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Nike's 2018 Highlight Reel

Date: December 27 2018

By: Rob Marfell

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What a goddamn year Nike had. With more sweeping turns and big-name drama than a Michael Bay film, their 2018 was characterised by turbulence. They weathered Drake’s mercurial moods, surmounted far-right protests, learned from internal shortcomings, and vaulted over all the bullshit to come out on top.

That’s the macro view. Zooming in offers a detailed account defining the modern Nike brand. And since you probably can’t remember what you did last week, let alone what Nike did all year, we’ve chopped up the Swoosh’s 2018 into easily digestible chunks. 

Lace up your Monarchs. We’re going for a walk down memory lane.

'WHAT WAS NIKE THINKING'

While Colin Kaepernick first knelt in protest in 2016, things got their most heated this year, after Nike threw their full support behind him. September saw Kaepernick join the Swoosh to front their ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign. Imagery appeared prompting people to ‘Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything’, which prompted political backlash and humorous protests.

After #NikeBoycott started trending, people posted videos of them burning their Nike shoes and images of their de-Swooshed socks. A Louisiana mayor even tried to ban them from his local area. Trump tweeted that they were ‘getting absolutely killed’, which turned out to be fake news because Nike’s shares closed out September 14 at a record high of $83.49. In fact, that was their sixth-straight day of record highs — a boon many attributed to their Kaepernick support. All we need now is for that loot to funnel straight into a Kaepernick signature.

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Image via End Clothing

Rob Tiger

RETRO REVIVAL

Every year is a big retro year for Nike. But this time, Beaverton’s finest decided to zap life into two of their biggest lines: Nike SB and ACG. Though All Conditions Gear actually resurfaced a couple years back, Mowabbs, Humaras, and the esteemed Air Revaderchi got the wandering outdoors line back on track with releases true to their roots.

Similarly, Nike Skateboarding returned to power with a reprise of the ‘Diamond’ and ‘Lobster’ Dunks, which had young SB heads excited to be wearing them, and old SB heads excited to harp on about how good they were back in the day.

Another retro that can’t go unnamed is the Air Max Plus in its OG colourways. The ne’er-do-well cult-classic celebrated its 20th anniversary by returning in ‘Orange Tiger’ and ‘HyperBlue’, along with a ‘Dawn’ colourway from designer Sean McDowell’s first sketches. Oddly, the Tigers were mislabelled as the ‘Sunset’ — a close but entirely different colourway — which made the release very confusing to blog about. Doesn’t matter. Now that we have our pairs, all is forgiven. 

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TOE-TO-TOE TECH

Nike are the leaders in sneaker tech. Hands down, no doubt about it. If you say otherwise, you’re a blue-blooded hater. However, within the broad range of magic pumped out of Beaverton, there is one development they hadn’t competed with until 2018: BOOST.

This year saw Nike trail adidas into full-length responsive cushioning with React foam. The Epic React helmed the tech, but it was the year-owning React Element 87 silhouette that legitimised the invention. Like the Air Max 1 did for Air tech, the Element 87 proved React could go toe-to-toe in any arena.

But React wasn’t the only sci-fi update. The Air Max 270 brought bubble-butt chic to malls everywhere as the first lifestyle-dedicated Air Max. Meanwhile, Nike By You stands to revolutionise the level of customer autonomy within colabs. And we can’t forget the Shox Gravity, which sprung into action to revive tech that we didn’t (and still don’t) know we needed.

Still, decades from now, when Nike hagiographers are teaching Swoosh History 101 at Beaverton University, it’s React that will be 2018’s defining advancement.

STAYING CONNECTED

Everyone wants to work with Nike. And while it sometimes seems like they do, 2018’s list of Swoosh collaborators is highly curated. Some of the big names included Sean Wotherspoon, Jerry Lorenzo, Skepta, Piet Parra, Tom Sachs and, somehow, Taco from Odd Future. With retailers, SB Dunks from Diamond Supply and Concepts reigned supreme. This was also Kendrick Lamar’s first year with the Swoosh after joining super late in 2017. While they all proved to be an asset to Nike, the biggest name in their Rolodex was at their throat.

Drake spent most of the year throwing subliminal shade at Nike by coming out in support of their biggest rival. He began by rocking Yeezys and steadily moved his way up to an entry level collection of BOOST. Alas, rumours that he was leaving Nike for adidas were squashed when Pusha T placed Drake on the surgical table and sliced him limb from limb. It was all a very petty affair — you can read up on Drake’s entire fling with adidas here

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Via @gc11 on Instagram

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Via Stadium Goods

Off White Nike Air Max 97 Sneaker Freaker

Via Neymar

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Via Hypebeast

ABLOH-HOLICS ANONYMOUS

And now for the only Nike connection most of you cared about in 2018: Virgil Abloh. ‘The Ten’ quickly morphed into ‘The Hundred’, as Off-White colabs saturated social feeds and shovelled money into reseller pockets. While many hollered about Abloh jumping the shark, Off-White x Nike drops rarely missed. Everything from the ‘Polar’ Presto pack to the ‘Spooky’ Blazer popped. Serena’s Air Max 97s hit as hard as she does, and the ‘UNC’ Jays held their own against 2017’s ‘Chicago’ phenoms.

As always, hype turned sneaker culture into a circus. The #ReadyMadeOffWhite challenge launched a trend of dying sneakers that ‘dead-head’ John Mayer excelled at. Kanye was busted with Prestos in his wardrobe. Judge Judy even settled an $8800 USD Off-White Jordan scam.

Next year, it looks like Virgil will be taking up track and field. And while the cynic inside suggests Off-White will run out of puff, we’re still rooting for Abloh to take a W. 

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