There is a quote from Confucius that goes, “study the past, if you would divine the future”. While it may be just a tad presumptuous to think that he had the sneaker game in mind when he uttered those words, it’s certainly the case that more than 2500 years later, the Chinese philosopher’s words ring particularly true for the lifestyle running shoe market. The chase for authenticity and bringing the past to life is a major driving force in consumer decision making, and brands that honor and respect their past are perceived as more authentic and desirable. Nike has delved into their archives and found a remarkable, previously unheard of Air Max shoe that will launch on the second annual Air Max Day.
Long thought to be the very first shoe in the revolutionary Air Max line, the Air Max 1 was looked at with awe as the Air technology that runners had been cushioned by for nearly a decade was finally displayed. Unbeknownst to them however, the AM1 was not the first iteration of the shoe. As it turns out, the AM1 was actually a scaled back version of Tinker Hatfield’s original design, done primarily because the technology of the time wasn’t sufficient to create what will be introduced on March 26th as the Air Max Zero, the one before the 1.
Tinker Hatfield’s original sketch, rediscovered as part of an Air Max retrospective display by Nike designer Graeme McMillan, shows a shoe designed to maximize function by minimizing design. The upper takes cues from the Sock Racer (introduced in 1985) as well as foreshadows design elements of the Huarache such as the uncapped toe and sandal-like heel strap. The sole is an incredible combination of the past and future, featuring not only the knobby and sharply defined sole cuts that bring to mind earlier Nike running shoes such as the Waffle Racer, but also the visible sole unit backed up by two sleek insets on the heel that are similar to the ones eventually placed on the Nike Air Max 1.
While we can never know for sure, one could guess that the combination of all of these stand-alone design elements would likely have overwhelmed the consumer, perhaps seen as too radical a design (look no further than the computer shoes of the 80s, the Puma zero-drop shoes of the late 70s and early 80s, or even the Jordans in the late 1980s for examples of this). Nearly 30 years later however, Nike has deemed the market and technological innovations sufficiently ready for the Zero to make its grand entrance.
When McMillan and Hatfield met to discuss bringing the AM Zero to life, Hatfield described his intent of designing a shoe that achieved supreme comfort, but was constructed in a minimalist way that provided all necessary support without excess. The implication here is that not only did it bring that type of comfort to the foot, but also to the eye. With this in mind, McMillan set to work on using Nike’s newest technologies to transform Hatfield’s vision into a reality. An AM1 Ultra outsole, fuse uppers and a monofilament yarn mesh on the toe allow the Zero to travel back to the future, synchronizing Hatfield’s motivations with today’s innovations.
Available for pre-order on March 22nd via the SNKRS app, the Nike Air Max Zero will officially release on March 26th, 2015 for $150.