Nike

Established1964
HQBeavertown, Oregon
FounderPhil Knight & Bill Bowerman

Surprisingly for one of the world’s most iconic sportswear brands, Nike’s history begins with another name entirely. University of Oregon athlete Phil Knight and coach Bill Bowerman first founded their company in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, distributing products for Japanese sportswear brand Onitsuka Tiger (now known as ASICS). In 1971, the pair turned to creating their own performance footwear and rebranded as Nike – taking their name from the Greek goddess for Victory. It was around this time that they began using their now-iconic Swoosh logo, famously designed by Portland State University graphic design student Carolyn Davidson for just $35 (roughly $225 today). Fortunately, Phil Knight later rewarded Davidson with 500 shares in 1983; she never sold them, and they’re now worth roughly half a million dollars. Despite the brand’s core commitment to performance, since the mid-to-late ‘80s Nike has also been a popular label in the style and fashion world. Nike sneakers, in particular, are some of the most popular models amongst sneaker collectors. Significant models include the Cortez and Air Force 1, as well as iconic series such as the Nike Air Max and Nike Flyknit models. The status of Nike sneakers in the fashion consciousness arguably began in 1985, when the brand produced the first signature footwear model for NBA athlete Michael Jordan. Modelled closely after the Air Force 1, the shoe was a massive success both on and off the court, beginning the sneakerhead subculture as we know it today. A common misconception about Jordan’s original black & red (or ‘bred’) Air Jordan 1s is that they were banned for breaking the NBA’s rules at the time requiring players’ footwear to be predominantly white or black – the actual banned shoes were a pair of Nike Air Ships. That didn’t stop Nike from heavily-marketing the Air Jordan 1 as being banned for providing a competitive advantage, however. The Air Jordan series would go on to become one of Nike’s most coveted footwear series of all time. With both Knight and Bowerman’s roots in sport, it’s no surprise that Nike has maintained a deep commitment to athletic excellence throughout its existence, sponsoring and endorsing many of the world’s greatest athletes across a range of sports including: Serena Williams (tennis); Kobe Bryant (basketball); Derek Jeter (baseball); Tiger Woods (golf); Roger Federer (tennis); LeBron James (basketball); Cristiano Ronaldo (soccer); Michael Jordan (basketball); and every team in the NFL. In the half-century that has passed since its launch, Nike’s product offer has expanded far beyond the world of athletics. Nike fashion labels include Nike Sportswear, Nike ACG and Nike Gyakusou – its ongoing running apparel collaboration with Undercover designer Jun Takahashi. Countless Nike clothing designs have entered the fashion lexicon, from its simple heather grey tracksuits and windbreaker jackets to high-fashion collaborations with the likes of Sacai, Stone Island, Liberty of London, Comme des Garçons and Kanye West, whose Nike Air Yeezy sneakers now resell for prices in the thousands of dollars among collectors.

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