Nike has declared today Air Max Day. The occasion marks 27 years of air-cushioning for the sole. When it was first introduced in 1978, Air Max shoes were a boon to runners who seeked shoes that could dramatically absorb the impact at the heel. In no time, they became popular among members of pop sub-cultures such as hip-hop. Trainer obsessives soon started collecting these shoes too, and issues such as Air Max 95 (the first to feature fully exposed fore-foot air sole) and 97 (with its first full-length air bag) continue to attract collectors, who amassed both vintage and new pairs. The latest version, the Air Max 90 Jacquard (above), continues to build on the sole’s undiminished popularity with new, colour-saturated uppers.
Nike’s Air Max redefined what can go under the foot, and it soon influenced other trainer makers into putting out their own versions. This form of soles has mostly been used by athletic footwear makers until Nike bought over Cole Haan in 1988, when it started introducing air soles for its range of executive footwear.
Although armed with the technology, Nike did not quite successfully make Oxfords and the like with a fashion spin that could grab the imagination of fashionistas (Nike sold Cole Haan in 2012, which may spell the end of air soles for the latter). Until Prada—the master of hybrid shoes—came along. Last season, Prada introduced the air-soled ‘Levitate’, and continues to put out new versions with different traditional uppers such as Brogues and loafers. Sneakerheads screamed “copy” but that has not dampened the demand for these stylish shoes.
Not to be outdone, Dior Homme, too, created space for air in the soles of their latest shoes. The Derby-style lace-ups—which sales assistants in the store described as “catwalk shoes”—are fitted with metal inserts so as to trap air. It is doubtful if this has any cushioning effect even when some reviewers called them “Air Max-like soles”. They are, in fact, more akin to the Mizuno Wave Prophecy.
Whichever way, to stay afloat in the world of fashion, sometimes you do have to walk on thin air.
Prada ‘Levitate’, SGD1160, is available at Prada Ion Orchard. Dior Homme shoes, SGD1800, are available at Dior Homme Ion Orchard. Nike Air Max 90 Jacquard, SGD239, is available nationwide. Mizuno Wave Prophecy, SGD329, is available at select retailers.