The lineage of the Air Max 1 is as rich as any of the other groundbreaking stars in Nike’s storied catalog. Thinking about how the Air Max 1 redefined not just the design of contemporary sneakers but Nike’s own commitment to technology and innovation, perhaps the Air Max 1 occupies even more rarefied air. But while Nike’s own design teams (including sneaker deity and father of Air Max himself, Tinker Hatfield) are the ones bringing life to the game-changing ideas emerging out of the Beaverton campus, there’s something to be said about the not-so-secret society that has so thoroughly embraced, enhanced, and energized Nike’s designs, especially the Air Max 1. The input from Nike’s community of fanatics, retailers, and collectors hasn’t simply helped influence new Air Max 1 colorways. Rather, it’s the community that has directly inspired some of the most important and lusted after releases from across Nike’s archive of Air Max.
In an homage to those who have helped pave the way for the Air Max 1’s continued success, and the hype that still surrounds many of the silhouette’s most visually stimulating iterations to this day, Nike continues its Air Max Day celebration with the Air Max 1 “Master.”
The Air Max 1 “Master” is a lot to take in at first glance (taking in over 30 decades of collaboration isn’t something you can do lightly). A literal fusion of several Air Max 1 retoolings and aesthetic redesigns, it draws natural comparisons to Nike’s “What The” mashup releases. The combination of a variety of different Air Max 1 editions—including the OG Air Max 1 in University Red, the perforated upper from 2005’s Kidrobot x Air Max collaboration, the Atmos Air Max 1 “Safari” “Animal Camo” and “Viotech” models, and the Patta x Air Max 1 “Chlorophyll” —isn’t simply a look back at certain notable drops; the mashed up “Master” is also an examination of the unique identities that have helped keep the Air Max 1 at the top of sneaker conversations since 1987.
Don’t get it twisted: enthusiasts aren’t just antisocial guys trading in online shopping tips and sneaker survival stories over the Internet. Rather, enthusiasts encompass the designers, retailers and fans that have helped evolve and innovate on both the base features and the story of the OG Air Max 1. For radical Air Max reworks, take 2006’s “Kiss of Death” Air Max 1 NL partnership with Hong Kong-based CLOT. Virtually redesigning the silhouette from the ground up, the “East-meets-West” deconstructed design removed the sock liner and added the model’s iconic transparent toe box—one of only three Nike designs to boast such a detail at the time.
For story, it’s hard to top the mythical Parra x Air Max 1 “Albert Heijn” model from 2005. While well-known Dutch artist Piet Parra was working on his “Amsterdam” Air Max 1, he originally designed an Air Max 1 inspired by major Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn. When the store rebranded and changed its color scheme before the shoe hit shelves, Nike scrapped the orange and blue design altogether. Parra ultimately crafted his hometown-inspired shoe with a burgundy, pink and blue colorway as a nod to the city’s famous Red Light District, but the “Albert Heijn” colorway remains as literally one of the rarest sneakers in existence. Passed only to “friends and family”, there are just 24 pairs of this practically priceless Air Max artifact in the wild.
When it comes to the Air Max 1 “Master”, both the “Kiss of Death” and “Albert Heijn” are just the tip of the iceberg. With several other legendary grails present and accounted for as well, this 30th anniversary model is a one-shoe-reminder of the tentpole drops in Air Max 1 history, stoked by urban legends and oral histories that the community itself has passed on through the decades.
Last year’s Air Max Day festivities saw the release of Masters of Air, Vol. 1, a look at the global group of collectors and enthusiasts that eat, sleep, and breathe all things Air Max. While each has an entirely individual tale behind their long-term love affair with Air, the fact that a single shoe can unite such a diverse roster of influencers and creatives is no small detail. Tinker’s timeless design has proven to be, not just a canvas for collaboration, but a sentimental reminder of each wearer’s own life experiences. From the weather outside on release day, to skipping dinner in order to afford a pair, each sneaker carries its own, individual life story.
This recipe of combining forward-facing tech and wrapping it in an infinitely customizable design that shows the shoe’s unique attributes has helped the Air Max 1—and its near-ceaseless library of designs—earn cult status among sneakerheads and non-sneakerheads alike. As the first in a long line, the Air Max 1 fulfilled its duty to set the groundwork for further experimentation and metamorphosis, cementing Air Max as a dynasty. But there’s a reason that many find themselves returning to the 1.
In Masters of Air, Vol. 1., a “Master” is defined as “a passionate ambassador of Air Max culture; a connoisseur of leather, mesh, nylon and above all else, Visible Air.” Putting that mentality into the lens of the all-new Air Max 1 “Master”, it’s a reminder that every retailer, every fan, every collaborator, every wearer of Air Max adds their name to the ceaseless tale of Air Max culture. But, if all that seems just a touch too abstract, let Hatfield explain it: “‘Listen, this isn’t about me, or even Nike. The product isn’t something you wear, it’s something that you live.”
Here at Highsnobiety we’re throwing a month-long party to celebrate Air Max Day 2017, find out more here. Read the in-depth story behind the release of the first Air Max, the Air Max 1. For your chance to be featured on the site and our Instagram check out our Snobshots competition.
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