Sneakers
From the ground up

Nike has put pen to paper with Milan-based art magazine and agency KALEIDOSCOPE, creating a book titled LE SILVER that investigates the impact the iconic Air Max 97 had in Milan back in the ’90s. The book is centered around an oral history of quotes from artists, athletes, club kids, designers and others from the Italian scene, supplemented by a range of archival imagery.

Designed by the agency’s art director Mirko Borsche, and limited to only 600 copies, the book officially launches next week at Slam Jam, before landing at retailers around the world later in April. Meanwhile, it’s exclusively available for sale online on KALEIDOSCOPE‘s website. Ahead of the release, you can check out some key excerpts from the designer of the Air Max 97 himself, Christian Tresser, Italian designer Riccardo Tisci, footballer Marco Materazzi, rapper Gue Pequeno, producer Fish, and photographer Sha Ribeiro.

Check out some exclusive snippets below.

Sha Ribeiro / Nike

Christian Tresser

“Being an avid competitive cyclist, I had my eye on the mountain bike world. In that exact moment, it seemed like people were able to do a lot more with mountain bikes than they were with road bikes in terms of designs and finishes, polishes, use of titanium, anodizations. And all that inspired me. I thought mountain bikes looked very futuristic.

So I headed into the materials room and just plonked down the sample books and started cutting stuff out: metallic fabrics, 3M and, again, meshes. These combinations of materials felt really good to me, really right. So I got my design board ready and prepared to present it to the Nike top brass — which is really scary, trust me.

I’ll never forget the atmosphere in the room. Mark Parker was seated dead center, facing me. I started presenting, and as I did so, I watched for the reactions. I could see some people squirming in an uncomfortable way, and I started getting more nervous. But then Mark looked straight at me and said, “This is a very unique and different shoe. Let’s do it.” He gave me the green light. I didn’t understand it then, but now, with a lot more experience, I can appreciate how rare it is for a designer to find a president with that much vision and ability to take design risks.

Then we had to make the shoe! From the very first samples that came back, it was pretty amazing. Everything seemed to work. It just took off. I don’t know what happened.”

Riccardo Tisci

“If I close my eyes and try to remember the Air Max 97 in London, I see Tricky, Goldie, Metal-headz in Hoxton Square, Björk, rock music dying and a new, dark electronic vibe linked to high tech and the future taking over. People had stopped wearing Buffalos and had replaced them with futuristic Air Max. All Saints weren’t in, the Spice Girls — whose look was inspired by Björk — were. (Mel G wore the 97s.) The look was Nike nylon windbreakers, Umbro tracksuit, gold teeth, cheaply bleached hair, shaved head and 97s.

If I close my eyes and try to remember it in Italy in ‘97 and ‘98, before the trend really blew up, I see it on the feet of a certain kind of club kid. That kind of kid who had the dangerous/cool vibe, maybe a dealer, maybe just trying to look like a dealer, a bit rough.

The Paninari trend had just ended, and Italian kids wanted a style identity that was less ridiculous. ”

gabbereleganza.tumblr.com / Nike

Marco Materazzi

“In 1998, I was playing at Everton. At British clubs, you always have to dress formally when arriving at the stadium; on Sundays, you even have to wear a suit and tie. I wore my Silvers (whose design also reminded me of Ronaldo’s football boot, the Mercurial, which I was also playing in at the time) the way I’d seen Giorgio Armani wearing them: with wide-legged formal blue trousers and blue turtlenecks. My English teammates looked at me strange and took the piss out of me.

There were two things in particular that they couldn’t understand about the way I dressed: long socks, which for us in Italy are normal, whilst in England a sock is this short, totally basic piece of grey/white cotton. Wearing formal clothing with sneakers — in my case, the Silvers with Armani suits.”

Gue Pequeno

“We mixed zarro, pretty boy and American rapper styles together. We weren’t interested in wearing baggy jeans. We were the first to wear Louis Vuitton and Gucci. We would wear Armani, and people would get pissed off. In Italy, it was taboo for a rapper to wear luxury fashion brands. It wasn’t considered authentic. But these critics had forgotten that people who are actually from the street want to wear luxury clothing.

We liked to wear what people from the street wanted to wear. And the Silvers were perfect for that, because they were the shoe of choice par excellence for zarri, but specifically for rich zarri. Zarro di lusso, that was our world. The Silvers were rough, but they were luxury. You wore them with tight Diesel or Levi’s jeans and a Polo hoodie, and that was your look—you were set.”

Chico de Luigi / Nike

Fish

“The first time I ever saw the Air Max 97 was in an advertisement in an American rap magazine—maybe The Source—and under the picture of the shoe was a release date, which I noted. A few months later, I went to the Foot Locker on Via Torino, where I used to go 2-3 times a week, and bought them straight away, either the exact day they’d come out or a few days later. To me, the 97s were the most “design” sneaker ever released (together with the Foamposites); they made the “future-message” of the 95s even more legible and clear and easy to consume.

I wore them because I was a sneakerhead, more than anything else, and was one of the only people to wear them in the hip-hop scene, where they never really took off because, firstly, we only wore extremely baggy pants which tended to makes the 97s — which were relatively small compared to basketball shoes and boots — disappear; to wear the 97s with baggy pants, you had to wear them totally unlaced and tuck your trousers into the back of your shoes. And secondly, be- cause they were almost immediately seen as mainstream shoes, and at the time in the Italian rap scene, everybody wanted to look as underground as possible. To wear 97s was a sign that you didn’t really give a fuck whether people thought you were underground or not.”

Sha Ribeiro

“For a while, we had some crew members that would steal stuff from the Timberland outlet, and big GORE-TEX Timberland pants and sweaters were the thing. But when the Silver came out, it was like, “BOOM,.” It really stood out. For us, it was instantly a status symbol.

Generally speaking, we had no dialogue with the styles of people who weren’t underground: rich kids who wore Stan Smiths, zarri wore Buffalos. But at a certain point, pretty quickly, the Silvers became totally transversal. Rich kids wore them, dealers wore them, writers, everybody.

As a writer, it was cool because you could get a photo taken of yourself with a flash in front of a piece in a tunnel, and you’d be all covered up, but there was a crazy glare coming from your shoes.”

The Nike Air Max 97 OG “Silver” is dropping Thursday, April 13 from Nike.

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