The Complete History of The Air Max 1

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On the eve of Air Max Day, Underline decided to focus the latest installment of our The Complete History series on the universally known Air Max 1. Introduced way back in 1987 by the legendary Tinker Hatfield, the Air Max one has grown to become on of the most recognized silhouettes in the industry and has been the inspiration behind an abundance of other Nike sneakers. Join us, as we explore the journey of this revolutionary product…

The idea behind the Nike Air Max 1 first evolved from one of Nike greatest-ever designers: Tinker Hatfield. Hatfield was brought on by Nike in 1981 as one of the brand’s corporate architects; a position which focused around designing stores, showrooms and office spaces. But, several years later, Hatfield found himself full emerged into Nike’s design team after a member of Nike’s design staff specifically requested him to be apart of the brand’s latest project. Hatfield was commissioned to work on a classic package of shoes but, at a time in which the company was beginning to lack innovation, Hatfield decided to propose a revolutionary idea: exposing the air pouch of the shoe.

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Ticker Hatfield
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Patent drawings for the Air Max 1

Nike’s Air Technology was already well established within the brand’s manufacturing and design process after Frank Rudy had developed gas-filled urethane pouches to replace the typical EVA sole.Yet, it was Hatfield who had suggested to expose the technology in sole, an idea that evolved from a trip Hatfield had recently taken to Paris.

On his latest trip to Paris, Hatfield rediscovered his fascination for the controversial Centre Georges Pompidou. The building’s unique architecture focused on externalizing the hidden elements which are concealed in typical buildings. In essence, the idea behind the Centre Georges Pompidou is what inspired the Hatfield’s design of the Air Max 1. In fact, Hatfield has even said that, “I’m fully convinced that had I not seen the building, I might not have suggested exposing the air bag, making it visible and actually let people see inside the shoe.”

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Centre Pompidou Museum

Yet, Hatfield struggled to get the approval of the entire Nike team with members such as the Head of Marketing for the brands Running department failed to see how a shoe “with a hole in it” could be sold. However, shoe’s design was eventually approved and went into production with the release date set for March 26, 1987. The Air Max 1 was released apart of a capsule called the Air Pack which also featured the Air Revolution, Air Safari, Air Sock and Air Trainer 1.

Since then, Nike haven’t looked back as the Air Max 1 has served as an inspiration for dozens of other models such as the Air Max 90 and Air Max Plus. While the shoe continues to be revamped with new colourways and materials, nothing will take away from the OG red and white model that defines both the man and brand behind the design.


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