The Nike Air Max Plus is one of the Swoosh's many flagship runners that made its introduction in 1998 and has since been reinterpreted in a bevy of colorways and variations such as Ultra makeovers, premium leather editions and slip-ons.
Helping to further define the iconic Air Max lineage, which transcended their performance roots and become a cultural phenomenon, Sean McDowell, the shoe’s designer, shares his memories of creating the classic silhouette in a recent interview with Nike.
...on conceptualizing its aesthetic.
SD: "I hung out on the Florida beaches and just thought and sketched — it was one of my most creative times. One evening, it was turning to dusk, so the very blue sky was starting to fade to dark blue, and the palm trees were blowing in the wind. I sketched that out, and I thought, ‘It could make a quarter panel, like you could hold your foot down with those palm trees.
As soon as I heard ‘sky,’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, I just saw this amazing sky in Florida,’ I did a sunset. I did a blue one. I did a purple one. I tried a couple of different colors and sky versions, some palm trees were a little more tech-y and very geometric, and others were waving. The shank is a modified whale tail, that tail coming out of the water is so iconic."
...on the distinctive Swoosh on the Air Max Plus.
SD: "No one had given me any guidance because it was my first few days. The shape is a little bit off, and I put the border on the inside, when technically all the brand guidelines say to go outside."
...on emphasizing the wearer's perspective when looking down at the sneaker.
SD: "I wanted to put some emphasis on the top-down view. The palm trees looked good on the medial and lateral sides, but when it came to connecting them on the top it looked weird to have a straight line connecting them, so I thought, ‘What else could I do that's a little more interesting?’ So I put bars of reflectivity going all the way up the forefoot, the vamp and the tongue."
...on his commitment to detail extending to the outsole.
SD: "I called out the different hemispheres in the rubber because you couldn't really see them on the medial side, so you didn't know if there was any new technology. Those lines were pointing to the air bag, like this is the cool thing."
...on the debut of a striking sublimated treatment and overcoming production issues
SD: "I drew the fade and everyone was like, ‘You'll never be able to do that, you can't find a material like that.’ And I said, ‘We’ll just sublimate it...They were doing it in apparel, so I thought it would be pretty easy...The first sample was perfect...I suggested making the whole shoe out of thin welded TPU...I was told, ‘Fly to Asia, make the samples, and hopefully the meeting goes well. They told [me] it was too big to weld. It would take too much power and either melt the fabric or wouldn’t bond."
...on one memorable example of dedication to the silhouette.
SD: "I saw somebody who got their whole foot tattooed in the pattern of the Tuned Air. The bottom of their foot has the outsole, the stripes and Swoosh on the sides, black all the way up the back with the Tn logo on the back. It’s wild."
View the entire coverage directly at Nike now.
For more, here's how to to cop Nike’s heavily branded "Big Logo" Air Max Plus.