Was Nike’s Air Trainer SC One destined to appear in BTTF III?
STORY By Matt Williams
It goes without saying that there are few movies more recognised in sneaker culture than Back to the Future. From the moment we first heard Michael J Fox speak the words ‘power laces’, the relationship between Nike and the classic trilogy was forever immortalised in pop culture. While the Air Mag from BTTF Part II holds pride of place as one the defining icons of the series, second only to the time-travelling DeLorean itself, it wasn’t the series’ only appreciation for the Swoosh, with Marty rocking a pair of well-worn Bruins with vivid red pops throughout the first movie.
When the third and final installment in the series came along, many fans were disappointed that it took the story way back to the Wild West. It’s not that it was a bad movie per se, but after being teased with such a tantalising and creative glimpse of the future, it made for a time travel journey we were reluctant to take. No more hoverboards, no more dehydrated pizza, no more colander-sporting Elijah Wood! Given the film’s setting pre-dated the invention of the sneaker, the possibility of a crossover with the Swoosh was out of the question… or was it? Recently my brother-in-law gave me the mysterious item pictured. He received it from his brother, who received it from his friend, who received it from a friend, who received it from that friend’s friend. No joke. Confusing? Yes, but the mystery has only just begun.
What you see before you is just a simple drawstring bag, about the right size for a pair of sneakers to fit snug. The back of the bag features the ‘Nike Air’ logo in silver, but it’s the front where things get interesting. Just below the logo for Back to the Future Part III is the unmistakable design of the Air Trainer SC High. Endorsed by star athlete Bo Jackson, the cutting-edge trainer made its debut on shelves the very same year of the film’s release in cinemas. Despite not sharing any time together on-screen, the two icons of 1990 are united on a single piece of nylon in one curious piece of cross-licensed merchandise.
I didn’t think too much of it at first, just a tired old relic from some past promotion, but once I started researching its origins, questions quickly began to form. There’s no record of the thing anywhere! Knowing that both sneakerheads and Back to the Future fans alike are some of the most compulsive and meticulous collectors around, I figured someone would know what it was and what it meant.
‘I’ve never seen this item before, and I’ve been in the BTTF business 21 years’, Stephen Clark told me. As the Executive Director of BTTF.com, the official news source and primary fan site for Back to the Future on the Web, few people know this world like Clark. ‘I’m quite confident that there were no commercial products produced by Nike in 1990 as a tie-in with Back to the Future Part III, as I was collecting memorabilia in 1990’, he explained. Clark instead believes it may have been a promotional item given away exclusively at a single event, such as a world premiere. How such a thing would have found its way down to my hands in Australia is beyond me though.
So was this merely a promotional giveaway from the time, or something more? For now we’ll never know for sure but maybe, just maybe, there’s a shoe to go along with this bag that we’ve all forgotten about. Does this make the Air Trainer SC High the official sneaker of Back to the Future Part III? Perhaps not, but it’s about the closest we’ll ever get this side of 1885.