Air Max Day: Celebrating its Past, Present and Future

March 25, 2021

Air Max Day: Celebrating its Past, Present and Future


When Tinker Hatfield designed the Air Max 1 in 1987, sneaker design took a huge leap. The innovation of a visible air unit on a shoe led the Air Max to become an icon and Nike to even greater heights at the time, but the concept of walking on air was baffling, even unthinkable to the average consumer. And yet it was achieved, again and again as the Air Max line continued on its iterations. Air Max and its unique tech symbolized a balance between function and style. 

More than thirty years after, the Air Max line is fresher than ever — eye-catching, even at a distance, and distinct in its own right. As sneaker culture rose from niche to mainstream,  Air Max silhouettes were a part of that journey that literally got it off the ground. 

As we gear up to celebrateAir Max Day, we take a look at its exciting past from the perspective of some of the Air Max’s long standing enthusiasts and collectors by sharing their personal stories and insights from the Air Max’s inception to today.

The following interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity. Some quotes have been translated from Filipino to English.

Mong Alcaraz (@mongalcaraz)

Where and how did you first see the Nike Air Max?

I was nine years old, in a strip mall somewhere in California on a family vacation. My parents let us choose our P.E. shoes for that year, and I got a pair of Air Stabs, and my brother got the Air Max 90 Laser Blues. That was my first pair. My next pair with the Air Max bubble would be the Air Force Max 93s.

What makes the Air Max stand out from all the other shoes in your collection?

For me it’s the most obvious point of when tech started to matter with sneakers. So when I have Air Maxes on, I feel it in the cushioning, I feel like I'm repping art, architecture and technology. Apart from the sneaker culture of course.

How is sneaker collecting different now compared to before?

It’s the same in some ways, but in hyperspeed I guess.

All the niches that I liked before about it are still there. For example, finding some store that got run out of business and had tons of old deadstock sneakers was the mission back in the day. You can YouTube Beastie Boys clips of them talking about this. We had our own luck here in old stores in Manila, Marikina, and Baguio. But these days, I get the same kick by getting pairs that are “slept on.”

What you can’t get back though is seeing a pair in the flesh, for the first time ever, and deciding you need to buy em, put the shoes you’re wearing in the box and put those new ones on for the rest of the day.

 

Edouard Canlas (@edouardcanlas)

What's your very first pair of Nike Air Max? How many pairs do you have today?   

My first Air Max was the Air Max 90 in 1991, but I only had it after three days when I exchanged it for the Air Robinson 180 that I bought on my birthday. But one of the pump units wasn't working so I exchanged it for the Trainer SC II. I was hoping to get the Infrared but ended up with the Neon Green.

I currently have more than 2,000 pairs. Most of them are aging though.

Some Air Maxes weren't readily available in the PH. What's the craziest thing you had to do to get a pair that you really wanted?

I was in London the same time the Ben Drury Air Max 1 was released, but I didn’t find one in my size. We went straight to Manhattan in New York and it just got sold out. We went up to Montreal but it wasn’t released there yet. On our way back to the Philippines we passed by Los Angeles and while I was circling around La Brea Ave., I thought of Union [Los Angeles] and some other shops but it was already out of stock. 

So when I arrived back in Manila I went straight to the Nike store in Greenbelt 3 hoping there was one in my size even though it was already a month after release. It wasn’t there. But before I left Greenbelt 3, I came across a pair in “GAS” Denim Shop. I got two pairs. True story.

How is sneaker collecting different now compared to before?

Shops. Real Friends. The common denominator among me and my friends before was having fun while doing it. I could say that I did [sneaker collecting] at its purest form. We all had the same story. 

 

Martin David (@solemovement)

What makes the Air Max stand out from all the other shoes in your collection?

For me, the Air Max is a great example, maybe even the perfect balance of design and innovation. The shoe was innovative as it offered comfort with its Air unit, making it a comfortable shoe to wear wherever. The Air Max line also offers great design that works. The shoe works with various materials however which way you mix and match them.

How is sneaker collecting different now compared to before?

With so many sneakers popping up these days, it's very important to "edit". You don't have to own everything, but it's best to have a good understanding as to why you're collecting certain sneakers or what you really plan to track down to collect.

Before it was a little easier to cop everything as the volume of releases weren't as crazy. Editing is key these days.

 

Edmund Mallari (@nottinottinotti)

When and how did you first see the Nike Air Max?

