Back in the seventies, a little brand started called Blue Ribbon Sports, which in turn became a colossus called Nike. None know this early era better than running afficionado Lindy Darrell. With a closet chock full of only the finest and rarest Nike ‘flats’ to have ever graced the track, Lindy has patiently and methodically assembled what must be one of the finest stockpiles of early Nike sneakers in the world. Strap on your spikes as we hurdle through the ups and downs of Lindy’s collection and behold the power of nylon!
Hey Lindy. How did you first became interested in track and distance running?
When Frank Shorter won the marathon gold in Munich, the running boom hit America. A lot of folks wanted to take a shot at running 26.2 miles and I was one of them. In the late sixties and early seventies I would jog a bit, but after 1972, I went crazy for the next three decades. My last race was the 1996 100th Boston Marathon. Although I don’t race these days, I stay active in the running scene, having a son that runs at the college level. He’s faster than I was! OUCH!!!
Obviously, Pre prefontaine was a big hero to most distance runners, do you think he would have made his mark at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and beaten Lasse Virén?
Pre was an animal, but so was Virén. Pre was young and had plenty left. Who knows? For me, I will admire him for taking on the AAU and the impact he had on helping the American Olympic/Pro runners to be able to train and compete with the rest of the world. Nike also had a big part in this.
How do you define vintage in regards to sneakers?
Vintage to me is 1972 to early 1980. The answer is easy on this one. I only collect vintage Nike running shoes and track spikes made in Japan and the USA. Again, this is just my opinion of what I consider vintage.
When did you first come across Nike?
I hacked around in a pair of Onitsuka Corsair and even ran in Converse Track Star when I first started. I would have to say 1974/75 I purchased my first Nikes. They were the Waffle Trainer. Over the next few years, I ran in many different Nike shoes. LD1000, Sting, Eagle and LDV. In the early years, I became fond of the Elite. From 1979 to 1985 Nike produced some of the best running shoes ever made such as the Mariah, American Eagle and Air Edge to name a few. To this day, it is my opinion they haven’t even come close to making a shoe as good as the Terra TC. First generation Phylon and Permafoam were two fantastic Nike inventions. In 1985 some basketball player for the Chicago Bulls signed an endorsement with Nike and the running shoe had to go to the back of the bus! From 1985 to 1995 Nike running shoes were garbage in my opinion. Nike didn’t need to make good running shoes when ‘AIR MICHAEL’ was on board. They just lost their way and forgot about the runner. They have made some nice shoes as of late. The Jasari and Zoom Kennedy were amazing track spikes.
What makes Nike shoes from this era so amazing? Was it the colors?
There was really nothing like Nike when they first started. Racing flats were nothing more than house slippers. The running boom had started and only a few companies were making running shoes. Nike was cutting-edge. From 1972 to 1985 they really knew what they were doing. I believe it is because the people working for Nike at that time had a passion for what they were doing. Now, Nike is bigger than life itself. They can put a Swoosh on anything and make $$$$$$$$$$$. I guess I still have that old school in me and that’s why I collect the vintage ones. For me, the most amazing part of this era was watching how it evolved, because I grew up with it.
In the beginning, you could hardly tell the difference between Onitsuka and Nike. Same uppers. Same soles. Same colorways. The shoes even had the same names. Some of them being the Boston, Boston73, Marathon, Obori, Kenya – the colors were not flashy. From 1975 to the early eighties, Nike had arrived with the nylon, mesh, leather, suedes, waffles and a crazy brilliant rainbow of colorways. I really have a passion for the wild colorways of the SMU (special make up) Nike. These are rare and hard to find.
Who’s you favorite Nike shoe designer and why?
Jeff Johnson, Geoff Hollister, Nelson Farris and my friend Jeff Sink, who was on the Nike Team that created the Terra TC. He helped in the development of the Phylon midsole. Again, I can’t praise the Terra TC enough. Not from a collector standpoint, but from a runners’ standpoint. If this shoe were produced today, Nike wouldn’t be able to keep it on the shelves.
Have you worn any other brands for recreation or training?
In the seventies, I ran in the Converse World Class Trainer. Not many people ran in them, but they seemed to work for me. I also raced in the Tiger Jayhawk and Tiger Obori. In 1985 I picked up an endorsement with Team Etonic for a couple of years. Etonic racing flats were great, but their training flats just about crippled me. Other than a few different times, I have always been in Nike.
When did you start your awesome collection? What’s the rarest piece in the collection?
My collection started 10 to 20 years ago. It is really hard to say which ones are the rarest or have the most value. Although I purchase different models, my collection only consists of Nike running shoes and track spikes made in Japan and the USA. I have about 10 pairs of SMU Nikes that are pretty rare. I have a pair of first generation Astrograbber made in Japan that seem to be dinosaurs. At one point, my collection was at 100+ pairs, but there are two pairs that I would still love to get my hands on, the Obori and Boston73.
What is your opinion of the current wave of vintage reissues such as the Daybreak and LDV?
I have not seen the shoes up close, only in pictures. They look awesome. Much better than Nike’s first attempt at reissues. I didn’t really care for the Waffle Racer 2 and the Waffle Trainer reissues from a few years back. As for the Nike X Junya Watanabe, they are a bit too pricey for me – I would rather have the real thing when spending that kind of cash. They are really cool though. I believe Nike has made great strides over the last five to ten years. Their track spikes are very good and the trainers are getting better. The Jasari track spike was amazing! Why did they discontinue it? They seem to always do this, they make something great and then stop producing it. I would love to see them get more involved in the road racing flats like they used to be.
And finally, can you explain what it is about old shoes that makes them so beautiful and alluring?
I believe it is a number of things. First and foremost the materials that were used. For example, hold a deadstock Boston73 in your hands, feel the nylon and the big fat Swoosh and how the stitching is not quite uniform like the ones mass produced these days. The thick foam rubber tongue and that Japan gorilla glue running on the midsole. Even the smell. Just something about being taken back in time with these archives. Like being frozen in time.
It’s my passion.
Top 5 collection Nikes
- New Boston
- Marathon Red/Blue
- Oregon Waffle Racer
Top 5 collection Nike Spikes
- Pre Montreal
- Att West
- Triumph Green/blue/orange
STORY BY TRAINERSPOTTER
This article appeared in Issue 12 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here