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THE AIR MAX 1: Nike's most innovative sneaker turns 35 years old

Discover more about this timeless model and become a part of its iconic brand history.

Like all major events in fashion history, the debut of the Air Max 1 is one of those groundbreaking moments that deserves to be celebrated on a yearly basis, as Nike well knows. The silhouette managed to uplift the Swoosh in a time of need and will thus be crowned Nike’s sovereign on March 26th, the model’s official birthday and the date in which the Beaverton-based company organizes Air Max Day.

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Image courtesy of Nike

The mere word “shoe” doesn’t do justice to the technologically innovative, avantgarde journey the model undertook before garnering a cult status that extends beyond the world of footwear to engineering and architecture. In 1977, former aerospace engineer Franklin Rudy proposed inserting small air cushions into the sole to provide better foot support to Nike’s co-founder Phil Knight. Rudy’s design involved pressurizing the air inside a urethane bag that was flexible, resistant and, above all, capable of returning to its original shape after having been compressed by the wearer’s weight.

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Image courtesy of Nike

Intrigued, Knight immediately decided to approve Rudy’s idea, and over the following nine months, the duo developed the Nike Air Tailwind, the first shoe in the world to feature the Air Sole. The running model debuted in 1978 at the Honolulu Marathon and was introduced to the market the following year. But despite the fact that it seemed to have all the credentials needed to beat the competition, the model soon turned into Nike’s worst nightmare: the brand suddenly had to contend with the elevated manufacturing costs of a technology that was far ahead of its time.

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Image courtesy of Nike

When exemplary engineering was no longer enough to fight off rival competitors, Nike introduced the figure of Tinker Hatfield, a young architect from Oregon hired to design the offices in the company’s headquarters. After four years spent designing buildings for Swoosh executives, the creative designer decided to apply his architectural studies to shoe design, resulting in the jaw-droppingly unexpected results that would soon give life to the first pair of Nike Air Max sneakers. 

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Image courtesy of Nike

After a trip to Paris in which he was captivated by Le Centre Pompidou, Hatfield decided to translate building’s visible structural and architectural elements into the design of a shoe that shared a similar aesthetic and functional philosophy.

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Image courtesy of Nike

“I wanted to widen the air pocket to increase stability, and then remove part of the midsole so that the air pocket would be visible” said Hatfield about the design process.

At this point in the story, several theories develop regarding which model was truly the first Air Max. Some believe it is the Air Max Zero since it was the first model designed and proposed by Hatfield, while others credit the 1986 Air Max “Big Bubble” as the original. Though we have a sketch of the Air Max Zero, a physical model was never realized due to a lack of sufficiently advanced technology. On the other hand, the Big Bubble lacked solidity due to the oversized dimensions of the air pocket which caused production problems.

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Image courtesy of Nike

Despite differing opinions among Air Max fans, 1987 is recognized by all as the model’s birth year, the one in which Tinker Hatfield presented the Nike Air Max 1 to the world. The silhouette that since March 26th thirty-five years ago has never fallen out of favor has now become a true icon of innovation. To celebrate this landmark anniversary, Nike has several collaborations in store which will shine the spotlight once again on this classic yet futuristic model, which, just in time for Air Max Day 2022, will be available in a special edition on our website. 

The model will be available exclusively on LVR’s Sneakers Club. Registration opens at 2.00pm (GTM+1)  on March 24th. Save the date and don’t miss your chance to win a pair of these iconic kicks. 

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IP-0A005185 - 2024-04-25T13:59:06.3628560+02:00