Can we please give a moment of silence to one of the dopest shoes ever created. A shoe so important to the culture, sneakerheads damn near lose their minds every time a new color wave or style drops. A shoe so valuable to the sneaker culture that it's been changing the game since 1987. Ladies and gentleman, I'm talking about "the shoe;" the Nike Air Max. Quick break? Thank you. Now let's talk about 'em friends.
The name Nike Air Max says it all.
Let's be real. If you don't have at least three (or ten) pairs in your closet, you're not a real sneakerhead. There, we said it. Incepted in 1979, the Nike Air Max 1 wasn't officially released until 1987. The Nike Air Max 1, designed by Tinker Hatfield and pictured below, is considered one of the most innovative and trendsetting shoes created. Hatfield was originally hired as an architect and four years later found himself designing sneakers. He blended his architecture background with his creativity and changed the sneaker game forever. The man's a genius, people.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 1)
The Nike Air Max 90 changed the sneaker game.
In 1988 and 1989, Nike released the Nike Air Walker Max and the Nike Air Max Light. They were decently received, but not as much as their predecessor, the Air Max 1. In 1990, Hatfield dropped the Air Max 90 which (32 years later) remains a top selling version of Air Max to date. Hatfield’s goal was to detail a larger air pocket. He threw in some horizontal lines and detailed accents, creating a sneaker masterpiece. The Air Max 90’s look splendid in almost every color way and they’re a favorite of our clean kicks founder, Brian Penn.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 90)
The early 90’s brought us some forgettable models of Air Max’s. In 1991, the Air Max BW and the Nike Air Max 180 dropped. The 180’s were in collaboration Air Force 1 designer, Bruce Kilgore and displayed a 180-degree “Air-Sole.” In 1992, the Nike Air Max ST releases to underwhelming reviews. 1993 brought us the Nike Air Max 93 and the Nike Air Max 94 dropped the following year. The ‘91 to ‘94 four year run had Nike Air Max fans questioning the status of the legendary sneakers future… then it happened. The Nike Air Max 95.
Released in 1995 and designed by Sergio Lozano, the Nike Air Max 95 recreated a new wave of excitement over the Air Max brand. The sneakers complex-layered layout along with the multiple air pocket midsole created a new look for not only the Air Max brand, but sneakers overall. The Air Max 95 is a top selling shoe for the Nike brand to date.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 95)
1995 also brought us the Nike Air Racer Max which was a tough sell following the incredible success of the Air Max 95. In 1996, the Nike Air Max 96 was released; another sneaker designed by Sergio Lozano. The 96's were well received among the sneaker head community and kept the Air Max lineage progressing in a positive direction.
The Nike Air Max 97, designed by Christian Tresser, transitioned the Air Max model. Nicknamed the Silver Bullet, the sneakers sleek presentation and air pocket placement created a new look for the shoe. The layered upper represents water ripples (as explained by Tresser).
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 97)
The late 90's and early 2000's brought us some of the more forgettable variants of the Nike Air Max sneaker. The Nike Air Max 98 did well as it was a follow up, bigger version of the Nike Air Max 97. 1998 also delivered the Nike Air Max 98 TL a similar, more sleek design of the OG Air Max 98. The Nike branding was placed to towards the front of the shoe for the first time.
The last release in 1998 was the Nike Air Max Plus, somewhat of a throwback to the '96 model. The Nike Air Max Deluxe was release in 1999, followed by the Nike Air Tuned Max. Neither shoe received wide spread notoriety as most true 'Air Max fans' don't even know they exist . In the early 2000's, the Air Max sneaker began to go fadeaway with no releases from 2000 to 2002.
In 2003, The Nike Air Max 2003 dropped. The lighter, more cushioned style of Air Max was created with a focus on comfort as opposed to style and/or color. None of us here at 'The Shop' remember it too well, but it's pictured below. Do you guys remember this drop?
Pictured - Nike Air Max 2003)
Following a two year hiatus, the Nike Air Max 360's came out in 2006. It was released after a nearly 20 year process of R&D (Research & Development). The 360 was designed to give "cushioned air" throughout the entire sneaker; hence 360.
Fun fact - Nike released the OG 360 to pay homage to the Air Max 1, released in 1987.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 360)
An eight year hiatus is the longest between Air Max drops to date. Between 2006 and 2014, Nike didn't release any Air Max variants. In 2014, they released the Nike Flyknit Air Max. Comfort, style and flexibility were the primary focal points of the sneaker. Flyknit is a single piece of digitally woven fabric. Made with a polyester thread, it's more flexible and treatable than other shoe uppers.
(Pictured - Nike Flyknit Air Max)
The Nike Air Max 2015 did away with the Flyknit while introducing an "engineered mesh" and a backwards logo design. The full length horizontal tube like design was created for complete Max Air and deep grooves for flexion. It's considered one of the most flexible Air Max variants and it's the foundational blueprint for those to follow.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 2015)
2015 also brought us the Nike Air Zero. Tinker Hatfield designed in nearly 30 years earlier and the sketch was found, slightly tweaked and released in 2015. It wasn't released earlier as it was considered to groundbreaking for the general public. 30 years later, sneakerheads fell in love.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max Zero)
In 2017, Nike dropped one of the most technologically advanced and adored Air Max variants to date; the Nike Air VaporMax. Nike outdid themselves with this one, sneakerheads. Most Air Max models utilized a maximum amount of air, but the VaporMax switched it by using less air, more effectively and efficiently. Pressure maps were utilized enabling designers to pinpoint the precise amount of air needed to support stride.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max VaporMax)
Interestingly, the Nike Air Max 270 was the first Air Max style created specifically for casual wear from the jump. Of course sneakerheads have been rockin' 'em that way since their inception. Duh! Maximum cushion and a blend of modern/vintage design work were the focal points of the sneaker. It's another one of our founder, Brians', favorites.
(Pictured - Nike Air Max 270)
In 2019, Nike released the Air Max 720 followed by the Air Max 2090 in 2020. The futuristic models look to be the new wave moving forward. The Air Max 720 features the more "spring" than any of its predecessors. The Air Max 2090 features a similar heel style to the Air Max 90 while adding more functionality and flexibility.
The Nike Air Max shoe has been a leading trendsetter for over 30 years. From the classic OG Air Max 1 to the Air Max 2090, the shoe continues to be a top seller for the Nike Brand. The designers strive to set the mark on style, comfort, and flexibility to ensure the Air Max sets the bar.. and we sneakerheads truly appreciate it. (Photos are not property of clean kicks)
Schedule your Air Max Sneaker Treatment (shoe cleaning) today.