The All-Time Greatest Nike Air Max 1s: Part Two
You knew it was coming! When we published Part One of our guide to the all-time greatest Air Max 1s, many of you cried foul in the comments that we'd overlooked the colabs. Well, as explained in the intro to that piece, that omission was 100 per cent intentional. We wanted to serve up a curveball that deviated from the hype to shine a light on the lesser-revered — but no less exquisite — GRs and in-house Nike make-ups.
Without further ado, we bring you the second and final instalment in this two-part series, and turn the light on the real stars of the show: the Air Max 1's most acclaimed collaborations. From Patta to atmos to Kid Robot, you'll have to read on to find out which made the cut as the greatest of all time!
'Hold Tight' by Ben Drury'Hold Tight' by Ben Drury
It's funny how a hyped sneaker can be all but forgotten with time. Nike connected with respected British designer — and Mo' Wax art director — Ben Drury in the mid 2000s to put his spin on the Air Max 1. Drury defied contemporary convention by delivering what was a deceptively simple collaboration. A quick glance reveals a no-fuss white, black and grey AM1, with custom tongue tags and concentric embroidery at the heel. Linger just a minute though, hold these in hand, and the details really start to shine through — literally!
That grey mudguard? Ultra-bright 3M Scotchlite! That toe box? Top-tier premium perforated leather? Those concentric circles? A representation of pirate radio waves. Add to all this the removal of the standard tongue and heel branding, custom radio tower insoles, and a matching 'Hold Tight' windbreaker, and you have one of the greatest Air Max releases of all-time!
'Albert Heijn' by Parra'Albert Heijn' by Parra
If you were blown away by the scarcity of Parra's recent Swoosh-less 'Friends and Family' Air Max 1, then it's time for a quick history lesson. Back in 2005, Nike tasked Dutch artist Pieter Jansen — aka Parra Patta — with designing an AM1 that represented his hometown of Amsterdam. Parra came back with two different designs adorned with crown tongue tags and signed off at the toe with his John Hancock.
One of these, in Parra's signature combination of fuchsia, electric blue and chocolate brown, was the so-called 'Amsterdam' AM1, while the other — which combined white, orange and blue — was slated to release in tribute to Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn. As the story goes, Albert Heijn changed their branding shortly before the sneakers made their way to shelves, so Nike ended up scrapping the second design, with the exception of 24 pairs gifted exclusively to Parra's family and friends, making these one of the rarest — and most expensive — Air Max 1s of all-time.
Rarity is all well and good, but it doesn't guarantee a great-looking sneaker. Sadly, for the 99.99 per cent of the population that will never even have a chance to see these shoes firsthand — let alone own a pair — these show-stopping AM1s are as beautiful as they are scarce. How about a retro, Parra? What do you say?
'Viotech' by atmos'Viotech' by atmos
Oh you thought atmos needed animal print to dish out a heavy-hitting AM1? Nah, fam, they've had the keys to a killer collaboration locked down since day dot! The Japanese juggernauts followed up their 2002 'Safari' AM1 with an unusual combination of browns, white, gold and plum — nicknamed 'Viotech' for the colour used on the juicy purple Swooshes. It's a combination that just shouldn't work on paper, but every element works so perfectly to make not just a legendary Air Max 1, but one of the greatest sneakers of all-time. The gum outsoles and embroidered gold mini Swooshes were the cherries on top of this delectable blackforest concoction.
'Chlorophyll' by Patta'Chlorophyll' by Patta
Dutch retailers Patta celebrated their fifth anniversary with a string of Air Max 1 collaborations — each and every one a banger!
The 'Chlorophyll' AM1 was the most seemingly simple and widely available of the lot, a fact that saw many pairs linger on store shelves and even hit outlets at seriously discounted prices — especially given this was a time when collaborations were continually trying to one-up each other by pushing the limits of materials and construction. Still, Air Max diehards were undeterred and treated the occasion as Christmas come early.
Patta's leafy green AM1 was a simple tweak on a classic concept, switching out the 'Sport Red' and 'Royal Blue' components of the OG AM1s for the remaining primary colour. For the added premium touch, the 'Chlorophyll' components were made from stiff denim, adding a unique aspect of durability that altered uniquely with wear. Just don't hold out hope of ever landing these at outlet prices on the current market.
