The Nike Air Max 1, which celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2022 (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
SNEAKERS & FASHION

Why 2022 Could Be the Year of the Air Max

Celebrating the 35th anniversary of Air Max cushioning and the Air Max 1, Nike is running back the hits on their inaugural classic — and introducing some new ones, too.

Decades ago, Tinker Hatfield took a trip to Paris. Inspiration was on the itinerary.

Famously laying eyes on the Centre Pompidou’s polarizing structure, the Parisian architecture seeped into his subconscious, later realized though footwear on the Nike Air Max 1.

Released in 1987, the revolutionary running shoe exposed the brand’s trademark Air technology as an inside look at the engine for top-tier track athletes and a style statement for everyday strutters.

Soon, the design was a hit, inspiring Nike to capitalize on visible Air across categories and make Air Max running a franchise parallel to that of Air Jordan.

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Years later in the 2000s, the introductory Air Max model designed by Hatfield showed its staying power in retro life. The Air Max 1 crossed over completely to the world of lifestyle, returning in original color palettes as well as taking collaborative direction that knew no boundaries. From San Francisco skate shop HUF to Harajuku sneaker store Atmos, the Pompidou pair was still racing away from retailers.

And as the Air Max 1 turns 35 in 2022, it appears the seminal style is set for yet another big run by way of revived cult classics, denim redrafts, and new collaborations.

Recent reports from Complex’s Brendan Dunne signal a slew of Air Max 1s arriving this year. Standouts include the return of 2004’s “Crepe” colorway — a hemp style distinguished by a squishy sole seen commonly on a Clarks Wallabee — as well as two patchwork pairs from Boston-based boutique Concepts.

While release dates remain uncertain due to supply chain and factory issues caused by COVID, the year ahead still stands tall on the idea that Nike makes major money not just off innovation but also by looking back.

By re-releasing archival styles from their loaded vault, the Swoosh is able to reintroduce favorites to older collectors saddled to nostalgia. Just the same, they’re able to introduce a new audience to proven models untied to massive R&D costs.

In turn, Nike is not reinventing the wheel. Rather, they’re just continuing to spin it.

That’s smart from a cost perspective — and from a storytelling standpoint, too.

Initially, the cache tied to retro product proved most monumental when brought back in its original form. While this still holds true, the advent of collaborations on retro models in the ’00s takes doubles down on the nostalgia and familiarity of the ’87 favorite.

Additionally, Nike maintains the presence of mind to nods to new classics from the ’10s by way of subtle shifts, further engaging the more modern sneakerhead.

Data suggest this strategy by the Swoosh is super bankable. As the aftermarket is concerned, four out of the top five traded sneaker silhouettes on StockX in 2021 were originally produced by Nike in the 1980s.

As 2022 unfolds, it’s all but certain that we’ll see that trend continue.

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