Nike‘s annual Air Max Day occurs on March 26, the day the Air Max 1 first released in 1987. Leading up to Air Max Day, Nike will be promoting its “Give Fresh Air” campaign, aimed at giving back to the community through influencers and retailers, while a variety of celebratory Air Max silhouettes will drop over the upcoming months. To further honor its history and reflect on its roots for Air Max Day, the Swoosh has complied a brief history of its Nike Air beginnings spanning from the ’70s until present day.
Learn a few key details from each decade below, and for its entirety, head on over to Nike.
Air in the ’70s…
Former aerospace engineer Marion Franklin Rudy introduced the air big innovation to Phil Knight in 1977. The idea was placing tiny air bags in the soles of shoes to soften impact. After a prototype was created, the first shoe to incorporate Air cushioning was the 1978 Nike Tailwind runner.
The hype of the air-enhanced runner grew into the ’80s, as researchers at the University of Tennessee discovered that athletes used less energy when running in the Nike Tailwind compared to other conventional running shoes.
Air in the ’80s…
Legendary designer Tinker Hatfield designed and introduced the Air Max 1, as he stated, “people were looking for something different, not just in what Nike was doing, but all around the world.
“The mid-’80s was a period of transition from a more formalized hierarchy to a looser, street-based, more inspirational form,” Hatfield said. “We at Nike were part of that wave, and I just happened to be a designer doing it from a footwear perspective when nobody else was… There was a bigger appetite for trying something new and different, and that was squarely connected to the creative sparks all around us.”
The creative approach eventually led to the visible Air and other innovations that reinvented the brand’s signature cushioning platform, while also connecting sport engineering and design culture.
Air in the ’90s…
The company’s creative approach introduced various iterations of Nike Air like forefoot Air, full-length Air and Tuned Air, evident on iconic silhouettes like the Nike Air Max 90, Air Max 95, Air Max 97, Air Max Plus and more. With hip-hop expanding, new iterations of music and sportswear trending across Europe, streetwear was also born with the convergence of sport and culture. The style and colors of the Air Max silhouettes also aided in contributing to the evolving aesthetics of the ’90s.
In addition, the birth of the World Wide Web shifted how people created communities and bought and sold goods, leading to a digital revolution, as well as sneaker collecting transforming from a word-of-mouth lifestyle to a global platform.
The company’s success and creative procedure is further expanded to all facets of its design organization like color, concept, graphic, print, pattern, material and more, leading to the next wave of Air Max silhouettes such as the Air Max 720. In addition, this continued design approach and pushing the envelope for Air will further introduce new shapes and iterations for the future.
Head on over to Nike for the full story.