The return of the Nike Air Max BW in 2021 for its 30th anniversary has appropriately shone the spotlight back on an immensely popular model in the Air Max family. While its basic history and facts have been covered ad nauseam, and are easily found on Google, here’s a deeper dive into some lesser known details about the ‘Beedubs’.
The Air Max IV (4)
The topic of the Air Max BW’s name was already discussed a few months ago when the 2021 version hadn’t released yet, but there’s still more to explore. Back in the 1990s, the incumbent Air Max model in the series was known as just that: Air Max. However, technically speaking, the subsequent successors to the Air Max 1 – the Air Max Light, Air Max 90 and Air Max BW – were invariably referred to as the Air Max II, Air Max III, and Air Max IV, respectively. This is confirmed by early Tinker Hatfield sketches of the BW, whereby he referred to the new model as the Air Max 4.
Nike hybrid sneakers aren’t new. Within five years of the Air Max 1’s 1987 introduction, the Swoosh were already doing the Max-ster mash with models like the Air Max 90/1, long before the practice really picked up in the 2010s. And among those early hybrids is a very, very rare Air Classic BW/Air 180 crossover from circa 1991-92. Sadly, photos of this obscurity are about as clear as those of Bigfoot. Trust us on this one. In more recent times, hybrids have included the Air Max Modular 98 SI and the Air Max Modular 95 SI, which fused the BW with the Air Max Plus and Air Max 95, respectively; the B Huarache that blended the Air Huarache with the BW; and the Air Max 97/BW, a combination of the BW upper and Air Max 97 sole.
The Skinny Box
Today, shoeboxes may be all sorts of shapes and sizes, but most sneakers are now usually housed in rectangular boxes with a fairly reasonable width and length. However, back in the day, many Nike shoes – including the Air Max BW – were stuffed into significantly narrower boxes. It may have saved space, but it certainly didn’t stop the uppers from getting crushed. At the same time, in 1991, Nike probably weren’t expecting their sneakers to be put back in the box after they were taken out the first time. Thirty years later, after a prolonged period existing in boxes with more practical aspect ratios, the Air Max BW is again packaged in a skinny box. It seems period correctness doesn’t stop at the shoes themselves. And the purists are pretty happy about that.
Big Windows, Same Size Air Units
As any long-suffering Air Max fan knows, the truth hurts. Here’s a cold, hard fact about the BW that sneakerheads need to come to terms with: it actually shares the same Air unit as its Air Max 90 predecessor. Here are the words verbatim from Nike in 2016: ‘The Air Max Classic BW – envisioned by Tinker Hatfield and originally released in 1991 – utilised the same Nike Air-Sole unit as the Air Max 90 but enlarged its window, and thus became colloquially known as “Big Window”.’ This stunning revelation may explain why the BW (aka Air Max IV) was marketed alongside the Air Max 90 (aka Air Max III) in the ‘Air Even More Max’ print ads – a claim Nike seemed to tacitly retract 25 years later with the above quote. It’s also worth noting that the flagship Air Max shoe in ’91 was the Air 180.
‘The Air Max Classic BW utilised the same Nike Air-Sole unit as the Air Max 90.’
In addition to the Air Max BW’s propensity for hybridisation, the bubble basher has also undergone multiple material transformations. Beyond its OG microfibre and mesh build, it has been remade in typical lifestyle options like leather and suede, to more experimental finishes. These include, but are not limited to: Engineered Mesh, Torch fabric, Vachetta tan leather, faux snakeskin, Hyperfuse aka Tape, and even jacquard textiles as part of the Ultra version of the BW. These material expeditions have also seen offspring like the Air Max BW Ultra and Air Classic BW Gen II. Those who have been into sneakers since before the Nike Sportswear era will likely recall all of these interesting offshoots.,
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