The All-Time Greatest Nike Air Max 90s: Part 1
2020 marks the 30th anniversary of Tinker Hatfield's Air Max icon, so you can bet that next year will be a big one for the retro runner. In fact, the celebration has seemingly already begun: Undefeated recently turned out their own AM90 colabs as an unofficial kickoff of sorts for the commemorative milestone.
So, ahead of next year's big 3-0, we're looking back at the best Air Max 90s for the latest instalment of our All-Time Greatest series.
Naturally, OG colourways and collaborations abound, so check out part one of our picks below, and stay tuned for the second instalment soon.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Infrared’ (1990)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Infrared’ (1990)
No list of best-ever Air Max 90s would be complete without the shoe’s OG ‘Infrared’ colourway. So, instead of saving the best for last, we’re getting this unimpeachable classic out of the way early. This is the colourway that introduced Tinker Hatfield’s iconic runner to the world, and the one that will always be associated with the retro silhouette.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Laser Blue’ (1990)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Laser Blue’ (1990)
‘Infrared’ aside, the ‘Laser Blue’ look may be the Air Max 90’s very best. Another OG colourway from the shoe’s 1990 debut, these featured the exact same colour-blocking as their ‘Infrared’ counterpart, but swapped out the reddish hue for a neon shade of blue, while adding white leather to the mix.
Dave's Quality Meats x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Bacon’ (2004)Dave's Quality Meats x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Bacon’ (2004)
Dave’s Quality Meats really brought home the bacon with their 2004 Air Max 90 colab, taking cues from the original store’s butcher shop–inspired interior to give the Air Max icon a breakfast-ready makeover. Clad in tan leather and suede, the instant classic featured just the right dark brown contrasts to go with meaty pink and red accents. The OG proved so successful that DQM revisited the design five years later for 2009’s corresponding Air Max 90 Current Huarache.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Crepe’ (2004)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Crepe’ (2004)
Fun fact: 2004’s ‘Crepe’ release didn’t actually feature crepe outsoles. Hell, it didn’t even employ a ‘crepe’ hue on the upper. Nonetheless, the unofficial name of this ‘Mushroom’- and ‘Birch’-coloured release stuck thanks to its coveted Air Max 1 counterpart. The AM1 and AM90 were also joined by a matching Air Burst to complete the premium hemp-constructed pack, all of which were capped off with splashes of ‘Gulf Blue’ that popped on the neutral base.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Powerwall’ Pack (2005/2006)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Powerwall’ Pack (2005/2006)
The Swoosh counted down to 2006’s game-changing Air Max 360 with a bunch of limited-edition ‘Powerwall’ Air Maxes as part of the ‘History of Air’ celebration. The Air Max 90s from the range are some of our favourites, and have long been amongst the most coveted. Picking just one from the bunch is no easy task, but the Vintage Purple/Industrial Orange/Black colourway has always stood out thanks to its gorgeous hues and perfect use of contrast stitching.
size? x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Clerks’ (2006)size? x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Clerks’ (2006)
As a nod to Brighton Beach, the UK’s size? dropped an exclusive ‘Clerks’ edition of the AM90 back in 2006. The Bone/Teal/Baroque Brown drop has been coveted ever since for its luxurious construction, which paired nappy suede with tumbled leather and faux croc mudguards. The perfectly-placed pink accents didn’t hurt, either.
Patta x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Homegrown’ (2006)Patta x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Homegrown’ (2006)
Just a couple of short years after bursting onto the scene in Amsterdam, Dutch streetwear imprint Patta was honoured with the opportunity to leave their mark on the AM90. 2006’s ‘Homegrown’ drop flawlessly incorporated leather, suede, and perforated nubuck across a green upper – while the leather panels even came with leafy detailing as a nod to the prevailing weed culture in Patta’s hometown stomping grounds. Finally, ‘Orange Blaze’ accents were also employed as a nod to the Netherlands’ national team’s iconic home kits. Then, in 2007, Patta celebrated the launch of State Magazine with an orange version of the design, which can still command upwards of $10,000.
HUF x Nike Air Max 90 ‘HUFquake’ Pack (2007)HUF x Nike Air Max 90 ‘HUFquake’ Pack (2007)
When Keith Hufnagel and company got their hands on the AM90 in 2007, they channelled the look of another classic Tinker Hatfield design: 1989’s Air Jordan 4. They didn’t just borrow that silhouette’s ‘Military Blue’ look, though. The HUF crew also added an earth-shattering motif to the ‘Neutral Grey’ panels, seemingly a playful take on the Jumpman’s old elephant print, and a nod to San Francisco’s ubiquitous earthquakes. Two years later, the aptly named ‘HUFquake’ scheme hit the Swoosh’s unique Air Max 90 Current Huarache hybrid, too, albeit with a slightly different colour palette.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Warhawk’ (2007)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Warhawk’ (2007)
Nike have a long history of dope military-inspired releases, and the ‘Warhawk’ may be the best of them all. Part of 2007’s ‘Armed Forces’ pack, the release took cues from the P-40 Warhawk fighters that took to the skies during World War II, and transferred its unmistakable livery to the retro runner, menacing shark teeth and all.
Dizzee Rascal x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’ (2009)Dizzee Rascal x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’ (2009)
Grime icon Dizzee Rascal marked the release of his fourth album, Tongue n’ Cheek, with his very own Air Max 90 collaboration in 2009. Rascal tapped the LP’s cover artist, Ben Drury, for a little help, cooking up a creamy AM90 with a colour palette inspired by the album’s cover. The results saw dusty pink tongues alongside translucent moulding, premium materials, and reflective heels bearing the silhouette of Rascal himself. ‘Tongue n’ Cheek’ was also embroidered in red across the tongues, while the Dirtee Stank Records logo could be seen through the translucent outsoles. Proceeds from the sale of the extremely limited colab went to benefit the charity Tower Hamlets Summer University (now known as Futureversity), which offers independent learning programs to young Brits in London.
Header image via Nike.