March. The month of celebrations and festivals.
Saint Patrick’s Day. Holi Festival. International Women’s Day.
However, there is only one celebration that matters to sneakerheads.
Nike’s Air Max Day.
Seen as a global celebration, Nike’s event has seen much success over the years. It is a day where the old and new come together. A day where appreciation for innovation and design is upheld. And a day that honours the timeless creation of The Air Max.
What is Air Max Day?
To be honest, Air Max Day has never really been significant to me. Sure it’s the day that Nike celebrates its pivotal innovation, but in my eyes it was all just a marketing gimmick to advertise their creative designs and twists on classic silhouettes.
However, that all stopped last year on Sunday 26th March, 2017. Air Max Day.
Walking the streets of Sydney with my Ultraboosts on, I felt as though I was up to date with the peak of BOOST. The sight of everyone wearing Air Maxes that afternoon made me feel as though I was different. But that all soon changed as I stepped into Footlocker. It was not the sight of everyone wearing Air Max that shocked me. Rather, it was the dialogue between individuals. Veterans of the sneaker game would be sharing their stories and experiences about their favourite Air Max with young kids.
It hit me how special this celebration really is. Never have I seen the sneaker community this connected. There were no signs of discrimination, competition or ego. Regardless of age or taste, there was appreciation of what everyone had on their feet. All made possible by Nike’s innovation decades ago.
That year was special. It was the year that marked 30 years of Air Max. Nike literally held the celebration across the entire world.
Some of the events included:
Vapormax Launch at Centre Pompidou in Paris
Nike displayed a new film using projection-mapping on the exterior of the building that inspired the Air Max 1’s visible Air-sole design.
SNEAKEASYs in North America
Nike offered limited releases, NIKEiD customization, interactive displays and art installations.
Air Max Revolution in Tokyo
An iconic museum in Tokyo hosted an interactive audio-visual running experience, the "Air Max Beatmaker. People were invited to wear their favorite pair of Air Max and then create their own custom music tracks by running on interactive treadmills.
As people jogged, ran and sprinted, the music track reacted and evolved in real time based on the speed and stride of each runner. The museum also featuredmultiple art installations, exclusive apparel and NIKEiD customisation.
Quick look at some of the popular Air Max models featured each year!
Sure your Yeezys, Pharrells, Flyknits and NMDs might be the big thingright now, but they have not yet stood the test of time. As Kobe Bryant once said, “heroes come and go, but legends are forever.”
And that is exactly what the Air Max is. It is a legend. One that will never die.
Debuting in 2014, Air Max Day was aimed at dedicating “24 hours honouring 27 years”. Now an annual event, Nike utilises this celebration to showcase some of the boldest sneakers of the year.
Celebrated each year on March 26, Air Max Day is the perfect nostalgic reminder of what innovation meant to Nike. More importantly, the celebration reiterates Tinker’s belief that sneakers are not just sneakers, but a “part of the fabric of our time.”
Air Max Day 2018
It seems as though Nike has big plans for Air Max in 2018. In its fifth year of celebration, Nike reveals some serious designs in the form of classics such as the Air Max 180 as well as new concepts such as the Air Max 1/97 Sean Weatherspoon.
Looking at some of the silhouettes such as the Nike VaporMax Plus, there is no doubt that Nike’s technology is a gamechanger. But it begs the one important question.
Where did this all start?
Origins of Air Max
In the beginning Nike created The Waffle Trainer. It’s waffle-inspired sole had small bulbs that protruded out for extra grip and rebound. Spotted on training tracks and fields right across the USA, the design marked a major innovation for Nike. An innovation that would be the first of many to come…
In 1978, a man by the name of Frank Rudy came to Nike with an idea. To put an air pocket inside the sole of a shoe as a form of more sufficient cushioning. The aerospace technology specialist explained that air in your shoes would work in a similar manner as air in car tyres. The air would give runners a platform that provided responsive cushioning, lasting comfort and increased stamina. And so, with this proposition, Nike liked the idea and ran with it.
Within a year, Nike introduced the first shoe ever to feature its Air technology. The Air Tailwind.
Loaded with a pouch of air that Nike claimed would never go flat, the Air Tailwind became an obsession for runners looking to go the distance without feeling the hurt. An obsession to possess a shoe with bubbles inside - a creation that once seemed impossible. It was this obsession that fuelled Nike’s next big thing.
As Nike designers created larger Air bags and placed them in new locations, the shoes were getting lighter and runners were liking the product more and more. But Nike being Nike, they wanted to do more.
Enter Tinker Hatfield.
In 1981, Hatfield was a corporate architect who designed office buildings on the Nike campus, apparel showrooms and retail stores throughout the country.
Although he ran track at the University of Oregon for Bill Bowerman, there was little to no evidence which suggested that he had a future in footwear design.