I remember this vividly. I was in 4th grade and it was our school intramurals. My bus mate busts out an Air Max 95 OG Neon fresh from the box. That's when I first associated the Volt color with Nike.

Is there one particular Air Max model / colorway you have a personal connection to?

I love the Air Max 1. The Air Max 1 Patta "Chlorophyls" was the only Air Max I fell in line for.

Some Air Maxes weren't readily available in the Philippines back then. What's the craziest thing you had to do to get a pair that you really wanted?

Nothing too crazy back then for me personally cause I didn't really have a lot of money for sneakers. Just good old fashioned community plugs and a little patience.


Mackie Correa (@archived_ph)

When and how did you first see the Nike Air Max? 

My first knowledge with Air Maxes was actually with basketball shoes in the ‘90s. Those Uptempos, Pippens, Barkleys etc. Although I was aware of the Air Max line, I was all about  basketball shoes back then and I can only get 1 pair of sneakers per year. 

I think it was around 2002 when I got my first Air Max pair. It was a GR Air Max 90 I got in Footlocker.

Is there one particular Air Max model / colorway you have a personal connection to?

I like both the Air Max 1 and the 90s. I feel like I will keep buying those my entire life. The Atmos Cement AM1s, and the Infrared AM90s are always gonna be my top favorite Air Maxes. Or any color of the AM90s with the same blocking as the Infrared is good on my book. 

 

Myrene Academia (@mapins)

When and how did you first see the Nike Air Max? 

I think the first time I was actually conscious of the Nike Air Max and really wanted a pair was when I saw Bjork wearing the silver 97s in a magazine with a long skirt and I thought it was really cool so I wanted a pair.

I think it was the 98 or 97. and I didn’t find any here. Fortunately, Diego was on a trip to the States and I asked him to buy a pair and he did. Thanks a lot Diegs.

Is there one particular Air Max model / colorway you have a personal connection to?

Might be the first one. I wore it to death. I remember the day it gave out on me. It was a gig out of town and it got cancelled halfway thru. We were on the expressway to the South. We had to go back. Soon as I got out of the van and walked to the car, those shoes gave out. Fortunately that gig didn’t pull through because I would have played that gig in socks. So that gave me enough time to change it.

What makes the Air Max stand out from all the other shoes in your collection?

They’re really comfortable. They go with a whole lot of things. Wide pants. Cropped pants. They’re really just versatile for me I think. And they look good!


Michaelo Cortez (@mktcitymobbin)

Is there one particular Air Max model / colorway you have a personal connection to?

I got the 2010 Air Max 90 Infrareds. Those are my favorite. I’d wear those every time. I made sure that I had a black snapback, a white t-shirt, and cargo shorts, and those Air Maxes. That was my go-to outfit. Those gave up on me around 2015, 2016. For something I’ve had for six years, the condition was pristine. 

[I told my partner], “I know it’s impractical for me to be buying sneakers especially when we’re saving up for a house but can you at least let me buy sneakers for myself and for [our daughter] Brynn.” 

I want to leave that kind of legacy with my kid. [My partner] Paula is already teaching her what she needs to know.She’s going to get smart because of her mom. But I want her to have swag because of her dad. I want her to grow up wearing fly shit. I want her to look back and say that her dad always kept me wearing Air Maxes. Every time the Air Max 90 comes out, I’m getting her a pair. Every time she outgrows a size, I’m getting her a pair.


How is sneaker collecting different now compared to before?

All my rich classmates would always be updated with their sneakers. I wanted to make up for the times that I couldn’t get them, the times my mom couldn’t get them for me. That’s what made me go hard with sneaker collecting.

Fast forward a few years after, it turned into just me appreciating sneakers: the quality, the thought that went into the shoe, the material. It was more of being a fan of sneakers. 

What makes the Air Max stand out from all the other shoes in your collection?

Air Maxes for me are one of the best sneakers ever, and that goes for the whole Air Max line. Before the Air Max 1, people were starting to doubt Tinker Hatfield. ‘84 he came out with the Jordan 1s, Jordan 2s. Lots of groundbreaking stuff, and then he comes out with the Air Max. Like how is that going to work? But it did.

So imagine from ‘87 to 2021, the Air Max’s reputation is untarnished. Everyone wears Air Maxes. 

On 3.26, Commonwealth will host a conversation with guests via Clubhouse on the significance of The Nike Air Max throughout the years. Tap in here.