming hip-hop don Serious Klein stunt in Nike’s new Tech Pack.