Marion Rudy and Tinker Hatfield might not mean much to the general world. Still, to sneakerheads all over, these two names are synonymous with the Air Max and its many silhouettes and colorways.
On Airmax day, we look back at the shoe that changed Nike for the better and leveraged it a league above its competition.
In the late 1960s, Marion Rudy prototypes a new type of athletic trainer that encapsulates a tiny ‘air bag’ in the sole for added cushioning. Ten years later, Nike makes public the first shock-absorbing athletic shoe on the market. Initially embedding the air unit inside the sole, Nike then decided to take a bold step and made the air unit visible with Air Max 1. The Centre Pompidou inspired tinker Hatfield, the designer behind the Air Max 1 in Paris, with its structural support outside the building. Hatfield, an architect at the time, concluded that a shoe with its bare-bones being made visible was the way to go. Since its release in 1987, Nike released countless other silhouettes bearing the air max name and proudly strutting an air unit; some of our favorites are;
Air Max 90
Known as the Air Max 3 until early 2000, bold, bright infrared accents gave the air unit of the pair the highlight it deserved while fluid lines and panels make it seem like a machine stuck in perpetual motion. With an upper construction of synthetic felt and leather, this silhouette is arguably one of the most iconic Air Max’s in existence.
Air Max 180
Created as a collaborative effort between Hatfield and Air Force 1 designer Bruce Kilgore, the Air Max 180 featured a whopping 180 degrees of visibility for its air unit. A huge miss for the brand, the 180 refused to take off like other Air Max Silhouettes. One of one pair for Kanye West and Eminem didn’t do the trick either. The 2018 CDG collaboration was a saving grace for the sneaker, which remains in its successors’ shadows.
Air Max 95
Sergio Lozano’s 95 was inspired by human anatomy and was the first shoe under the air max umbrella that utilized two air cushions in the forefoot. Debuting in a black, white, and neon yellow colorway, The pair saw countless releases and collaborations, including but not restricted to Parra, Carhartt, CDG, and Atmos.
Air Max 97
Rumored to be inspired by Japan’s bullet trains, the silhouette was given the name “silver bullet” by sneakerheads until the designer.
Christian Tresser confirmed the pair’s lines were inspired by water and the concentric ripples it creates, while the silver color was based on the brushed metal finish popular on BMX bikes. The silhouette, much like other Air Max silhouettes, was dismissed for being a dad shoe until market-shattering collaborations with Sean Wotherspoon, MSCHF, and undefeated ensured that the pair was frozen in time as one for the ages.
With newer silhouettes and colorways with each passing year, the air max moniker and iconic air unit have ensured that the shoe will remain a testament to man’s ability to take risks, think out of the ordinary and make innovations that propel both brand and buyer to newer heights. For a sneaker befitting enough to have a holiday named after it, we wish you all a happy Air Max day.