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Nike Air Max 1. Reveal the Rebel.

Anywhere you go these days, you’re bound to see someone walking on Nike’s Air cushioning. Air Max has become synonymous with Nike’s brand. But this wasn’t always the case — in fact, the original reveal of the iconic bubble in 1987 almost never happened. Air cushioning had been used by Nike long before the Air Max 1 ever came to be. It was originally invented for the Air Tailwind nearly a decade earlier in 1978. The technology was always hidden from the eye by the outsole, for fear that people would think it could be easily punctured, despite its proven durability. This worked for a while, but the sneaker game was evolving. Classic Nike sneakers like the Cortez and the Air Tailwind didn’t have the steam to keep carrying the company. Nike needed something new, something revolutionary. Then came Tinker Hatfield.

The Seeds of Revolution

Hatfield wasn’t a shoe designer by trade — he was originally hired by Nike as the architect for their headquarters in Oregon, so it’s no wonder the inspiration for the Air Max 1 came from a building. While Tinker was in Paris, he visited the Centre Georges Pompidou, a modern art museum with a building that scandalized the city. In the midst of old Parisian buildings with stone façades, the Pompidou looks like a stylized construction site, with its internal support structures exposed to the external world. And running across the face of the building was a long, window-wrapped tube of stair casing. It was rebellious. It was vulnerable. It threw away all convention. As Hatfield stood before the museum, the idea for the Air Max 1 was born.

Hatfield went to the drawing board, and what came next was the Nike Air Max 1. With a leather upper with sleek lines, all attention is drawn to the heel. Hatfield widened the traditional Air pouch and carved out the sides of the midsole to reveal a tube of the Air cushioning.

When Hatfield took his shoe designs to Nike, it instigated mayhem. Half of the company were calling for his resignation, believing the concept would ruin the company. But Hatfield stuck to his guns, and with the support of David Forland, Nike’s Director of Cushioning Innovation, Nike eventually debuted the Air Max 1 to the world on March 26, 1987.

Entering a New Age of Sneakers

Nike knew it would make an impact and even be controversial, but they never expected the shoe to transform the industry like it did. Fans loved the Air Max 1 for its rebellious spirit and authenticity; it wasn’t afraid to reveal itself to the world. In the wake of this success, Air Max became a staple of the brand. Nike had revolutionized the shoe industry, and the Air Max 1 had revolutionized Nike, as the company went on to release the Air Max 90, Air Max 180, Air Max 95, Air Max 97, Air Max Plus, Air Max 360, and the Air Max 2015.