December 14, 2016 will decrease as a black stain in the annals books. To borrow a line from my man Franklin Delano Roosevelt – the undisputed GOAT of American presidents (my own judgment of course, but I’ll not listen to anyone who argues the contrary) – it really is “a day that may stay in infamy,” not because Pearl Harbor has been attacked again, but since it marks the reissuing of the Nike Air Max 97.
This should do not have been permitted to happen. Not because I’ve anything against the AM97 – quite the contrary, it really is, alongside the Air Max 1, the best Nike shoe ever, and numerous my colleagues at Highsnobiety share that sentiment. This may oftimes be scaled up to the wider sneakerhead community most importantly, and with justification: it’s a really great shoe. But nonetheless, it’s the one which shouldn’t have already been reissued.
I’ve a sneaking suspicions that every person scanning this will disagree with me and aim some really derogatory comments my way, so i want to clarify my reasoning.
It’s simple to understand why the Air Max 97 is indeed adored: it’s an unbelievable piece of design, the one which took its inspiration from high-speed Japanese bullet trains. As a design school graduate myself, I was taught that type of outward-looking conceptualism can be an essential element of truly iconic designs, which might explain, partly, a number of the sneaker’s relentless appeal.
Not only that, however the 97 can be utterly unique to all of those other Air Max range, completely unlike the models that preceded it. Sure, it can be rooted in the 95, but an unbelievable amount of imagination has been invested into its design, and there’s nothing that feels lazy or imitative about any of it.
Putting over-intellectualized navel-gazing aside here for another, it’s simply a beautiful little bit of footwear – superior to the recent Supreme x NikeLab Air Max 98, which is much too chunky and overly similar to late ’90s skate shoes for my tastes. That’s even before you consider Supreme’s additions of faux snakeskin and patent leather, materials too closely associated to budget stripper attire for some people’s comfort.
The Air Max 97 may look immeasurably much better than what Supreme and Nike recently offered us, but that still doesn’t justify a reissue, for me.
It might not be considered a popular stance, but it’s the one which I genuinely have confidence in. I’d wish to own a set of AM97s myself, but ignoring its aesthetic value, the key thing that I find so enchanting about the silhouette is how properly it reflects the era where it was made.
Late ’90s futurism seeps out of every stitch, and its own metallic finish is indeed similar to other great designs of the era, like Sony’s MZ-E900 minidisc player. They appear to be they were designed for one another, to complement harmoniously within an individual streamlined outfit. Which isn’t some mere coincidence, rather, it’s snapshot of a wider consciousness of that time period, the one which manifested itself physically in the merchandise of this particular moment ever sold.
In the tail end of the ’90s persons were obsessed with the near future. They stood in the twilight of a hundred years and at the dawn of a fresh millennium. The Y2K bug and potential electronic meltdown loomed large in the collective hive mind, breeding doomsday scenarios which were realistically a manifestation of a collective concern with the unknown, the one which permeated a civilization teetering on the precipice of time.
We were entering the 2000s. Phonetically, simply reciting the date and pronouncing the term “thousand” simply felt so much weightier and more significant than the usual nineteen-ninety-whatever. In addition, it signified a clear split from days gone by.
Futuristic cartoons and movies through the entire latter half of the 20th century were always inevitably occur the entire year two-thousand-and-something: The Jetsons stay in 2062, Back to the near future II occurs in 2015, Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey in 2001. It had been the era of Futurama, The Matrix, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The web was proliferating and mobile phones were accessible, music was going digital and flying cars surely weren’t remote.
All this influenced and manifests itself in the Air Max 97’s design. The silver colorway, which mimics the looks of metal, appears like a bit of futuristic tech. Similarly, a lot of Sony’s (another major influence on the dominant aesthetic of the time) products were made of plastics with shiny, metal-like finishes imitative of steel.
Futurism, whenever we look back at it from some of the future always looks so dated, and there’s something endearingly cliched about these designs – they look so predictably space age from where we stand now, therefore unlike what the aesthetic into the future (our present) actually finished up looking like. Which is precisely why we ought to leave the ’97 fossilized in the late ’90s where it belongs.
Sure, I am aware the selling point of vintage clothing and fashion revivalism but rarely is a bit of design so thoroughly thought through therefore synchronized using its own particular instant. Obviously this is an enormous section of the AM97’s appeal, but it’s also why it will remain sacred. I’m all for searching for deadstock on eBay, but a reissue would cheapen it, and as everybody knows, exclusivity is such an enormous part of a sneaker’s appeal.
I feel that rather than looking backwards, we have to look forwards and have ourselves exactly why is it that Tinker Hatfield’s recent Air Max designs pale compared to the 97? Last year’s iteration was completely forgettable, and I’ve never seen it worn by a person with a shred of dress sense.
Instead of longing for a reissue, we have to expect and demand today’s Air Max icon, one that’s as conceptually and aesthetically complete as the ’97, the one which embodies the modern day zeitgeist up to the ’97 reflects its – our personal classic that future generations will lust after.