Photo by co-founder Adrienne J. Romero.

It’s Christmas Day in 2020. My friends and family know me for my sneakers. 

My sister, Adrienne, and I decided to get my dad a pair of Air Max 90 “Infrareds,” mostly since my dad has been gifted a lot of Air Jordans over the last few years. My cousin, Samantha, just got a pair of Air Max 97s recently, and decided  she wants to get into sneakers again. I was thinking of getting her some Air Jordans, but I was persuaded to get her the “Infrareds” also for her. 

I had planned to give my sister the infrareds as well, until I read the wishlist we gave each other before getting gifts. One of her grails was the “Air More Uptempo” in the black and white colorway.

I decided to get her the Uptempos, but since I already bought her the infrared 90s, I decided to give her both. Once we opened up Christmas gifts, my family saw that I gave three Air Max 90s to three different people, and that my sister got the infrareds and uptempos. 

A few weeks later, my mom asked my sister and also for a pair of Air Max 90s.

Nike’s “Air Max Day” is an annual celebration of Air Max that occurs on March 26th — the day the Air Max 1 first released back in 1987. The sneakerhead holiday seems to be a hit ever since. 

The origins
George H.W. Bush seen in Air Max 90s, which was made just for him. (Sneaker News photo)

Started in 2014, Air Max Day is meant to be a celebration of all-things Air Max. On its surface,  “Air Max Day” seems to be a holiday created by Nike, to sell even more shoes, which is not entirely wrong. But, many sneakerheads have come to embrace it as a day to show their appreciation for the unique colors and styles that the Air Maxes flaunt. 

For 2021, Nike is rereleasing the Air Max 90 “Bacon,” which was a 2004 collaboration between Nike and New York City boutique Dave’s Quality Meat, featuring a color scheme inspired by strips of bacon.

For fanatics like Don Santiago, a New Jersey native, he said the “Bacon” sneaker is a classic.

“I think the bacons are a classic timeless flavor that truly screams to lovers of dark earth tones,” Santiago told Slice of Culture. “…Everyone who eats bacon has definitely had a bacon phase and so I believe that really goes hand in hand with people who wear Air Maxes faithfully.”

Santiago’s first Air Max was the Air Max 90 “Tokyo” 2020 city pack. He paid $230, but he said it was worth every penny.

Santiago said the best part of Air Maxes is that everybody has a “totally” different origin story of getting into them. For him, his parents bought them for years, celebrities flaunted it and the youth knew how to style it.

“It’s not just a worldwide favorite, it’s the world favorite,” he said.

The need to cop

Because I’ve seen many people in my family with Air Maxes, I decided to get at least one Air Max. I had never owned an Air Max, despite having probably close to 100 pairs of sneakers. 

Despite not owning an Air Max, a few of the sneakers I own actually had the Air Max cushioning like the Air Bakin, worn by Tim Hardaway of the Miami Heat; the Air Penny 2, worn by Penny Hardaway of the Orlando Magic; the Air More Uptempo, worn by Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls; the Air Max Cb94, worn by Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns; and the Air Max Lebron 7, worn by Lebron James during his time with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers. 

The Nike Air Max began as a running shoe, but now it’s mostly considered a lifestyle sneaker, similar to that of the retro Air Jordans. 

What the Air Max lacks in history behind a famous athlete endorsing the silhouette, it makes up for in nostalgia. 

Viewing social media, you can see many types of people wearing Air Maxes. Some of the better known people you would see were Jennifer Aniston, Matthew Perry, George H. W. Bush, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, Master P, Eminem, The Game, Will Smith, John Goodman, LL Cool J, Oprah, as well as many others. 

The different flavors

My only pair of Air Maxes thus far has been the Air Max 97 “Undefeated UCLA”  collaboration. I won the shoe somehow through the infamous Nike Snkrs app. I was hoping to resell the sneaker for a big payday, but when I saw the resell was very minimal, I decided to keep the pair for myself — a decision I do not regret.

Tinker Hatfield did many of the designs in the Air Max line, who I know as the man that helped keep Michael Jordan from leaving Nike to join rival Adidas in the 1980s. Tinker designed my favorite sneakers of all time in the Air Jordan 3 “Black Cement” and Air Jordan 11 “Space Jam,” as well as many other sneakers. 

The Air Max 1 design was inspired by a building in Paris, where the functional and structural elements are placed on the outside for everyone to see. The Air Max 90 — also referred to as the Air Max 3 — draws its inspiration from the Air Max 1 and Air Max Light; the most noticeable difference is the size of the visible Air Max unit. 

Oprah Winfrey sporting Air Max 93. (Getty Images)

The Air Max 95 was designed by Sergio Lozano. It is one of the more popular models next to the Air Max 90.

“I remembered something Tinker Hatfield used to always bring up while working on other projects, he would say, ‘Okay, so that’s a great design, but what’s your story?’” He found his answer in a few anatomy books housed in the Nike design library. 

 

Lozano was attracted to the correlation between the construction of the human body and the essentials of product design. The rest was simple, “all I had to do was pick the links that made the most sense.” With human ribs, vertebrae, muscles, and skin as his chief points of inspiration the first Air Max 95 prototype was created.” 

-Sergio Lozano, via Nike News.

Cristian Tressor designed the Air Max 97. Many believe the inspiration was from the Japanese Bullet train, which is actually an inspiration for the Air Max 97 “Silver Bullet,” but the actual inspiration for the sneaker model as quoted from Treasor himself was “the nature of it was water dropping into a pond.” 

The Air Max Plus was designed by Sean McDowell, and it’s primary selling point was its new cushioning system named Tuned Air, and the Air Max 98, the shoe that took attention away from the main Air Max model at the time.

The Vapormax was released in 2017, and is known aesthetically for its large outsole that was designed to get rid of unnecessary materials to be more efficient for the environment.

The Air Max line continues to thrive over 30 years later since its first inception in 1987. From wanting classic colorways released years prior, to collaborations with Virgil Abloah that resell for sometimes thousands of dollars, to current day models with the intent of being more efficient for the planet, the Air Max line has a unique way of bringing many people together because of a common interest.

Santiago said that Air Maxes are the “pinnacle” for all of modern American culture from classic shoes like the 90s, 95s, 97s and 98s.

“There’s a shape for every situation, there’s a color way for every preference, there’s history for every pair,” he added.

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