In 1987, Nike launched one of their most innovative and groundbreaking designs, the Nike Air Max. Known now to some as the Air Max 87 and to others as the Air Max 1, the first sneaker to feature a visible Air cushioning unit in the heel set the direction for countless designs that use Nike's most popular technology. From the inspiration Tinker Hatfield found in Paris, to the other sneakers he was presented to design alongside the Air Max 1. Below are 25 things you did not but need to know about the infamous Air Max 87.
The Heel Branding Changed As the Air Max 1 Developed
In the earliest test version of the Air Max 1, there was no branding on the heel at all. As the development progressed and shoes began to be produced for testing and advertisements, the block lettering "NIKE AIR" was placed on the heel. Eventually, what we're familiar with, the Nike Air with the Swoosh, was finally placed on the production versions.
People Thought the Air Bag Would Puncture
Considering how far Nike Air technology has come, it sounds silly that people were concerned about the Air unit puncturing. But seeing as how it had never been seen before, a lot of people doubted that the visible Air unit was durable enough. As it turned out, the Air bag generally outlived the midsole it was embedded in.
The Marketing Side of Nike Didn't Like the Idea of the Air Max 1
According to Tinker, the design was a little too much for the marketing folks at Nike when they first saw it. How could they sell a shoe with a hole in the side of it? Judging from the success of their ad campaigns with the Air Max 1, it's a safe bet they changed their minds.
Inspired by Le Centres George Pompidou
Tinker Hatfield's design of the Air Max 1 was inspired by the Le Centres George Pompidou in Paris. The center, famous for its "inside out" design is what Hatfield had in mind when taking the Air Max cushioning from hidden beneath the foam of the midsole, to being a part of the visual aesthetics of the shoe's design.
atmos Was the First Company to Collab on an Air Max 1
In 2002, Japanese retailer atmos teamed up with Nike to create a unique version of the classic runner. The design was aimed at increasing sales to their customer base and creating a unique, never-seen-before version. The creatives at atmos combined elements of the Nike Air Safari with the silhouette of the Air Max 1, in what is now regarded as a 15th anniversary tribute by many, and is considered one of the greatest Air Max 1 colorways of all time.
The Air Max 1 Started a Revolution
Yeah, the commercial featured the song, the technology was game-changing, but the reality is, the Air Max 1 started a resurgence in running and Nike capitalized. After the Air Max 1 was introduced, the company posted the best numbers in their history.
The Air Max Was Presented To Tinker As A Pack of Sneakers
When Nike gave Tinker Hatfield the option to begin designing the Air Max 1, it was presented to him in a package deal. Taking on the Air Max 1 meant he would also be taking on the Air Safari and Air Trainer 1, amongst others. We can all probably agree we're glad he didn't turn down the opportunity.
The Air Max 1 Took the Competitive Marketing of Sneakers Mainstream
The ads that featured the revolutionary Nike Air Max 1 were more than just great pictures. Nike told the story of how they created Nike Air and put their statistics up against other competitors in the sneaker arena, including full spreads in Sports Illustrated and other mainstream mags. Essentially it spurred the competitive nature that sneaker ads took throughout the late '80s and early '90s.
The Biggest Air Unit To Date
Although today a majority of Nike sneakers feature full-length Air and impressively large Air cushioning Units, the Air Max 1 featured the biggest Air Unit of its time. Not only was the visible factor impressive, the performance aspects and cushion capabilities were unparalleled in 1987. According to Nike ads, it was three times bigger than the unit used in previous shoes.
The Air Max 1 is the Only Sneaker With An Entire Book of Art Dedicated to It
In 2011, Matt Stevens began the MAX100 project. His goal was to create original art and capture it all in the form of a book entitled MAX100. What began as a crazy idea, continued with a Kickstarter project and resulted in one of the most significant sneaker projects amongst sneaker collectors that share a love for the original, the Nike Air Max 1.
Air Could Have Been Another Brand
With so much history in the Nike Air Max line, it's hard to imagine, but the technology that fills the midsole of the Air Max 1 was actually presented to other companies before Nike. Thankfully for Nike, Phil Knight recognized its potential — and other people didn't.
