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FASHION: The history of Air Max

Featured in Freestyle Volume 03 2007. Story by Steve Sampow. Photography by Danny Hyunh.

The Nike Air Max series has been ahead of its time since its birth in 1987, from the innovation of technology, to its sheer classic designs, the Air Max set a standard for all sneaker designers. First released as an intended performance based shoe, the Air Max series have progressed and grown into what is now looked upon as one of the worlds most popular and respected sneaker.

Freestyle takes you on a journey from back in the day and visits the landmark years of the special releases that make up the Air Max family. This is the History of The Air Max.

Air Max 1

The Air Max 1, also known as the Air Max ‘87 was designed originally by Tinker Hatfield. Hatfield was originally hired as Nike’s corporate architect. He brought his background and perspectives to his process of designing shoes. This was the first shoe of the Air Max series. It was ahead of its time by being the first shoe created with a visible air bubble. From this, it has been a product that has a cult following from both runners and casual wearers alike. For the past couple of years Nike has been releasing retro versions of this classic in several colour ways and collaborating with various companies which I’m sure will keep the anticipation for future releases higher than ever.

Air Max Light

Originally released in 1989, the Air Max Light as its commonly known or alias name Air Max II left many Nike Air Max fans excited after its release mid 2007. These are predecessors to the Air Max 90 and yet another classic. The Air Max Light has been one of those shoes that have been overlooked in the Air Max timeline and was not touched over the past seasons. Released nearly 20 years from its original drop, these are another to add to the collection.


Air Max 90

Funnily enough; the Air Max 90 was not known as a Air Max 90 until a few years after its release as it was named the Air Max III. This Air Max was a great performance shoe of its time. A durable midsole which provided runners with a supportive and cushioned ride throughout the forefoot, a large Air Max unit in the heel and a mesh upper that made this not only lightweight but a breathable running sneaker. Serious collectors of the 90’s still prefer a mesh upper than a solid leather. Mesh just gives that genuine retro feel to these kicks, which we love. The “infareds” would be the most popular colour way of these kicks, but with the release of the DQM (Dave’s Quality Meats), Pythons (Snakeskin), Escape pack, Crepes, Valentines (pictured) theres a lot to keep peeps content.

Air Max BW Classic

Originally on shelves in 1991, Nike started the re-release of the BW Classic in 2001 with countless numbers of colour ways. The BW Classic nicknamed the BEE-DUB actually stands for “Big Window”, which at the time was the largest Air Max bubble hence the name. These shoes run very similar to the Air Max 90 in having a supportive and cushioned midsole and a mesh upper. The BW was a huge hit in the United Kingdom as well as Europe, and due to the cold/wet weather, Nike compensated and brought out the all leather versions as a re-release for those customers.

Air Max 180

This underrated classic, was a revolutionary shoe in the Air Max series which had 50% more air than any of its past releases. This 1991 Air Max has a clear sole that covered the air bubble, but being made of crystal rubber one could visibly see the 180 degree air unit which took these kicks a step further once again. Despite Nike’s massive advertising campaign, only a handful of colour ways were released and only on shop shelves for one year. Before the release of the 180’s not much was known about the retro version of these. But once the second coming of these dropped they were snapped up by Air Max fans that have been waiting almost 15years for these classics.


Air Max 93

The Air Max 93 was also known as the Air Max 270. They originally had this name due to the heel air unit being exposed for 270 degrees. These were a sure follow from the Air Max 180 in more ways than one. They had a sock liner and I guess no real tongue. For those kids who know they would have noticed the Huarache design also. The 270 degree unit, provided wearers with ideal heel cushioning. They were also the first to have a coloured air unit which was a sign of future releases. Nike retroed these in 2003 to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the original drop. Since the release you could find a few colour ways out and about every year.

Air Max 95

Just how the Air Max 1 was the first of its kind to have a visible air unit, the Air Max 95 was the first to have not only a visible air unit in the heel but had a visible forefoot air. These were and still are a big hit among Air Max fans. They were only retroed 2 years after its original release. The Air Max 95’s have been released in various cult colours such as the Neon’s (Pictured), Emeralds and Slates that have been brought out numerous times. It was also the first to introduce different pressure ranges in its air units which provided second to none air cushioning and great heel support. At first they were designed as a performance running sneaker but lately, purchased for fashion and casual. These kicks attract people from various walks of life from your straight upper classers to your hip hop heads. Being produced in over 150 different colours, its that one rare style that many sneaker heads unite to.

Air Max 97

After all these innovations within the Air Max series, nothing should be surprising by the Air Max 97 being another first. These were the first to have a full length visible air cushioning unit. These unlike the Air max 95 and Air Max 96 which had a few panels of the 3M reflective material, The Air Max 97 was literally covered in 3M. Not only did it catch the attention of running at night it caught many people within fashion for its futuristic design. Before its initial release, the Air Max 97 was rumoured to be called the Air Total Max III, but thankfully they stuck to the name we know it as today. How about this for creativity, these were designed and inspired by the high speed Japanese bullet train. Kind of makes sense now!

© COPYRIGHT FREESTYLE MAGAZINE

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