The history of the Nike Air Max dates back to the 1970s, when an aerospace engineer named Frank Rudy left his career to pursue new innovations. Rudy came up with the idea of producing small air bags in the soles of athletic shoes to soften the impact made on the ground when running, and create a smoother ride. Rudy pitched his idea to 24 different shoe companies, and of them, only Nike offered to help develop his creation.
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Rudy’s ideas did not lead to the first Air Max, but instead to the 1978 Nike Tailwind. Two-hundred fifty pairs of the Tailwind were sent to Hawaiian running stores in time for the Honolulu Marathon, which were promptly sold out within 24 hours. Users of the Tailwind were found to have used less energy while running than those that didn’t, which validated Rudy’s innovation.
The first Air Max was created in 1987 by Tinker Hatfield, who is now known as the father of the Air Max. As a former architect, Hatfield had found his inspiration for the Air Max from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The building was the first major example of an “inside-out” design, in which its structural system was exposed to the exterior of the building. For the Air Max, Hatfield wanted Nike’s air cushioning technology to be visible in the midsole, allowing users to see exactly where the technology is coming from. Hatfield enlarged the cushioning three times its usual size in an effort to create a smoother movement. This became the first of many generations of the Air Max branded technology, and set the stage for over 30 years of innovation.
Made for the streets
In the 1990s, The Air Maxes were focused on developing more technology for the cushioning. These included bigger windows, forefoot air, full-length air, and tuned air in an effort to improve athletic performance. Riding on the growing streetwear scene, the shoe’s design displays elements of hip-hop, sports, and skate culture. The improved air cushions were popular choices in the new dance era, from the hip hop in the United States to the faster BDM style in Europe. Each Air Max model was bigger, bolder, and more colorful, coinciding with the decade’s zeitgeist.
Today, Nike has released the Air Max 270 React, which is the latest in the collection. It is made up of the Air unit’s first lifestyle, the 270, as well as the brand’s newest air technology, the React, which boasts the brand’s softest and most resilient foam. The Nike React introduces a smoother transition from heel to forefoot, thanks to the brand’s tallest air unit (36mm) to date. “Instead of no-sew or stitched on panels, the Air Max 270 React is built with a bar tack technique inspired by the Element React 87,” Nike senior sportswear design director Dylan Raasch explains.
The look of the 270 React traces its roots back several years in artistic history. Behind each palette is a design that relates to a specific artistic movement and their design philosophy. They evoke the various stylistic differences that were relevant in their respective eras, as well as the emotional connections in their medium. Some of these styles include: explorations of geometric compositions, mid-century-inspired color blocking, San Francisco psychedelia, and studies of asymmetrical balance.
Despite it being almost 30 years since the invention of the air technology, it is easy to see the impact that Rudy and the Air Max line has made in this generation.
For more information, visit Nike.com.ph.