Since its debut in 1987, the Air Max 1 has remained a sneaker that represents the peak of form and function. Sneakerheads know its origins by heart—inspired by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, designer Tinker Hatfield chose to make a visible window in the rear of the shoe’s sole, showing off the Air bubble underneath.

The shoe became an instant hit, cementing Nike’s reputation for marrying good design with pragmatic technology. It was comfortable, eminently wearable, and looked as good on the streets as it did on the track. Several Air Maxes have achieved cult status in their own right, from the Air Max 95 to the Air Max 97, which was a big hit in Italy, and the Air Max Plus, which has a certain cult status in England and Australia.

Nike’s newest entry into the Air Max series is the VaporMax, a lightweight sole that molds directly to the upper, eschewing the layers of glue and rubber that usually fuse the sneaker to the sole. It’s Nike’s lightest Air Max sneaker yet, and even though it doesn’t hit store shelves until the end of the month, the anticipation can be felt on the Internet, and in the high demand for the recently released collaborative version with Japanese fashion house COMME des GARÇONS.

To put the past, present, and future of Nike Air into context, we spoke with one of the most knowledgeable sneaker enthusiasts we know, Gary Warnett. He Skyped from London to talk about the history of Air Max, and if VaporMax could be the shoe that helps Nike maintain the sneaker throne.

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