There are few shoes more steeped in history than the Nike Air Max 1. With its revolutionary visible air unit in its heel providing a step up from the competition, everyone had to have a pair when it made its debut in 1987 (myself and my family included). However, did you know that before Air Max 1, there was another? Meet the Air Max Zero aka, ‘The one before the 1’ - a trailblazing shoe that was designed in 1985, un-released until 2015 and the very first piece in the Air Max puzzle.
Now available in a range of new season colourways including a striking triple-black launch, it provides both a step back in time and step forward in the style stakes. A pre-concept design to the iconic Air Max 1 by then-developer Mark Parker and Tinker Nike Air Max 720 Damen Hatfield, Air Max Zero is more than a mere footnote in the Air Max 1 story having played a key part in its final development. Why then did we need to wait so long to get our hands on a pair? Essentially, because it was way ahead of its time. “Not just in regards to its appearance, but also in terms of the construction it required,” Tinker Hatfield says. “The technology and materials available to us at the time weren’t advanced enough to execute the original vision.”
However, fast-forward almost three decades later, and a new chapter was ready to be written. Seemingly forgotten in the Department of Nike Archives, its sketch caught the attention of the Nike Sportswear design team some 30 years down the line when they were searching for ways to celebrate the second annual Air Max Day. Upon updating it with the latest Nike innovations, Nike Air Max Command Mujer it was then launched to a modern day audience to provide a covetable piece of Nike history in a range of new season colours, and provide both style and substance in equal measure. Its key design features? While still keeping its distinctive visible Max Air Unit in the heel, its bootie-inspired construction and sock-like breathable textile upper are nods to Tinker’s original concept. When combined with its premium triple black colourway, lightweight cushioning, sleek silhouette and super comfort, it makes for a style and lifestyle staple of the highest order and a must-have in anyone’s shoe wardrobe if you ask us.
Nike had the technology. What it needed was the perfect package to reveal it to the world. So Hatfield put pen to paper to do just that.
What happened next is history: Hatfield famously travels to Paris, where he sees the Nike Air Max 90 Femme Centre Pompidou and is inspired by the building’s unique inside-out design. Upon returning to Oregon, he sits down and brings the concept of visible air to life in the form of a revolutionary running shoe.
This is the story that most know – but it is only half true. The Nike Air Max 1 wasn’t designed in one Nike Air Pegasus 83 Femme shot. Rather, it was the result of several design iterations, one of the earliest being the concept of the Air Max Zero. Unknowingly channeling designs that would not come to fruition until many years later, Hatfield focused on a shoe that featured only the necessities for supreme comfort and performance.
“In many ways, it was ahead of its time,” Hatfield says. “Not just in regards to its appearance, but also in terms of the construction it required. The technology and materials available to us at the time weren’t advanced enough to execute the original vision.”
Faced with reality, Hatfield was forced to reinterpret his design. This led to the creation of the Nike Air Max 1, which singlehandedly kickstarted a revolution in the running shoe industry. Visible air would soon make its way from running to basketball. Over time, Nike Adidas Superstar Donna Air Max would transcend its running roots to become a lifestyle staple recognized around the world.