Is it curtains for the Total 90?
Nike’s Total 90 is a brand that has dug its way deep into daily nomenclature, at least football nomenclature for that matter. What began as a specific line of boots is now a full-fledged range of athletic wear. The brand finds its name from the total number of minutes played in football game, i.e. 90, and refers to the ideal player, who plays the entire ninety minutes. The ‘player’ is categorically pushing hard for the entire duration and can find his place anywhere in the field; thus, Total 90. Nike then shortened it to the easier-off-the-tongue T90, which has since stuck.
Any footballer worth his salt doesn’t take his boots lightly, and Nike pounced on this to produce some of the most complex boots ever. Seven generations of Total 90 boots later (Air Zoom Total 90, Air Zoom Total 90 II, Air Zoom Total 90 III, Total 90 Supremacy, Total 90 Laser, Total 90 Laser II, Total 90 Laser III), we arrived at the Total 90 Laser IV. The laser line is threateningly wicked in terms of the technology that goes in to them. It fits 5 red silicon pods, added to augment the ‘strike zone’ along with alien TPU fins, create friction to ensure better control. With the Laser IV, Nike took the aforementioned salient features away, to add strips of rubber to the outside of the boot. These added control on spin and swerve, just short of a heat seeking missile. It also has an aptly named power zone, which adds accuracy. Adaptive Shields, as the technology was called, let the rubber strips move and bend with the movement of the feet. This, in addition to the overall mandatory slimming of the boot, was unprecedented in football. Also unknown was the proverbial sweet spot, which was identified by Nike as the instep, and worked upon immensely. This led to the reduction of area covered by laces, and the addition of rings around the designated spot, thus souping up the sweet spot.
Club Total 90
Although endorsed by a number of footballers like Gonzalo Higuain, Fabio Cannavaro, Wesley Sneijder, Florent Malouda, Robert Lewandowski and Wojciech Szczesny, Total 90 was propelled to the forefront by Wayne Rooney and Fernando Torres. Wayne Rooney was the archetypical player for the brand. A centre forward who ploughed through the defence, found the net on multiple occasions, clenched his teeth and gritted away. He showed what Total 90 stood for. Sometimes also confused with Total 90 is the hypothetical ideology of a player who can fit any spot on the field and perform to the fullest in every zone. Rooney fit this bill too, as he held the middle together on multiple occasions, playing the second striker and occasionally leading from the front too.
End of the Line?
Cut to today, and Rooney remains the only player still in touch with the Total 90 brand of football and the brand itself. Torres, although no longer the same player he once was, has moved on to the Adidas Predator LZ. Even though Mercurial Vapour and CTR 360 are still riding high, will this spell an end to the brand’s domination? Nike had to eventually move away from what was popular then, to what the audiences want now. The T90 was a supply of raw power, and that fell through soon enough. Currently, the limelight is on slick control, and that is on offer by everyone else. The Adidas Predator, the Puma King and even the CTR 360, all fell under that bracket and T90 was just not cutting it any more. Nike changed their game alright, but left a piece of history behind. Nike came through on all its effort to give the brand a ‘legendary status’, something which very few brands manage to achieve. But will the idiom ‘All good things must come to an end’ hold true for this iconic piece of magic?