Aside from his day job writing for Pagesdigital and Life Without Andy, Christopher Kevin Au has been proudly reppin’ Sydney with his impressive haul of Air Max 95s. In fact, his love for Sergio Lozano’s masterpiece has earned him a spot in Nike’s ‘Icons of Air’ as part of this year’s Air Max Day celebrations, so we sat down to chop it up about our mutual favourite topic — the Air Max 95.
Why do you think the Air Max 95 has become so iconic in sneaker culture?
The Air Max 95 is so strange, but it works. When you first look at it, you're left confused but ultimately intrigued. You want to know more, and more importantly, you want to see how it looks on foot. It was such a brave departure from previous Air Max models that it was always bound to draw interest – from the miniature Swoosh to the bizarre overall aesthetic. The 'Air Max' branding on the tongue, obtrusive lace loops, wavy panels and bubble overload make the 95 a black sheep in the best way possible. To me, the 95 is the weird cousin of the Air Max family that plays in a hardcore band and drinks every other band's rider at the show. It just oozes with confidence and a dash of obnoxiousness. Whenever you lace up a pair of 95s, you'll have to work your outfit around your kicks because it's such a strong statement piece.
The 95 has had a huge resurgence over the last year, what do you think are the main reasons for the comeback?
The 95 has a strong affiliation with the ‘UK Bass’ and ‘Grime’ scenes, and it became much more popular last year when everybody wanted to dress like Skepta. Weirdly enough, the 95 has never been embraced in Australia quite like other Air Max models – although now I see more and more weird-looking sneakers being championed by mainstream circles, high fashion types and Tumblr-reliant subcultures alike. The 95, 97 and TN have become more prominent in Sydney over the last two years outside of ‘eshay’ circles, and it seems like everybody wants to get a pair of Tailwind 4s nowadays. The ‘train station-chic’ look has definitely done the rounds. Hopefully Nike can top it off by bringing back the Air Max 96 this year for the 20th anniversary. We want the 96!
Why do you think people are still drawn to the OG ‘neon’ colourway after all these years?
The Air Max 95 silhouette is over twenty years old and still somehow looks futuristic. I think that the Neon really complemented the other-worldly upper and made it look like something delivered to Planet Earth by swaggy aliens who probably cruise around the stratosphere in a low-rider spaceship. Also, contrasting against the greyscale upper, I think that the jabs of Neon on the lace loops added just the right amount of colour and zest to turn heads and make them a classic.
The air bag design was revolutionary in its own right, can you tell us a bit about the design and how it continued to innovate on Air technology?
The whole story of the Air Max 95 being based on the human anatomy is really fascinating; sneaker brands love to attach quirky narratives to certain colourways, and the 95 has one of the best built inherently into its design. The Swoosh being downsized and hiding at the rear was also a big gamble that I think paid off. The 95 was the first model to have forefoot bubbles pumped to different pressures, which explains why they're so damn comfy – especially for a wide-footed goof like me. The bubbles may have shrunk over the years, but there's still plenty of them!
How many pairs of Air Max 95 do you have?
The number has fluctuated greatly throughout the years, but I would say around the 50 mark at the moment!
I just really like wearing 95s. Despite living in Australia for 25 years, I have never come close to wearing a pair of thongs – that would be wasting valuable opportunities to wear Air Max. For me, sneakers are always the head-turners and most important part of an outfit. Thanks to its boldness, the 95 has been a huge focus for me and I've latched onto it with both hands and feet. True love can't be explained in words.
What are your earliest memories of the Air Max 95?
Like a lot of my generation, I remember The Game name-dropping the 95 in 'Hate It Or Love It' – but it took me a while to warm to the shoe. Back then, I was a model Asian high school student who loved wearing Air Force 1s. I wasn't confident wearing different silhouettes because I was still young and finding my feet. As I graduated into the Air Max range, I was heavily into the BW – which is still my second favourite AM – before purchasing my first 95 in my hometown of Hong Kong. If I remember correctly, it was an Infrared-inspired model, which is strange because you'd obviously associate that with the 90. By the way, Sporty Spice also wore these, which might explain why I fell in love with her for the best part of a decade!
What is your favourite part of the shoe?
The lace loops are prominent on the 95 so they always catch my eye first. Also, the wavy side panels offer so many different options in terms of colour and texture which is always exciting to a nerd like me.
Is there a particular colourway/release that stands out as a favourite?
Since I used to be a goth in my more angsty years, anything that's gloomy and/or monochrome also gets a big tick from me. I'm also a big fan of pastels, so the Miami Vice 95s are a no-brainer and always get people frothing. The Stash and Neons are obvious choices, too. To be honest, some of my favourite 95 models are general releases – Foot Locker shelves have been carrying most of the heat recently. The whole 'exclusivity' angle that a lot of sneakerheads obsess over isn't overly important to me.
The AM95 has been reinvented time and again over the years, with new materials and construction methods. Is there a particular variation that you like the most?
The regular Air Max 95 models will always reign supreme in my books. While the Engineered Mesh and No Sew versions look more sleek and lightweight, I love the rugged aesthetic of the original. The different layers of suede all stacked on top of one another bring a tear to my eye. The Jacquard 95s that have been coming out recently offer a nice remix, and I'm a fan of the abundance of Flywire on the upper. I'm also a sucker for the Air Max 360 sole, so the 95 x 360 fusions are a winner for me.
If you had the opportunity to create your very own version, what would be your ultimate Air Max 95 look like?
My ultimate Air Max 95 would be a tribute to another song that name-checked the 95 - 'Bricks' by Gucci Mane. It would have a metallic gold upper with a white Swoosh, white rope laces and a white midsole with clear air bubbles and gold speckle. The sole would feature lyrics to the track printed in cursive, while the tongue would have Gucci Mane's face stitched onto it with his ice cream tattoo in 3M. There would be 1017 pairs and each pair would be numbered on the insole. Somebody at Nike please make this a reality!
Watch Christopher and the rest of the Masters of Air talk during the MAX TALK event at Sydney's Air Max Lab. Head to the Air Max Hub to RSVP now.
Photography by Lester Jones