The first time Phil Knight, founder of Nike, tested a sneaker prototype with an air unit he was stunned. It was Frank Rudy’s idea, an inventor who had been rejected by other brands before landing to Nike. It happened one morning in March 1977, and from that moment on the Swoosh brand’s objective was to put more air and less foam in the midsole of their footwear. More air means less foam, less weight and more durability.
Twenty years after, Nike finally had the technology needed for the air unit to occupy the entire midsole. Christian Tesser worked on different elements: less color, visible technology, metallic and reflective materials, all with a more sophisticated style. The Japanese bullet train became the example to follow in the design of the shoe.
The Air Max 97 was not only key in the evolution of the air unit, but it also had a strong social repercussion. It released just as we were preparing for the new millennium, and technology needed to be useful, visible and shocking. The Air Max 97 was linked to the dance floors across Europe, especially in Italy, where the shoe broke tribe and social class barriers. An unnamed legend tells that a famous pair of designers closed its fashion shows combining suits with Air Max 97. Remember Moby in the music video of the main theme of James Bonds Tomorrow Never Dies?