Tinker Hatfield is one of the world’s most legendary sneaker designers, and currently Nike’s Vice President for Design and Special Projects. He designed the Air Jordan 3 through 15 before taking a break from the line, and then coming back to design the Air Jordan XX, XXIII, XXV, and XXIX. His other landmark Nike designs include the Air Max 1, Air Max 90, Air Trainer, and Air MAG. Born and raised in Oregon, Hatfield is one of Nike’s most famous designers, and has worked for the company since 1981. His inspirations always brought Nike’s Jordan and Air models to elevated heights, pushing the boundaries of technology and contemporary sneaker design. His relationship with Michael Jordan is one of the most intimate and unique between athlete and designer, and changed how athletes interacted and influenced sneaker design on the whole. Without Hatfield and his game-changing designs, Nike would likely be a very different company today.
Joins Nike after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Architecture.
Begins working exclusively on sneaker design for Nike.
Designs the Air Max 1, the first Nike sneaker to have a translucent bubble sole displaying the Air bag unit, which had been a part of Nike’s technology since 1979. He also designs the Air Trainer 1 for multipurpose athletic endeavors—a model that tennis player John McEnroe takes a liking to.
Designs the Air Jordan 3, the first of his sneaker designs with Michael Jordan. The sneaker’s design and its popularity arguably saves Nike’s relationship with Jordan and keeps him from jumping to rivals adidas.
Designs the Nike Air MAG for Back to the Future II.
Designs the Air Max 90. Also designs the Air Jordan V, which took inspiration from fighter planes, giving the sneaker “teeth” on the midsole. It’s thick, reflective 3M tongue became famous for dominating photos in camera flashes—a nod to Jordan’s success at the time.
Designs the Air Jordan VI, drawing inspiration from Jordan’s sportscar. He continues his prolific design streak, also designing the Nike Huarache Trainer and Air Mowabb.
Continues to design Michael Jordan’s annual signature sneaker line, with notable models being the Air Jordan XI for its use of patent leather, and the Air Jordan XIII for capturing Jordan’s speed in a design.
Releases his own “Tinker Hatfield” Jordan 3, which is based on his earliest sketches of the iconic sneaker. It features a classic Nike Swoosh on the midfoot, giving a whole new look to one of Jordan brand’s finest heritage sneakers.
The Nike Air Presto becomes one of Tinker Hatfield’s biggest flops.
Tinker Hatfield unveils the Ducks of a Feather NFT
The Air Jordan 6’s silhouette was inspired by Michael Jordan’s Germany sports car. Hatfield wanted to give the sneaker a sleek, aerodynamic look, making the sneaker’s sole and upper less bulky than previous Air Jordan models. Hatfield wanted to convey the speed and high class of Jordan’s sportscar, but also make it lightweight. By using a neoprene sleeve and Nike Air, he achieved his vision, and by adding a heel tab, he gave the sneaker its own rear spoiler—just like on Jordan’s sportscar.
Without Hatfield‘s Air Jordan 3 design, Michael Jordan might’ve left Nike. Three years and two signature sneakers into his contract, Jordan was unhappy with Nike, and there were rumors he’d jump ship to adidas. In came Hatfield with a design that enthralled Jordan and kick-started a long-running design relationship between the two. Hatfield made the Air Jordan 3 the first mid-cut basketball shoe to give Jordan more speed and freedom of movement—while still protecting his ankles—and decided to expose the Nike Air sole unit on a Jordan sneaker for the first time. He also slapped the now world-famous flying Air Jordan logo on the tongue for the first time, giving the logo its proper spotlight, and infamously forgoing any Nike swoosh placement. To polish off the design, at Jordan’s request, Hatfield added an elephant print accent.
Tinker Hatfield’s net worth is an estimated $25 million.