Brief History of the Air Max 1
In 1987, Nike introduced the revolutionary Air Max 1 - the first Nike shoe to reveal its Air-cushioned sole. Nike entered the 1980s with strong market share, but by mid-decade it was clear that they would need bold ideas to retain their edge.
Enter: A radical new design at just the right time, from architect-turned footwear-designer Tinker Hatfield. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nike’s Air technology, developed by NASA engineer Frank Rudy, first debuted nearly a decade prior with the Air Tailwind. Up until this point, however, the performance-enhancing feature had remained hidden. Luckily, this was about to change: Hatfield had recently visited Paris, where he was inspired by the design of the Centre Georges Pompidou. Applying his architectural background to sneaker design, Hatfield envisioned a shoe that, like the Pompidou, embraced the exposure of its structural elements.
While the renegade design faced some initial resistance, Hatfield knew he was onto something special. The Nike Air Max 1 was finally released on March 26, 1987, to whirlwind success: proof that the brand was still at the head of the pack in design innovation. Since then, the original Air Max 1 design has spawned numerous hype-worthy collaborations and special editions, not to mention the rest of the classic Nike Air Max sneaker series. Read on for our top picks for the best Air Max 1s to shop now.
1 | Nike Air Max 1 Patta Waves Noise Aqua
Make waves in these Patta Air Max 1 shoes, a special collab between Nike and the storied Amsterdam retailer. Remixing the OG execution of the Air Max 1, the Patta Air Max 1 features a wavy suede mudguard atop a cream midsole with Nike Air Max cushioning. Rendered in the ‘Noise Aqua’ colorway, the mudguard and matching suede Swoosh of this Air Max 1 Patta contrast against silver mesh uppers with white leather overlays. Patta branding hits the tongue and sockliner, while retro Nike branding on the heel and an embroidered mini Swoosh on the toe wrap of the mudguard complete the look.
2 | Nike Air Max 1/97 VF Sean Wotherspoon
These Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97s are the brainchild of legendary sneakerhead and Round Two founder Sean Wotherspoon. The winning design from Nike’s 2017 Vote Forward competition, the Sean Wotherspoon Air Max was released for Air Max Day in 2018. These highly sought-after Nike Air Max shoes combine elements from Wotherspoon’s two favorite sneakers: the Air Max 1 and Nike Air Max 97. Wavy Nike Air Max 97 uppers in yellow, grey, pink, blue and black corduroy sit atop an Air Max 1 sole, which features an infrared Visible Air Unit. Crashing wave logo patches on the tongues add the finishing touch.
3 | Nike Atmos x Air Max 1 Animal DLX
Take a walk on the wild side with these untamed Atmos Air Max 1s. Reprising their 2006 collab, Nike and iconic Japanese sneaker boutique Atmos teamed up again in 2018 to update their ‘Animal Pack’ designs. The Atmos Air Max 1 DLX features eye-catching uppers in a menagerie of tiger, leopard, zebra and pony prints, with a bold red Swoosh. In contrast to the original version’s ivory detailing, these upgraded Atmos Air Max 1s are accented with black for a more dramatic look.
4 | Nike Air Max 1 Paris Bespoke
With only 75 pairs in existence, the women’s Air Max 1 “Paris” Bespoke is by far one of the rarest and most coveted releases of 2017. Created using Nike’s premium Bespoke customization service, this Nike Air Max women’s style takes its cues from Parisian architecture, culture and fashion. Uppers dressed in gray suede and snakeskin-embossed leather make these women’s Air Max shoes extra luxe, while the soft pink Swoosh adds a subtle pop of color. Gum rubber outsoles, metallic gold dubres and “Paris” embroidery at the heel finish off the look.
5 | Nike Air Max 1 x CLOT Kiss of Death
CLOT founder Edison Chen brings his unique East-meets-West design philosophy to this 2021 reissue of the fan-favorite CLOT Air Max 1 Kiss of Death. Like the original 2006 release, this Air Max 1 CLOT features tan suede uppers with a transparent toe box and snakeskin-embossed red Swoosh. The 2021 version of the CLOT Air Max 1 flips the colors on the heel overlay, with orange CLOT branding against a red background, while the translucent rubber outsole reveals an image of reflexology pressure points in a new multicolored design. Intricately detailed insoles on these Nike Air Max shoes, visible through the transparent toe panel, also nod to Chinese medicinal practices.
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