How did Nike Air Max 1 revolutionize the sneaker industry? Sneaker history explored

Air Max 1 shoes (Image via Nike)
Air Max 1 shoes (Image via Nike)

Nike Air Max 1 is one of the most iconic and influential sneakers of all time. It was the first shoe to feature a visible Air unit in the heel, a design innovation that changed the game for performance and style. The Air Max 1 is widely regarded as one of Tinker Hatfield's masterpieces and one of Nike's most important and influential creations.

Over the years, the silhouette has been re-released, reimagined, and collaborated on by various artists, designers, and brands, each adding their own twist and flavor to the classic silhouette. The Air Max 1 is more than just a shoe; it is a symbol of creativity, culture, and history.

Nike Air Max 1 was the first shoe to feature the Air technology

Take a look at the few colorways of the silhouette (Image via Sportskeeda)
Take a look at the few colorways of the silhouette (Image via Sportskeeda)

The story of the Air Max 1 begins with the invention of Air technology by former NASA engineer Frank Rudy in the late 1970s. Rudy proposed to Nike that they could fill urethane pouches with pressurized gas and insert them into the soles of their shoes, creating a cushioning system that was more flexible, durable, and responsive than traditional foam.

Nike was intrigued by the idea and tested it out in the Air Tailwind, a running shoe that debuted in 1978. The Air Tailwind was a success, but the Air units were hidden inside the midsole, so most consumers were unaware of the technology.

In 1985, Nike hired Tinker Hatfield, a former architect, to design footwear. Hatfield had a background in structural design and a passion for innovation. He wanted to create shoes that were not only functional but also expressive and aesthetically pleasing.

He was inspired by the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, a controversial building that exposed its inner workings and structural elements to the outside. Hatfield wondered if he could do the same with Nike's Air technology and make it visible to the eye.

Hatfield began working on a renegade project that would become the Air Max 1 without Nike's official brief or marketing support. He designed a shoe with a larger Air unit than the Air Tailwind and cut away some midsole material to create a window that revealed the air cushioning.

He also gave the shoe a sleek and colorful upper, using nylon, synthetic felt, and leather materials. He chose a striking combination of white, grey, and red for the original colorway, which he later dubbed "Infrared."

On March 26, 1987, Nike released their first visible Air unit sneaker: the "Infrared" Air Max 1. It was part of the Air Pack, which also featured silhouettes like the Air Trainer 1, Air Sock, Air Safari, and Air Revolution.

The Air Max 1 was also featured in Nike's first-ever television advertisement, which showed a runner wearing the shoe and breaking through a glass wall. The slogan was "Air Revolution."

The Air Max 1 was a groundbreaking sneaker that revolutionized the sneaker industry in several ways. First, it introduced a new level of performance and comfort for runners, who could feel and see the benefits of the Air technology.

Second, it created a new aesthetic and cultural phenomenon for sneaker lovers, who were drawn to the unique and eye-catching design of the shoe. Third, it paved the way for countless iterations and innovations of the Air Max line, which continues to evolve and expand to this day.

Those who admire the sneaker model can keep themselves posted on future colorways and collaborations by signing up on Swoosh's website or using the SNKRS app.

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Edited by Shreya Das
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