Nike Air Max – The Illest Sneakers Ever To Hit The Streets

You wouldn’t believe that an architect and a sportswear company were the perfect recipe for creating one of the most iconic sneakers ever made.

But that’s exactly what happened when Tinker Hatfield started working with Nike in 1985 to bring high-tech architectural concepts to the world of shoe design.

I still struggle to believe that it’s been 32 years since I first saw older kids wearing these kicks that looked like they had a floating sole. Makes me feel old, but 1987 seems like a lifetime ago.

Unfortunately, my Air Max 1s were worn so much that I think they barely had any soles or air left in them. If only I’d kept them in the box they’d probably be worth a few large now.

To this day, I practically only wear Air Max, with the odd exception of when I have to wear a suit for a wedding (although I have worn a suit with my favourite all black AM 97s).

Anyway, I want to start this page with a bit of history along with how they got adopted as the unofficial footwear of the hip hop world. And, of course, I’ll showcase some of my most favourite ones.

A True Revolution

You just have to look at a pair of Converse and try them on to understand what sole technology was like before proper cushioning was introduced. Nike pioneered air cushioning in the late 70s, but it wasn’t until 1987 with the Air Max 1 release that you could actually see that air cushion.

All it really was is an idea to cut out a part of the side sole so that you could see what was behind the scenes. Such a simple idea, but an idea that completely changed the world of sneakers.

Add in some outrageously cool designs that appealed to urban teenagers, and the stage was set for the perfect combination of sneakers and hip-hop.

First Signs Of Hip Hop Influence

I experienced the early golden era of hip-hop in the late 80s and early 90s. So much has changed since then. Back in those days, there was a very small audience, and you certainly didn’t see any rap artists in the main charts.

But one thing has remained the same: the unofficial sneakers of the hip hop world are still the Air Max.

Next time you check out some hip-hop videos pay some close attention to the sneakers. I bet that most of the time they’re Air Max. And there’s a shit ton of them to choose from.

So many of them have become so iconic and popular that they have been released many times again. My personal favourites are the 97s, and I struggle to walk past a colour or design I don’t have. Something just draws me in!

Anyways, let’s talk some more rap lyrics. You won’t just see them in rap videos, but lyrics feature them all the time.

Ghostface Killah – ‘Apollo Kids’:“A pair of bright phat yellow Air Max,
Hit the racks snatch ’em up son twenty dollars off no tax;”

50 Cent ft The Game – Hate It Or Love It:“That’s ten years, I told Pooh in ninety-five
ill kill you if you try me for my Airmax 95s”

Meyhem Lauren – 7000 Thoughts” Alot of it was blown on kicks , what if i saved it?
i don’t give a f*** them 95s were my favourite,
i had four pair of every colour that i wanted ”

Outsidaz – Done in the game”Fool, I be strapped, no way you can do me, black
Let the tooley clap, put one in your coogie hat
Put your brains in your cutie lap
Like Air Max, I’m everywhere you be at, settin’ booby traps”

Jeezy – All There ft. Bankroll Fresh”Dope boy 95 Air Max on
Came from up the road boy you know we tax homes”

LX & Maxwell feat. Gzuz – HaifischNikez (Jambeatz)”Get on the pedal with brand new Nike TNs Time is money, driving the laps with a few hundred grams”

Some Of The Dopest Air Max Ever Released

Let me take you down memory lane and see if you can find ones you owned.

Air Max 1

Year: 1987

You have to start with the very first ones. I remember buying mine clear as day after spending an entire summer hustling to save up the money. I took any job going from mowing lawns to washing cars.

When the day came, I made sure I bought them a couple of sizes too big. Just to make sure I didn’t grow out of them too fast. All the work paid off when it was time to head back to school after the summer holidays, and there was only one other kid.

He was the rich kid who got dropped to school in a Benz, so that gave me even more street credit.

What was happening in Hip Hop?

It’s still the golden era of rap with Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause” and Eric B & Rakim’s “I Ain’t No Joke.” My personal favourite at the time was Spoonie Gee’s “The Godfather Of Rap.”

Absolute classic lyrics with beats that you just can’t find anymore.

Air Max 90

Year: 1990

If I’m not mistaken, these were my second pair I was able to afford. I think my parents took sympathy with me when they saw how worn down and held together with glue my 87s were.

Today, they definitely have that more old school look to them. The original version was just available in a handful of colours, but you can buy them brand new these days in a huge selection.

The Air window is quite small, but at the same time it stands out a lot no matter what colour you choose.

What was happening in Hip Hop?

My favourite album of 1990 is Public Enemy’s Fear of A Black Planet. Along with Ice Cube’s first solo album after splitting from N.W.A., called AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, there was a significant shift in the message of hip hop.

Here’s another love it or hate is fact, 1990 was also the year when Will Smith first starred in The Fresh Prince Of Belair. It was quite an innocent contrast to the way hip hop, and gangster rap was going, but it was still entertaining for an Aussie teenager.

Air Max 97

Year: 1997

These are my absolute favourites. The wonderful thing is that Nike still make these and you can buy newer versions of them brand new.

What I love about these so much is that they have the largest window running from the balls of your feet right to the heel. I can still remember seeing them for the first time knowing that I had to have them.

Since that day, I think I have owned at least 10 of these, and there are 4 pairs in different colours that I still have. It’s cool that Nike has put a lot of effort into creating many different colour combinations.

What I also love is the many wave-like lines that become very sweet when you have multi-colour ones.

One of my favourite hip hop facts of 1997 is that The Source magazine first started outselling Rolling Stone. This is an amazing achievement when you think that rap was still not common in the charts or on MTV.

Wu-Tang Clan released an album called Wu-Tang Forever, and at 2 hours playtime, it was one of the longest ever released. Against all expectations, it was a huge success.

December 1990 also saw Eminem hit the scenes and hip hop charts with Slim Shady. Unbelievable that it’s almost 30 years ago now.

Air Max 360

Year: 2006

After a long period of quite “safe” designs, Nike spiced things up a bit in 2006. Practically the entire front part is transparent with the Air window, while at the heel you see a couple of smaller ones.

Essentially, you can see inside the sole from pretty much all angles. It’s also like there isn’t any outer sole material, leaving just the actual Air cushion.

It’s a very cool design, and Nike even released a special edition one which combined the upper design of the 90s, 95s, and 97s. These ones are very difficult to get and have become quite collectable.

I’m still waiting for a new retro release of these because the original ones are difficult to find.

What was happening in Hip Hop?

OutKast released Idlewild which got some mixed reviews. Mainly because the movie attached to the album wasn’t exactly what the rap scene was expecting, it’s still a cool movie, and I recently watched it again as it puts a lot of context to the album.

As far as the Billboard charts go, it was a year for Beyonce, but overall it wasn’t a great year for hip hop. Many big acts like Ice Cube released albums that were very much a flop.

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