The All-Time Greatest Nike Air Max 1s: Part One
The Air Max 1 is an all-time legend! The Tinker Hatfield – designed sneaker introduced Visible Air to the market – and looked damn good doing so. There have been a lot of amazing AM1 colourways these past 31 years, so we thought we'd take a moment to shine a light on some of our favourites.
In Part One of this two-part series, we give the colabs a rest and take a look at some of the greatest ever in-house AM1 designs that Nike ever put into production.
The appeal of the 'Urawa' Air Max 1 is impossible to ignore. This was one of the first great make-ups of the early-2000s Air Max 1 renaissance and was one of the earliest to explore the concept of an 'inspired' background. The shoe draws its colours from the Japanese J League football team, the Urawa Red Diamonds. The team is also known as the Urawa Dragons, and in tribute, this release replaces the classic 'Nike Air' embroidery on the heel with a stylised dragon.
'Huarache Pack – Euro Release''Huarache Pack – Euro Release'
The European make-up from 2006's Huarache-inspired Air Max 1 pack combined a darkened upper with bright hits of pink and 'Shock Orange'. The perfect combination of clean and crazy.
Crispy clean + purple pops + mini Swooshes = Heaven!
2004's Air Max 1 'Teal' is a beautiful shoe, no doubt, but what makes it truly special is its inspiration. This AM1 serves as an under-the-radar tribute to a forgotten big-bubble beauty – 1994's Air Max 2. It perfectly mimics the Max Squared's signature colourway, although sadly, just like the AM2, any remaining pairs of the AM1 'Teal' are guaranteed to be unwearable due to age.
'The 6''The 6'
Originally only available in Canada, this special edition Air Max 1 paid tribute to Toronto – also known as 'The 6'. A sly Drake homage, these featured whited-out Air bubbles, maple leaves on the tongues and Stone Island-inspired compasses on the heel. Drizzy fan or not, this clean contrast colourway makes a welcome addition to any big bubble rotation – plus, how could we not love an AM1 with a mini Swoosh?
'Grey Mesh''Grey Mesh'
Undeniably the closest we'll ever get to a New Balance 99X x Nike hybrid. Strangely, rumour had it that this release wasn't even the work of Nike at all! Some pairs said the shoes were made in Thailand, while others said 'Made in Thailande'. Whatever the case, whoever made these did an impeccable job!
Clean and classic. This release could easily pass off as an '87 OG and still stands the test of time today.
'BRS Powerwall''BRS Powerwall'
Released as part of the '3 Decades of Cushioning' series, which celebrated the origins of Nike's Air technology, this release was a beautiful homage to Nike's origins as Blue Ribbon Studios. Arguably the best of all the Powerwall releases, it combined brown suede, metallic green mesh, and pink pops – a fusion that sounds like it shouldn't work, but you better believe it does! Sadly, just 144 pairs were made, and those still out there and intact are guaranteed to crumble at the first step!,
'Wings & Waffles''Wings & Waffles'
Another early Air Max 1 special make-up, the 'Wings & Waffles' AM1 celebrated Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj's 1500m World Record. The colourway matched El Guerrouj's record-breaking attire and featured Nike's 'moon' logo, a nod to the Moon Shoe – aka the original waffle-sole runner.
The perfect combination of clean and vibrant, the Air Max 1 'Chilli' is as spicy as its name suggests!
Suspiciously similar to the Euro 'Huarache Pack' Air Max 1, this make-up was part of a 'Storm' pack that also included a matching Air Burst. The 'Storm' AM1 was one of the first truly great dark AM1s, a title that has helped it rise above its original GR status to become a coveted gem among Air Max collectors.
'Forest Green''Forest Green'
The 'Forest Green' AM1's reverence isn't exactly reflected in its resale value – and sure, this is one release that has most certainly passed its due date in terms of wearability – but that doesn't make it any less drool-inducing!
'Adventure Pack – Euro''Adventure Pack – Euro'
Another Euro release makes the cut! The 'Adventure Pack' was a 2006 release that consisted of two make-ups unafraid to stray off the beaten path. These outdoor-appropriate AM1s embraced earthy tones and speckled midsoles with a few bright accents thrown in for good measure. Both colourways were worth snapping up, but if we could pick only one for a retro, it would be the Euro make-up – hands down!
'99 OG Mesh''99 OG Mesh'
The 99 OG Mesh AM1 mightn't seem like anything special by today's standards, but the shoe set a new benchmark on its release. This was the first AM1 to incorporate black into its design – laying the groundwork for some of our most beloved AM1 releases in the process!
'Foot Locker Exclusive''Foot Locker Exclusive'
Who would have thought that one of the hottest AM1s of the mid-2000s would have been an easy cop from your local Foot Locker? One look at these, however, and it's safe to say that you played yourself if you passed up the opportunity to add these to your collection!
One of the darkest Air Max 1s on its release in 2004, the AM1 'Pimento' spiced up an otherwise all-black make-up with fiery 'Pimento' branding. Bueno!
'Varsity Red – OG Big Bubble''Varsity Red – OG Big Bubble'
You didn't seriously think we were going to leave these out now, did you? The original and, arguably, still the best, the OG 'Varsity Red' AM1 is as classic as Air Maxes come. Better and rarer still is the triple OG 'big bubble' release, which featured a midsole window nearly double the size of the standard AM1. Sure, it may have been structurally flawed, but it made one hell of a statement!
'NikeLab Bespoke ID''NikeLab Bespoke ID'
First things first, the pair above, designed by collector dangerdoom.sf, is by no means indicative of how a NikeLab Bespoke ID must look! It's just a stunning example of what could've been achieved by taking the plunge and forking out the exorbitant fee to construct your own Bespoke sneaker through Nike's now-defunct Bespoke ID program. If you too take that plunge, you can design the AM1 of your dreams, from the colours to the material to the fine details. This is NIKEiD on steroids! It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny.
No, not the other 'Obsidian' Air Max 1 make-up that returned in 2017. It was 2003's 'Obsidian' AM1 drop that stole our hearts in a time when retro releases were few and far between. Looking like a darker version of the OG 'Royal Blue' – and appearing not too dissimilar to '99 OG Mesh' in low light, these deserve their place among the greats for their infinite wearability and absolute timeliness. If we were stuck with only one sneaker to wear for the rest of our days, these would certainly be a strong contender.
'Skulls Pack – Blue''Skulls Pack – Blue'
The story of Steve 'Pre' Prefontaine is a tragic one. The celebrated long-distance runner was just at the start of what was shaping up to be a record-breaking career when a car accident caused his untimely death at the age of just 24. Pre's passing affected not only the running world but had a profound impact on Nike as a brand, as Pre was a protege of Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman and had been influential in the testing and designs of the brand's early sneakers. Nike have paid tribute to Pre a number of times over the years, but the 2006 'Skulls Pack' was certainly one of the best. Two colourways were created, made from a combination of leather, suede and ripstop nylon. Both shoes featured embroidered skull and crossbones at the heel, which may seem morbid until you realise that the logo was that of Pre's alma mater, Marshfield High School.
Special thanks: @dangerdoom.sf