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    Nike Air Max 1

    11 articles

    Visible air’s premiere: the shoe that launched the extraordinary Air Max range.

    Air Max 1

    The birth of the Nike Air Max 1 is the story of how groundbreaking technology met a novel aesthetic. A technological shift happened in the mid-seventies when Frank Rudy, who had previously worked as an engineer at NASA, walked into Nike’s Oregon Headquarters. He had designed a midsole that harnessed the cushioning power of gas-filled pockets to create the sensation of walking on air.

    After adopting the technology, Nike needed a revolutionary design to reflect the paradigm shift that “Air” represented. So, in a daring move, Nike asked their architect Tinker Hatfield to come up with some designs for this new model. Hatfield travelled to Paris to find some inspiration, where he encountered a building that displayed its interior hardware externally: the Georges Pompidou Centre. Hatfield was intrigued by this design and began making sketches of shoes with this philosophy in mind.

    These became the Nike Air Max prototypes and they worked to externalise the internal Air technology, making it visible through plastics that were incorporated into the midsole. Nothing like this had been seen in the sneaker world before. As no other Nike product had featured a visible Air unit before, it required a more subtle integration than previous “Air” shoes, using foam to lead to a smoother transition between the materials. However, the resulting aesthetic was so unlike anything previously seen that, after Hatfield revealed the prototypes, there were allegedly people inside Nike calling for him to be sacked.

    Fortunately though, David Forland, the Director of Cushioning Innovation at Nike offered his support to Hatfield, allowing the team to continue their work. Nike put any lingering doubts to rest in 1987, when the Air Max 1 was launched in bold Varsity Red and Royal Blue colourways inspired by the museum.

    The first iteration was a resounding success, and the shoe has only continued to grow in stature since. Today, it is considered a culturally resonant sneaker. As the very first Nike Air Max with visible air, it also became the inspiration for countless other Air Max designs and is without question an industry influencer.

    The Nike Air Max 1 features the iconic bubble in the heel and boasts an upper of stitched synthetics, with ripstop fabrics often over the toe box and sometimes suede or leather. The heel sports a Nike Air Max logo, and through the medial and lateral sides, there is the unforgettable swoosh. Two eyelets near the top are bolstered by coloured rubber for strength, and it comes with a grippy rubber outsole. The Air Max 1 evokes a nostalgia for the late eighties, and yet it still feels just as stylish, relevant and desirable today as it did back then.

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