Nike Air Max 95

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    Nike Air Max 95

    Nike Air Max 95

    542 articles

    A legendary design born of Oregon’s diverse landscape.

    Air Max 95

    At the beginning of the 90s, the rising fame of Michael Jordan had made Nike’s basketball sneakers incredibly popular. With the basketball division doing well, Nike focused its attention on reinvigorating its running trainers, which at the time were led by the nascent Air Max series. Tinker Hatfield had moved on from the line to take on other projects, so the brand brought in young shoe designer Sergio Lozano to lead the team. Having spent the previous four years working on various sporting and ACG models, Lozano was not experienced in designing running shoes, but this suited the project perfectly. A fresh perspective was exactly what Nike wanted as the brand looked to build a shoe that offered something distinct and completely original. Putting this grand ambition in the hands of the promising designer would lead to the creation of the trailblazing Nike Air Max 95.

    Having worked at Nike for a few years already, Lozano had encountered Tinker Hatfield, giving him the chance to take inspiration from the great man. One thing in particular stood out in Lozano’s mind from his time with the legendary designer: his emphasis on the importance of story. With a desire to take the Air Max in an entirely new direction and Hatfield’s words ringing in his ears, Lozano contemplated the lake on the campus of Nike’s Worldwide Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Looking out across the water to the bank beyond, his imagination began to picture the earth being eroded away by the falling rain. It was then that the idea came to him: what if the ideal shoe was buried in the earth and gradually uncovered as the rain washed away strips of mud from around it? Lozano produced a quick sketch based on the notion. It showed a shoe with a layered structure along its sides which resembled the flowing striated formations revealed by many millennia of erosion in the rock faces of the Grand Canyon.

    This initial concept would go on to form the aesthetic foundation of the first Nike Air Max 95, released in the iconic Neon colourway. It featured a series of grey layers similar to those in the original drawing that faded from dark at the bottom to lighter at the top. Together with the introduction of an unconventional black midsole, this colour gradient concealed signs of mud and general wear, which were common in the rainy state where Nike’s HQ is based. Since the runners of the time usually had light-coloured, often white, midsoles, this was an unprecedented move, but one which ended up changing the face of running fashion. Despite Lozano being cautioned that such a mix of grey tones simply wouldn’t sell, the daring designer forged ahead unperturbed, taking the warning as a challenge. To offset these more practical dark tones, he added Nike’s signature shade of vivid yellow green known as Volt. A reference to the brand’s race kit and now one of its heritage colour schemes, Lozano used the vibrancy of the colour to draw attention to the functional technology in the AM95, such as the Air pockets and the eyelets.

    Although Lozano built the Air Max 95 as a running shoe first and foremost, his interest in the workings of the human body led him to develop in it an aesthetic that reflected human anatomy. The combination of mesh and synthetic suede panels on the upper represented bands of muscle; the nylon eyelets extended out of vertical bands on the shoe’s flanks to act as the ribcage; while the way the outsole, midsole and heel were connected evoked a column of vertebrae.

    In addition to its unique look, the Nike Air Max 95 aided runners by providing a skin-like mesh for breathability over the lace guard. Always wanting to push the limits of innovation, Nike also imbued it with the very first forefoot visible air, which offered increased cushioning through the bed of the foot. In fact, the Air Max 95 was originally created to cater to larger, more powerful runners whose heavier impact required extra padding underfoot. This was combined with precise stitching and compression moulding across the upper for an incredibly supportive exterior which would not wear out easily over time.

    The design further supported runners through the use of 3M Scotchlite reflective elements on the upper which brought added flair, as well as visibility, while a set of speed-lacing eyelets held the wearer’s foot securely in place. Lozano was so confident in the strength of Nike’s Air Max technology and the individuality of the AM95’s aesthetic that he left the iconic swoosh off the shoe in the prototype phase. Nike was keen for the shoe to have its trademark logo, but Lozano didn’t want it to draw people’s attention away from his unique design aesthetic. In the end, they compromised, and a small swoosh was positioned towards the back of the outer to keep the main upper neat and refined.

    The Air Max 95 combined avant-garde design with excellent performance to establish Nike as footwear pioneers in the 90s, bringing about a glorious future of continuous innovation. On its release in 1995, the shoe’s bold aesthetic was rebellious, making it a favourite amongst youth culture, including in far flung locations throughout Europe, Australia and Japan, where it became hugely popular. Its versatility also saw it lauded by experts across a range of industries, from style publications like The Face to sporting magazines like Runner’s World. It was even named as one of the top athletic designs of the year in Time magazine. With such outstanding credentials, it’s probably no surprise that the AM95 is still incredibly desirable around the world to this day.

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