Suede and Mesh Takes a Holiday
The first versions of the Air Max 1 featured suede and mesh in the unforgettable red, white and grey color combo. After the initial launch of the shoe, leather versions released in 1988 and again in 1992. It wasn't until 1995 that the suede and mesh combination returned to the Air Max 1.
The First Air Max 1 Retro Was Almost a Hybrid
In 1992, when Nike made improvements to the durability of the Air Max 87, they added key technology elements from the Air Max 90. However, they considered using the entire midsole and outsole of the Air Max 90 with the Air Max 1 upper. Thankfully, in 1993 when they actually went through with producing small amounts of them, the idea didn't stick and the retro models as we get them today remain relatively close to the original design.
The Leather Version of the Air Max 1 First Released in 1988
Suede and nylon mesh may be the most popular of makeups of the Air Max 1 today but when Nike released the leather version in 1988, it was very well received. Most likely, this can be acounted for the views of the general public viewing the mesh version as more perfromance-oriented and leather being more of an everyday choice.
The Air Max 1 is Crowned Jewel
This year the Air Force 1 returned with a blast from the past, a jewel Swoosh. For younger 'heads who may not remember, the Air Max 1 was also the recipient of the jewel Swoosh back in the day. The first jewel Swoosh Air Max 1 released in 1996 and a small number of colorways continued over the five or six years that followed.
Air Was Developed by Marion Frank Rudy
Marion Frank Rudy was an independent inventor contracted by Nike to create what we know as Nike Air. Technically, he invented 'pressurized gas encapsulated in polyurethane' but saying we copped the new Nike Pressurized Gas Encapsulated in Polyurethane 1 is a bit much. Sorry to the folks that thought Tinker created Air.
The Initial Air Max 1 Had a Different Midsole
The first release of the Nike Air Max 1 featured a different midsole and outsole than versions that remain popular today. Not only was the design slightly different, the foam was more susceptible to crumbling. As Nike's technology progressed, the midsole and outsole materials were upgraded in 1992 to utilize more durable design features that were first introduced in the Air Max 3, known now as the Air Max 90.
The Mini Swoosh Is Introduced
Though it's not very common anymore, in 1997, Nike added a secondary Swoosh to the side of the toe of just a handful of Air Max 1 models. The simple addition has made these versions highly sought after amongst Air Max 1 collectors.
The Colorway Was Also Inspired By The Pompidou Center
Not only was the design of the Air Max 1 inspired by the Le Centres George Pompidou, the bold colors that were chosen were also taken from the same experience that Tinker had in Paris. The Pompidou Center's exterior was painted in bright colors to make the design stand out. For the Air Max 1, the bright red colorway was chosen for the same reason, Tinker wanted them to be noticeable from a distance.
The First Air Max 1 Commercial is Considered to Have "Put Nike on the Map"
The Air Max 1 was revolutionary, so when Nike unveiled it to the world, the created a commercial that used the song "Revolution" by The Beatles. It featured superstar athletes like John McEnroe, Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan. The commercial is considered to have put Nike on the map by many people's opinion, taking them from a mere sneaker company to a household name.
The Swoosh is Shrunken
Ever looked at images of an original pair of Air Max 1s? If you put them next to a newer release, you'll notice that the Swoosh on the OG pair is significantly bigger than the retro version. This was a change that occured in 1996, for better or worse.
Visible Air Changed Sneakers Forever
It's easy for sneakerheads to understand how much seeing an Air bubble changed things but it was the general public's reaction to the new technology that helped make the Air Max 1 more recognizable than any other sneaker of the late '80s.
It's Not Just Air
Air cushioning is not just air. Initially sulfur hexafluoride was used to fill the cushioning units in the Nike Air Max 1. In more recent years, nitrogen has been used, due to the harmful effects of sulfur hexafluoride. So, no huffing the old Air bags, please.
The Windows Transferred Air Outside
This part of the design known as 'Maximum Volume' allowed the transfer of air on impact — allowing the Air bag to expand beyond the confines of the midsole. So although they allowed you to see the Visible Air cushioning unit, they had more function as well.
The First Air Max 1 "Retro" Was in 1992
The term retro wasn't around back in 1992, but that's essentially what Nike did, retro the Air Max 87. The re-issue version featured an update in materials to make them a bit more durable, this included changes to the midsole and outsole. Also, the 1992 releases were leather as opposed to suede.