Back in the mid-90s, a paradigm shift tilted the athletic footwear industry towards tech-heavy, kinetically enhanced design. Over at Nike, that was evident in shoes such as the Air Max 95, which transitioned the Max franchise into a high-powered visual statement. Three years later, the Air Max Plus – also known on the street as the TN or Tuned 1 – hit the shelves.
With spray-faded mesh uppers in striking blue and orange colourways, the TN was no shrinking violet. It didn’t just meekly sit around on the shelf hoping for attention, it was right up in your face from day one. The trademark Thermoplastic Vinyl Resin (TPVR) exoskeletal mesh upper and sculpted midfoot shanks infused with glitter added glamour, while the heavily detailed sole unit popped eyeballs from beneath. Amalgamated with the shoe’s undeniably aggressive stance, the Tuned Air package ignited a sonic boom vision of the future that rocked melons the world over.
A freak of nature, the TN has also nurtured a handy reputation as the premier bad-boy of the Max line-up. In certain precincts the world over, the TN’s good name is tarnished, tagged as a sneaker worn by people who are either up to no good or about to be. How this ‘prestigious’ rep was earned is a culturally intriguing scenario. To put it plain and simple, plain and simple people are intimidated by the TN, whereas the wild and crazy are magnetically drawn to the wild and crazy.
Holding down the crown as one of the most expensive Nike runners at Foot Locker for well over a decade is another accolade that has certainly added cachet to the TN’s street-level hero status. And yet... there’s an undeniable and insatiable thirst for the TN that simply refuses to rust out and fade away.
From all-leather make-ups to patterns and prints, themed releases, celebratory issues, fluorescent highlights and reflective metallics, countless renditions have been delivered through Foot Locker doors over the years.
Words by Oliver Georgiou, this story first appeared in Sneaker Freaker Issue 31.