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The Nike Air Max Is A Pivotal Part Of Culture

The Nike Air Max Is A Pivotal Part Of Culture

The Nike Air Max Is A Pivotal Part Of Culture

Photo of Nike Air Max 90 Infrared courtesy of Nike.

The Air Max 1 came onto the scene the same year as Public Enemy, LL Cool J and N.W.A. all dropped landmark albums — Yo! Bum Rush the Show, Bigger and Deffer and N.W.A. and the Posse. You had artistic provocateurs Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the height of their careers, busy creating artwork that gave us pause in galleries and in the streets of New York City.

Almost everyone has a favorite sneaker for various reasons, comfort, style, performance, nostalgia—mine is the Nike Air Max, for its versatility and aesthetic. The sneaker literally allows me to see what I’m stepping into, pure air. Air Max was first introduced in 1987 and 30 years later there are 10 different models, designs, patterns and colors. From the Air Max 1 to the Air Max 360, each one serves as an imprint of how we are evolving as a culture.

Hovering over the artistic landscape we had Ronald Reagan, a former actor serving as the 40th President of the United States. He was known for expanding the “war on drugs” and increasing incarceration. This was a period of pushing up against cultural norms from music to politics—in order to make room for a new era of innovation at a time of political disillusionment. Visible air gave the impression that anything is possible. The shoe itself was a nod to Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” with its gravity defying Nike Air Max design. Prior to the inception of the Nike Air Max, Nike only had nine sneaker designs available—the first was a track running shoe.

Tinker Hatfield set out to create a sneaker that gave runners the chance to see the very air they were defying with each stride. He came up with a sports trainer in art form, behold the Nike Air Max 0. His Nike colleague Marion Frank Rudy was responsible for the patent of the Nike “Air” sole technology that revolutionized the creation of Air Max sneakers.

Hatfield employed the “Air” technology in his first design, which ultimately ended up being too avant-garde for the general public to fully appreciate. However, he went back to his canvas and created the Nike Air Max 1. The skeleton of the Renzo Piano architecture in Paris inspired Hatfield.

Ultimately, the retooled design didn’t skew too far away from the brand’s classic staples like, The Air Jordan 1 developed in 1985. However, at the same time it fed the desire for something different from traditional waffle sole Nikes.

Nike began advertising the sneaker at a time when the internet was completely irrelevant. The company came up with a revolutionary campaign TV commercial set to the Beatles’ song “Revolution,” this was the first time a Beatles song played during a commercial. The electrifying advertisement encouraged consumers to do more than just wear the shoe, but to stand up for what they believe in and “do something.”


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