The All-Time Greatest Nike Air Max 90s: Part 2
Part 1 of our retrospective included the likes of the 'Infrared' OG, its underrated 'Laser Blue' counterpart, and collaborations from the likes of DQM, HUF, Patta, and size?. In Part 2, we showcase everything from 2003's 'Silver Surfer' to ACG-inspired executions, and even collaborations with Staple, Footpatrol, KAWS, and Virgil Abloh.
Check out all of our picks below and stay tuned for more All-Time Greatest entries as we continue to tackle the classics.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Escape 2’ (2003)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Escape 2’ (2003)
Thanks to its clean combination of brown hues and premium leather construction, 2003’s ‘Escape’ drops went down as instant classics. The ‘Escape 2’ releases were arguably even better than the originals, opting for a paler colour palette and pale blue accents. While the AM90 was the best of the bunch, you really can’t go wrong with the matching Huaraches or Air Max 93, either.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Silver Surfer’ (2003)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Silver Surfer’ (2003)
Like the aforementioned ‘Escape’, the ‘Silver Surfer’ AM90 was another 2003 highlight, with Nike putting a new spin on the underrated ‘Sunburst’ OG. Leather construction and a neutral white, grey, and leather look allowed for red and blue branding cues to pop. Meanwhile, custom graphic insoles made these a collectors item in the years that followed.
Staple x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Navigation’ Pack (2004)Staple x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Navigation’ Pack (2004)
When it comes to Staple-designed Nikes, the ‘Pigeon’ SB Dunks will always be the first thing that comes to mind — and rightfully so. However, Staple and the Swoosh have dropped a bunch of other colabs over the years, and 2004’s ‘Navigation’ drop stands out among the stable. The pack, which included Air Max 90s alongside Shox NZs and Air Bursts, was highlighted by laser-etched maps throughout, inspired by traversing the Big Apple on foot. The women’s AM90 is the one that’s gotten most of the shine over the years, but we’re partial to the men’s Olive Grey/Dark Blue Grey-Sable Green colourway, which always seemed like a more appropriate and rugged tribute to the NYC streets.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Sertig’ (2005)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Sertig’ (2005)
The Sertig’s combination of white, black, yellow, and red has always been one of the All Conditions Gear lineup’s go-to colourways and, in 2005, Nike took the ACG look and applied it to the Air Max 90. The result was an AM90 that appeared to be fit for the trail, and one of the Swoosh’s best-ever Air Max nods to the ACG's off-roading silhouettes.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Seahawks’ (2006)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Seahawks’ (2006)
The ‘Seahawks’ Air Max 90 may not have been an official nod to Seattle’s NFL franchise, but it might as well have been. With ‘Light Poison Green’ and ‘Blue Sapphire’ accents, these perfectly matched the squad’s old uniforms, and featured impeccable colour-blocking to boot. For us, these are an even better take on the silhouette’s OG ‘Spruce Lime’ colourway, which was most recently seen on the Air Max 90/1 hybrid.
Footpatrol x Nike Air Max 90 Pack (2006)Footpatrol x Nike Air Max 90 Pack (2006)
After helping Nike resurrect the Air Stab in 2005 with a colourful colab, the Footpatrol squad turned their attention to the Air Max 90 the following year. Where the Air Stabs were highlighted by bold purple and blue hues, the AM90s went with a more understated colour palette as a juxtaposition to the design’s polka-dot motif. Leather-constructed brown and black pairs dropped in January of 2006 to kick off the new year, complete with a special in-store release party that featured matching AM90 pastries.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘King of the Mountain’ (2008)Nike Air Max 90 ‘King of the Mountain’ (2008)
The unmistakable Mowabb aesthetic has appeared on a variety of Nike silhouettes over the years, but none can hold a candle to 2008’s ‘King of the Mountain’. A precursor to 2018’s matching Air Max 95, these took things to another level with luxurious leather and nubuck overlays, faux snakeskin mudguards, and champagne pink accents. ‘King of the Mountain’ was even embroidered across the heels, while custom graphics could be seen through the icy outsoles.,
KAWS x Nike Air Max 90 Pack (2008)KAWS x Nike Air Max 90 Pack (2008)
Sneakers and contemporary pop art collided back in 2008 when KAWS put his own spin on the Air Max 90. Decked out in white with a leather and mesh construction, the colab didn’t just feature the Swoosh’s ubiquitous ‘Volt’ hue, but also incorporated ‘XX’ stitching as a nod to KAWS’ now-defunct OriginalFake label. Depending on who you ask, the pack’s Air Max 90 Current was considered even better than the AM90 thanks to its four-way stretch textile, Free-like tooling, streamlined toebox, and predominately black look.
atmos x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Tiger Camo’ (2013)atmos x Nike Air Max 90 ‘Tiger Camo’ (2013)
Military-inspired motifs have been one of the go-tos for atmos as far back as we can remember, and the ‘Tiger Camo’ Air Max 90s were coveted from the outset because of the way they expertly employed their namesake pattern. The use of black and grey allowed for the camouflage to fly under the radar, while bright orange branding popped on the smooth-leather construction. Last but not least, speckled midsoles and stark white laces rounded out the package.
Nike Air Max 90 ‘Reverse Infrared’ (2015)Nike Air Max 90 ‘Reverse Infrared’ (2015)
Given the number of ways Nike have gone back to the classic ‘Infrared’ look over the years, it was only a matter of time before the Swoosh reversed the OG colourway to give us something entirely new. The early 2010s saw exactly that as Nike finally offered up a ‘Reverse Infrared’ edition of the Air Max 90. A few years later, though, the look was perfected with a few subtle tweaks that made the design a true reversal of the original 1990 icon.
Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 (2017, 2019)Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 (2017, 2019)
The importance of Virgil Abloh’s ‘The Ten’ collaboration with Nike can’t be understated. Not only did it give us thoughtfully reimagined takes on some of the Swoosh’s most beloved silhouettes, but it catapulted Abloh and Off-White to new levels of fame and recognition, and set the stage for the design language that has dominated footwear ever since. The Air Max 90 from the collection is up there with the range’s Air Jordan 1, Air Force 1, and Presto re-works, whether it be the original white colourway or 2019’s black and ‘Desert Ore’ follow-ups.
Header image via Nike.