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2013 marks 25 years since the creation of the first Nike Air Max. The shoe started a footwear revolution and continues to undergo innovations model-to-model, year-to-year. To celebrate the revolutionary shoe’s recent milestone, Nike has released a range featuring the Air Max 1, 90 and 95, in both their original and newest Engineered Mesh incarnations, to the delight of brand-fans and sneaker-heads worldwide. In homage to this momentous series of releases, for the next few weeks ACCLAIM will be taking a look at the history of each model, including the shoe’s latest manifestations to uncover just what it is behind the Air Max revolution and where it’s headed next. First up is the shoe that started it all, the Nike Air Max 1.

Words by Benjamin Menzies.

Prior to the Air Max 1’s debut in 1987, the term ‘visible air unit’ would have been little more than a confusing oxymoron with approximately zero useful applications. Air was as invisible back then as it is now, so when Nike started cramming this costless, infinitely abundant element into their inaugural Tailwind model during the late 70’s, a couple of guys named Mark and Tinker deemed it necessary to show the consumer exactly what was going into their high performance running shoes. In 1987 the Air Max 1 was born and suddenly the term ‘invisible air unit’ made a lot more sense…

“Nike Air had been making a more cushioned ride [for runners] for nine years at that point – confined in the midsole and in a way ‘hidden’ from the runner,” explains Nate Jobe, Design Director for Nike Sportswear Footwear. “Nike engineers discovered that by cutting an area out of the midsole, a larger, wider airbag could be used. It could billow out, which meant more cushioning… To expose it served to improve it”.


The Air Max 1 was a perfect example of Nike’s now signature ‘form following function’ design ethos. The Nike Max Air bag was the basis of the shoe’s premium comfort and wearability, and rather than hide this unusual new addition, the designers drew attention to it and the Air Max revolution began. But the inspiration for this came from somewhat of an unlikely source… “Tinker Hatfield was inspired by another design that used ‘the window’ as a means of communication – a renowned art museum in Europe,” states Jobe. “Tinker wanted to draw the eye towards the window in the heel, so he left most of the upper white and colored the rand in an unconventional bright red stripe”.

The Air Max 1 was well received by the general population, but its sleek silhouette and brazen colour-blocking would also capture the hearts of an unlikely audience, whom have continued to drive its success and cultural relevance some 25 years later. This particular audience resided not in the suburban gymnasiums and athletic stadiums intended, but in the back alleys and side streets responsible for cultivating the sub-cultures integral to Nike’s history as a brand. The burgeoning hip-hop scene embraced the flashy silhouette which was a fortuitous match for the ‘more money, more drums, more jewellery’ sentiment inherent in the hip-hop movement of the time. The Air Max 1 was spotted in marathons and LP sleeves alike, cementing the shoe as the footwear for the rebel performer, both in athletics and pop culture.

Born out of innovation and a desire to push the boundaries of footwear design, the Air Max 1 exists today as both a cultural icon and one of the most important chapters in the Swoosh’s history. Over the last five years its adaptable silhouette and simplistic paneling successfully inaugurated Nike’s Flywire and Hyperfuse technologies, ensuring its tenure at the forefront of comfort and innovation. This year the Air Max 1 was reinvented once again, spearheading the introduction of Nike’s latest initiative: Engineered Mesh. Once again the necessity for a smoother ride has given birth to an even more durable, breathable and lightweight Air Max 1, without compromising the classic silhouette and timeless colourway of its original outing.

Slides 1-3: Nike Air Max 1 OG
RRP $180.  Available from Nike Stores, Hype DC, Footlocker, Unison, Espionage, Sure Store, Submerge, Laced, Alfie’s.

Slides 4-7: Nike Air Max 1 EM
RRP $180. Available from Nike Stores.





Shoot Credits:
Art Direction – ACCLAIM Magazine
Photography – Michelle Tran
Styling – Jade Leung @ Viven’s Creative
Makeup – Caroline Massola
Model – Danny @ London MGT


Stay tuned to our ‘Air Reinvented’ series for a look at some of the other iconic Air Max releases through the years and an introduction to the new releases.