Patta and Nike Air Max 1s just work. It’s an unwritten rule. The legendary Amsterdam retailer/brand/sound system/community powerhouse has a long and storied history with the silhouette, which is why it was a no-brainer when the Swoosh tapped Patta for another collaborative effort ahead of the model’s 35th anniversary in 2022.
Patta’s wavy Air Max 1 has dropped in one colorway already, with another officially on the way, and a third being leaked online. This project marks the 5th time Patta has collaborated on the Air Max 1, cementing its status as the sneaker world’s leading Air Max 1 collaborator.
“Patta and the Air Max 1 have a long-term relationship. And it’s a very strong one if you look back in time,” says Vincent van de Waal, Patta’s creative director. “The Air Max 1 is really iconic in Europe, perhaps more so here than in other parts of the world.”
That popularity of the sneaker — and its appreciation within the subcultures that Patta authentically and effortlessly moves in — set the stage for a potent pairing. Patta’s famous motto that it has “got love for all” rings especially true when you realize that the Air Max 1 is the sneaker of the people in a lot of cities in the world, but especially in Amsterdam.
“In Amsterdam, the Air Max 1 became a game-changer through hip-hop,” explains Tim Sabajo, Patta’s general manager. “Music-wise, the city loved house and hip-hop. And both of those communities loved to pair the shoes with a tracksuit. When house blew up, they were more into the Air Max B/W, but it all started with the Air Max 1.”
Hip-hop is the start of the Air Max journey for many Dutch sneakerheads, which is why the sneaker holds a special place in Patta’s heart. Even after other European cities adopted subsequent Air Max models — such as the Air Max 95 in London and the Air Max 97 in Milan — for Patta and Amsterdam, the shoe will always be synonymous with hip-hop and the subcultures the genre has spawned.
Hip-hop being a catalyst for a sneaker permeating popular culture is nothing new. In fact, Sabajo likens the Air Max 1’s rise through the genre in Amsterdam to the Air Force 1’s rise in New York. “In the beginning, you had Clydes and Shell Toes, and then you got into the more expensive New Balances and Nike shoes,” he says. “Then, all of a sudden, it becomes a flashy commodity. It becomes more than a shoe. It’s fashion.”
A similar phenomenon unfolded with the Air Force 1 in NYC. “Both sneakers come from a similar time period, though the Air Force 1 originally came a little earlier. But they popped up again around the same time,” he explains. “Both sneakers got hot in small communities, were hip-hop-related, and just got bigger over time.”
The fact that neither model had a big star standing behind it, like the Nike Air Jordan 1, also added to the feeling that both sneakers were for the people. If you knew, you knew. They were, and in many ways still are, the people’s choice — just like Patta prides itself on being by the people, for the people. Really, when you look at all of the collaborations holistically, Patta and the Air Max 1 are a match made in heaven. This project, like all of Patta’s projects and campaigns, stretches beyond the product.
But approaching a sneaker that Patta had already worked on five times in the past — especially one that was declining in popularity outside the Netherlands — from a fresh perspective was a new challenge for the Patta team.
“It was really a matter of trying to reinvent the Patta Air Max 1, because we did great pairs back in the days, but we didn't want to just come again with that same perspective,” reveals van de Waal. “To be honest, we knew immediately we could only really do this in a new or in a modern way. If you collaborated with Nike years ago, you couldn't imagine changing a mudguard or flipping a Swoosh. Luckily, nowadays, we’re allowed to do that, and a lot of boundaries are broken. All of a sudden there are new ways to work.”
The result is a beautiful Nike Air Max 1 that sits proudly amongst the rest of Patta’s portfolio and represents a step into a new era of sneaker collaborations. As mentioned previously, this project is about much more than just the product. The team in Amsterdam has never been afraid to speak its mind, put its influence to good use, and do things the Patta way. So it comes as no surprise that Patta took a rather unorthodox approach during the design process. The team recognized it was creating a shoe for the community, so Sabajo, van de Waal, and co. decided that it made sense for select members of the community to have input and be involved along the way.
“Patta without community is not Patta. So it's something that always goes together,” says van de Waal, before Sabajo adds: “You get it in every layer of the project. From the development to the photoshoots. The way we take our photos, the way we use our models. Nothing is by chance.”
This time, however, Patta took it a step further, inviting select Air Max 1 OGs to take an early look at the design and samples, to gauge their thoughts on the project. “We were confident, when we finalized the waves, that it would work. But we still called members of the community into our office and asked them their thoughts,” reveals Sabajo. “We gathered a few ’heads that we know are real Air Max lovers, and most of them thought the wavy mudguard was dope. Some weren’t sure, but no one didn’t like it.”
Van de Waal adds that the goal was for the Air Max 1 to speak to both older and newer sneakerheads, which is why OG community input was so important to the team. “We wanted to try to succeed to speak to both generations, both of which we have massive respect for because they're both equal,” he says. “We had to come up with something that speaks to both without taking away what makes the Air Max 1 the Air Max 1.”
Ultimately, a lot of things had to align for it to make sense for the sneaker world to be blessed with another Patta x Nike Air Max 1. The shoe’s anniversary is the obvious catalyst, but Nike’s willingness to be more flexible with design elements and give its collaborators more freedom also played a large part. Then, of course, Patta’s laser focus on creating great content with and for the community is of paramount importance. The fact that the silhouette isn’t quite as popular as it used to be allows it to be reinterpreted for a new generation — and there’s no one better than Patta to do exactly that.
“Once in a while, everything falls into place, I guess,” smiles van de Waal. “And I think this is a good example of that.”
To stay updated on everything happening in the sneaker world, check out the best sneakers to add to your rotation this week, follow @highsnobietysneakers on Instagram, and sign up to our newsletter for early access to the best drops sent straight to your inbox.
Want to keep browsing? Head to the Highsnobiety Shop for more products that we love.