ARTICLE BY Ross Dwyer

Five Facts You Need To Know About the Nike Air Trainer 1

Nike Air Trainer 1

The impending arrival of the Travis Scott x Nike Air Trainer 1 collection has thrust the Swoosh’s original go-anywhere, do-anything shoe back into the spotlight. And while the Air Trainer 1’s adaptability across a multitude of athletic activities is well-known, we’ve pulled back the curtain to bring you some more under-the-radar facts about the OG cross-trainer.

Nike’s Marketing Department Hated the Idea of the Air Trainer 1

Nike Air Trainer 1 'Chlorophyll'

Like so many of Tinker Hatfield’s other paradigm-shifting footwear creations, some of Nike’s employees in the marketing department weren’t too chuffed about the idea of a cross-category silhouette. Their main concern was that it would take sales away from two of the brand’s biggest categories: basketball and running. In fact, a few individuals were so ardently against the Air Trainer 1 that they told Hatfield face-to-face that they’d try to get him fired for pursuing the concept. Thankfully, innovation prevailed. Tinker’s long-time cohort – and current Nike executive chairman – Mark Parker was running Nike’s research and development program at the time and forced the project through.

The Og ‘Chlorophyll’ Colourway Was Inspired by Gym Equipment.

,Nike Air Trainer 1

Part of Tinker’s genius lies in the way he’s able to take what he sees during everyday life and translate it into compelling designs. And that’s exactly what he did on the Air Trainer 1’s ‘Chlorophyll’ colourway – the shoe’s first and most famous scheme. Before Nike had an on-campus gym, Hatfield would work out at the Metro YMCA in Portland. While it’s well-known that Hatfield got the idea for the Air Trainer 1 design because he was tired of lugging multiple shoes to the gym in his duffle bag, it’s less known that the ‘Chlorophyll’ drew its colour scheme directly from the Metro YMCA’s weight training equipment, which was black, white and grey with dashes of bold green text. The sneaker world owes that YMCA, and more specifically its equipment provider, a hefty debt of gratitude.

John McEnroe’s Air Trainer 1 Pe Featured Custom Tennis Soles

Nike Air Trainer 1
Nike Air Trainer 1
Nike Air Trainer 1

John McEnroe was and still is the most famous ‘wild child’ in the tennis world. Much like the Air Trainer 1, McEnroe didn’t conform to established etiquette, and his brash attitude allowed him to become a cultural icon. In fact, McEnroe wasn’t even supposed to wear the Air Trainer 1 on a tennis court! Nike’s Peter Moore gave McEnroe a pair with the directive to wear them for everything except tennis. Of course, McEnroe took the Air Trainer 1 right to a Palm Springs tennis tournament (which he won) and subsequently fell in love with the shoe, even telling Moore, ‘That’s the best tennis shoe you assholes ever made!’ Seemingly unfazed by that moniker, the team at Nike decided to let McEnroe have his way, and created two unique PEs for him. One swapped out the Air Trainer 1’s standard sole for a toothed iteration designed for grass courts, while the other boasted a herringbone outsole pattern that was made for clay courts, a feature you may recognise from the Nike Tennis – a shoe McEnroe wore earlier in the 1980s.

The Air Trainer 1 Was the First Nike Shoe with a Partial Cupsole

,Nike Air Trainer 1

If you’re going to use a single shoe for everything from basketball to tennis, running and even lifting weights, it’s got to have an adaptable design that champions cushioning and support in equal measures. Tinker provided that versatility on the Air Trainer 1 by equipping it with a unique partial cupsole. Cupsole technology had become common across Nike products by the second half of the 1980s, already appearing on classics like the Air Force 1 in the earlier half of the decade. However, most Nike shoes featured a full cupsole – e.g. a sole with a tall sidewall that ‘cups’ the upper to provide support and durability. The Air Trainer 1 diverged from that mentality with a ‘cup half full’ mindset that used a partial cupsole in the heel for durability and security, but combined it with Air cushioning and an uncupped forefoot for the flexibility necessary across a wide range of activities.

The Air Trainer 1 infiltrated the world of skateboarding… organically, at that!

Nike SB Air Trainer 1
Nike SB Air Trainer 1
Nike SB Air Trainer 1
Nike SB Air Trainer 1
Nike SB Air Trainer 1

John McEnroe and Andre Agassi – who also wore the Air Trainer 1 on-court – weren’t skaters, but attitude-wise, they weren’t far off. Funnily enough, skaters were eventually drawn to the Air Trainer 1 for the same reasons any other athlete would be: durability and versatility. Around the turn of the century, Savier, the now-defunct forefather of Nike SB, released a pro model for skater Tim O’Connor simply called the ‘Trainer’, essentially an Air Trainer 1 sans Swoosh. When Savier said sayonara and ushered in the era of Nike SB, it didn’t take the Swoosh’s skateboarding sublabel long to make a properly skate-ified version of the Air Trainer 1. Dubbed the SB Air Trainer 1, it debuted in 2003. Any ‘Golden Era’ SB fan is familiar with releases like the ‘Paul Brown’, HUF’s ‘Gold Digger’ collaboration, and the ‘Day of the Dead’, famous early SB Air Trainer 1 styles. The SB Air Trainer 1 may not be as famous as the SB Dunk, but it’s a cult classic with an avid following, as seen by the positive response to 2019’s Polar Skate Co. collaboration and 2020’s ‘Chlorophyll’ colourway, a re-working of the original Air Trainer 1.

Gain some more obscure sneaker knowledge by browsing through our Features section.

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