'Kidrobot' by Kidrobot'Kidrobot' by Kidrobot
Kidrobot collaborated with the Swoosh in 2005 to translate the designer toy manufacturer's unique aesthetic style on to the AM1. Released exclusively through Barney's New York and limited to just 250 pairs, the shoe's design came from the most unusual and unexpected of places: a 1986 Maserati Quattroporte III Royale. We'd be fighting a losing battle to try and convince you that this luxury Italian sport sedan is one of the finest examples of automotive engineering, but the shoe it inspired is certainly worthy of applause.
The shoes themselves were made from premium perforated leather, decorated with Kidrobot's namesake logo at the heels and packaged inside beautiful custom boxes together with a colab keychain and a blind-bagged set of randomly inserted sockliners decorated by one of five legendary Kidrobot artists, including the likes of Frank Kozik.
An even rarer pink and red Hyperstrike version was also produced, limited to 72 pairs, but in our eyes, the black pair is far and away the best of the two.
'Kiss of Death' by CLOT'Kiss of Death' by CLOT
A controversial inclusion? Perhaps, but CLOT's 2006 'Kiss of Death' makes the cut less for its beauty on foot and more for pushing the boundaries that paved the way for the wild sneaker collaborations that followed. In homage to their homeland's traditions, Chinese retailers CLOT devised the 'Kiss of Death' AM1 — in collaboration with recording artist MC Yan — around the ancient art of pressure points.
The resulting Air Max 1 pushed Nike's design team to the limits, resulting in a colab made of multiple premium exotic leathers and decorated with imaginative insole and outsole graphics. In an unusual twist, the standard heel padding was completely absent, but the most visually jarring inclusion came at the toebox. Following in the footsteps of the ESPO x Nike Air Force 2, CLOT included an underlay of clear plastic at the toe. Clear-toed sneakers were one of the biggest crimes of the mid 2000s, but for some reason they worked here — perhaps due to their link to the AM1's Visible Air.
We wouldn't recommend actually wearing these — unless you want to be left with a steamy, crumbly mess — but they deserve their place in the Air Max hall of fame.
'Cherrywood' by Patta x Parra'Cherrywood' by Patta x Parra
Could this be the best Air Max 1 of all time? You'd be hard-pressed to find one better! With an impressive list of AM1 colabs already to their names, Patta and Parra joined forces in 2010 to whip up a sneaker so beautiful that we can't help but burst into tears knowing we'll never own a pair without some serious cash to burn!
The Dutch duo delivered an Air Max 1 that was equal parts starkly simple and decadently detailed. The all-maroon upper is refreshingly uncomplicated, but comes beautifully accented with mismatched chenille Swooshes. The chenille details carry over on to the Parra-endorsed tongue tags, which come resplendent in sumptuous sky blue. Add to all of this multicolour soles, eyelets and Nike branding and you have not just a great Air Max 1, but one of the greatest sneakers of all time!
'Elephant' by atmos'Elephant' by atmos
Released: 2007 / 2017 (retro)
Say what you like about atmos' 2007 Air Max 1 colab. Call it played out. Call it a cheap Air Jordan 3 cash grab. Call it an Air Max 1 colab for the masses. Now take those opinions and shove 'em right back where they came from!
The 'Elephant' AM1 is, simply put, a perfect collaboration. It was one of the earlier non-Jordan Nikes to rock the AJ3's signature so-called Elephant print, but none have done it better. The Japanese retailers perfectly combined the crackled 'Cement' textile with premium white leather and black suede for an immaculate dose of contrast that flawlessly restrained the often-over-abused animal-inspired material. The use of patent leather on a sneaker is almost never a good idea, but the shiny 'Clear Jade' Swooshes were a masterstroke.
If you don't think the 'Elephant' Air Max 1 lives up to the hype then you, my friend, are in the minority. In 2016, the public voted in droves, and the 'Elephant' AM1 reigned supreme as the best Air Max release of all time!
Honourable MentionsHonourable Mentions
Didn't see your favourite Air Max 1 colab above? Wondered why we overlooked some of the all-time greats? Well, you see, a funny thing happens when you start to rank the best Air Max 1 colabs: the list turns into the best atmos/Patta/Parra colabs of all time — seriously!
Every single AM1 this trio of talented collaborators has put into production is worthy of serious praise, so instead of listing more of the same, we're giving an honourable mention to the lot of them. The more of these you have in your collection the better!
Oh, and for everyone asking where the Wotherspoons are at: you'll need to wait for The All-Time Greatest Nike Air Max 1/97s for those!