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A Brief History of the Nike Air Kukini

Nike Air Kukini Leopard 2022
Image Credit: Up There

Nobody saw the Nike Air Kukini coming in the year 2000. Over 20 years on, most probably still don’t know what to make of the quirky sneaker. For some of the older heads, it’s time to indulge in a bit of Y2K nostalgia during this revision of one of the Swoosh’s most distinct shoes. It’s also an opportunity for a new generation of sneakerheads to be caught in its webbed upper. It seems Nike are so far making this comeback a bit of a sleeper story, so here’s the scoop.

Cultural Capital

Irreverent commercials and cheeky print advertising heroed the Kukini for its ‘easy on, easy off’ fit that was ‘oh so snug’. The Japanese quickly took to the Kukini, with a slew of co.jp editions and also the cryptic ‘B’ designation on many shoe box labels. In fact, there was even an early collaboration with Comme des Garçons disciple Junya Watanabe. A more curious colab from that time was with Coca-Cola to coincide with the Summer Games in Sydney, Australia – of course, they were only available in Japan via a random draw entered by redeeming selected bottle caps.

The Kukini’s cultural grip in the Far East even reached Indonesian cinema, whereby the lead character of cult 2002 coming-of-age film Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? (What’s Up With Love?) wore an all-pink pair. The shoes were burnt into the retinas and memories of many viewers, who finally got a positive ID on the shoes in 2020.

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