Prior to the Nike Air Max 1, then-developer Mark Parker and designer Tinker Hatfield shared a vision so revolutionary, that the idea couldn’t become more active until 2 yrs later with the Air Max 1. The initial design hasn’t been seen… as yet.
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What’s zero? Mathematically, it’s nothing; lots created to represent the shortage thereof.
But at Nike, zero is something. It represents the start, the original thought, the stroke of genius that great things are forged.
In this regard, zero results in the Nike Air Max Zero, a concept placed on paper 29 years back that contained practically three decades of innovation. It wouldn’t end up being the first Nike Air Max, but without it, the Nike Air Max 1 wouldn’t normally exist.
The Nike Air Max Zero was the first rung on the ladder. The one prior to the 1.
THE REVOLUTION THAT NEVER WAS
“There is no brief or research, simply a single revelation. I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we design a thrilling new running footwear that reveals to the world what Nike Air is really?’” – Tinker Hatfield
At that time, Nike had already introduced Nike Air, that was a major hit among running enthusiasts. But Hatfield knew that wasn’t enough. The feeling of air underfoot would have to be expanded to other senses.
“I remember thinking about how precisely we were making bigger and bigger Air-Sole units and that persons had a need to see and understand them,” Hatfield recalls.
Nike had the technology. What it needed was an ideal package to reveal it to the world. So Hatfield put pen to paper to accomplish just that.
What happened next is history: Hatfield famously travels to Paris, where he sees the Centre Pompidou and is inspired by the building’s unique inside-out design. Upon time for Oregon, he sits down and brings the idea of noticeable air alive in the sort of a revolutionary running footwear.
This can be the story that a lot of know – nonetheless it is merely half true. The Nike Air Max 1 wasn’t designed in a single shot. Rather, it had been the consequence of several design iterations, among the earliest being the idea of the Air Max Zero. Unknowingly channeling designs that could not come to fruition until a long time later, Hatfield centered on a shoe that featured only the necessities for supreme comfort and performance.
“I considered sculpting the midsole to become more minimal, rising up where more support is necessary and dropping back off where it isn’t,” Hatfield remembers.
He designed the upper to be comfortable and form-fitting, with a tipless vamp, a concept borrowed from the 1985 Nike Sock Racer. The sketch also featured an external heel strap that lacked a heel counter, a design concept that remained unseen before Nike Air Huarache release in 1991.
“It was pre-Huarache. Similar to how sandals are made to wrap around your heel, over your heel bone,” Hatfield recalls about his original design.
Put short, Hatfield had designed a shoe so advanced it might not be produced.
“In many ways, it had been before its time,” Hatfield says. “Not only when it comes to its appearance, but also regarding the construction it required. The technology and materials open to us at that time weren’t advanced enough to execute the initial vision.”
Confronted with reality, Hatfield was forced to reinterpret his design. This resulted in the creation of the Nike Air Max 1, which singlehandedly kickstarted a revolution in the running footwear industry. Visible air would soon make its way from running to basketball. As time passes, Nike Air Max would transcend its running roots to become lifestyle staple recognized all over the world.
THE PRODIGAL SKETCH RETURNS
Lost in the excitement was the Air Max Zero, only footnote to the Air Max phenomenon. But that could fortuitously change throughout a visit to the Department of Nike Archives, where in fact the sketch sat forgotten for 29 years. The other day the Nike Sportswear design team found a fascinating drawing while looking for inspirations to celebrate the impending second twelve-monthly Air Max Day.
“There is an Air Max retrospective on display, filled with early prototypes and samples that had never seen the light of day,” says Graeme McMillan, the Nike designer tasked with bringing the Air Max Zero alive. “It was as an archaeological dig with regards to the things you don’t usually reach see if you don’t work there.”
Once the team determined the foundation of the sketch, they knew what would have to be done.
“The sketch was a thing that was never fully realized,” McMillan recollects. “We thought it could be great if we’re able to share this with the world and shed some light on the development of the franchise.”
Almost ironically, McMillan’s first impression of Hatfield’s sketch summed it up perfectly.
“I thought it appeared as if a more modern-day version of the Air Max 1,” McMillan says.
He immediately noticed the Huarache and Sock Racer cues in the inner sleeve and the untraditional tip. He also felt the pressure mount as he realized he had a need to reinterpret an archival Hatfield sketch and take it to life.
“There exists a responsibility to accomplish the design justice in a manner that is faithful to the look intent, but also to include another aspect of innovation to it because they build the shoe in ways we couldn’t have back 1987 when the Air Max 1 premiered,” McMillan states.
To get started, both design minds met, with Hatfield giving McMillan a complete download. Hatfield emphasized his original design intent to attain supreme comfort.
To bring the sketch in to the future and accomplish Hatfield’s goal, McMillan upped the ante with the addition of the most recent Nike innovations. These included technologies including the newly-introduced Air Max 1 Ultra outsole seen on the Air Max 1 Ultra Moire, using its cored-out Phylon construction, fuse uppers that reduce bulk without sacrificing support, and monofilament yarn mesh that helped build the unusual tip without sacrificing breathability. With that, Hatfield’s original concept was realized. The main one prior to the 1 was prepared to take it’s first steps.
“I really like it. It features modern materials and construction methods, and I believe that’s the only method to accomplish it. That was then, that is now. In the event that you handed me the project, I’d have chosen new materials similar from what the team did here.” – Tinker Hatfield
The Air Max Zero will be accessible for pre-order on nike.com/sportswear in select markets on March 22. It’ll be offered by select Nike Sportswear retailers and on