That all changed very shortly.
At the time, Nike only had nine sneaker designers. Whether they saw something innate in Hatfield, or merely didn’t have the talent at the time, he was eventually brought into the fold to try and rejuvenate a design team that saw the competition creeping up on them.
While other designers looked at majestic animals for inspiration – given the way Nike was trying to empower consumers to run and jump higher; Hatfield’s approach was unique due to his own roots as an industrial inventor.
“As an architect I had the feeling I could bring something new to the table in terms of design especially compared to the shoes that were in the marketplace at that time … I began working on a renegade set of shoes that were not part of a design brief or marketing drive: the Air Max 1.”
While wandering around Paris, Hatfield came across the Centre Georges Pompidou. What Hatfield saw in the Center was how the building’s designers, Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, had put all the internal workings of the building on the outside. Hatfield fell in love with the idea of revealing the magical inner workings of the building, and he decided that he had to show off the air bubble that made the Air program what it was.
It wasn’t enough to have a bubble inside the shoe: we have to see it.
“A lot of us at Nike have traveled extensively to try and be inspired and to understand people from all over the world in different cities, cultures and religions. I had known about this very interesting and very innovative and very controversial building called the Georges Pompidou Centre. You could see the escalators and the heating and air conditioning and the levels of the different parts of the museum. You could see people. It really inspired me because it shook the world of architecture and urban design. It changed the way that people looked at buildings.”
Source: Sneakers Magazine
However, Tinker Hatfield did not stop there. He wanted more than just a visible air bubble. Inspired by the colours of the pipe, he wanted to make the visible air bubble recognisable from far away. And so, he decided to use flashy colours. Two in particular -- red and blue.
Thus, two legends were born. The Air Max 1 in the original two colorways of Sport Red and Varsity Blue.
“I was designing some very unique buildings and offices and things at the time and people were like that guy should be doing shoes. I wasn’t pushing for it but, quite frankly, I knew it was inevitable and when it finally happened I was like ‘yeah, let’s roll.’ Even as a young architect I was always the lead architect, even at the beginning I always had the creative process down and packed” -- Tinker Hatfield
Air Max Hall of Fame
Air Max 1 (1987) - First ever visible Air unit
Air Max 90 (1990) - Increased Air volume
A “bigger is better” attitude was introduced on the Air Max 90. Nike believed that more air equals higher performance. Featuring graphic colours and fluid lines, the updated Air Max 90 was the start of something new. For runners, this meant increased comfort, but on the streets, new trends were brewing.
Air Max 180 (1991) - More visible Air than ever before
Introducing 180 degrees of visible Air cushioning, the Air Max 180 gave athletes a softer and closer to the ground ride than ever before. According to Nike’s Director of Cushioning Innovation Dave Forland, it was actually one of the most difficult Air Max sneakers to make.
Air Max 95 (1995) - Debut of forefoot visible Air
Designer Sergio Lozano lead the design with the Air Max 95, drawing inspirations from human anatomy and bone structure. The design was supported by progressive technology, as forefoot visible Air cushioning was introduced for the first time ever. Aesthetically, reflective 3M Scotchlite overlays on the tongue and heel were added for visibility at night.
Air Max 97 (1997) - Debut of full-length Air unit
Nike set off the Air Max’s 10th anniversary properly with the introduction of heel-to-toe visible Air cushioning. Incorporating the same visible air cushion along the entire length of the shoe, the Air Max 97 was inspired by the astonishing rapidity of Japanese high-speed trains.
Air Max Zero (2015) - The One Before the 1
Featuring featherweight mesh material, the design of this sneaker was based on an original sketch from the archives. However at the time, the technology didn't exist to make manufacturing possible, so it was scrapped.
There is love for all Air Maxes, but here are some we believe are worthy to be conducted in the "Air Max Hall of Fame"
PUSHAS' Top Air Max Picks
Here are some of our staff's favourite Air Maxes!
Check out some of the Air Maxes we have on our site!
It is obvious that the Air Max stood the test of time and challenged sneaker designs. Everyone can confidently say that the shoe was revolutionary for Nike, and perhaps the most important design ever created. But there is something that is overlooked....
The Air Max was the genesis of running sneakers as a lifestyle culture. For the first time, running sneakers weren’t worn just for athletic purposes. They were a statement of style and fashion on the streets. Style and fashion that developed over time alongside the evolution of Air Max models.
If you look at what people are wearing on the streets today, you would see Vapormaxes or Air Max 97s worn with jeans and a bomber. And to think that these type of sneakers were once seen as strictly performance sneakers....
What was once a controversial design is now a modern classic.
To the community, Air Max was and is still a game changer.
But what does Air Max mean to you?
Let us know your favourite Air Max and why in the comments down below!
By Daniel Tran