Five Fun Facts About the Fearless Nike Air Mowabb
Born in the mountains of Moab, Utah, the Nike Air Mowabb climbed onto the sneaker scene in 1991. Designed by all-conditions expert Tinker Hatfield, it's still the proud posterboy for Nike’s ACG line (All Conditions Gear), the off-road trailblazer ticking of its 30th anniversary in 2021. We thought we’d revisit our 2008 interview with Tinker Hatfield to unearth some fun facts ahead of the launch (alongside a little Seinfeld tidbit!)
Lace, up. It’s time to hit the great outdoors!
1. Born in Moab, Utah
The Air Mowabb is undoubtedly the lynchpin of Nike’s ACG line. Inspired by Tinker Hatfield’s numerous trips to Moab, Utah, the sneaker was an audacious project from one of Nike’s trailblazing designers.
‘I’m thinking, well, we’ve got this ACG project, so I’m going to design a shoe like no other,’ Tinker told us back in 2008. ‘And being the fool that I am, I think I’m going to get away with it even though that’s not always the case at Nike. I had built up some political clout from previous projects, and I think it’s a mistake if you don’t take advantage of that to do things no one’s ever done.’
2. It was One of the First Nike Sneakers to Feature a Speckled Midsole
There are now a whole bunch of Swoosh sneakers that utilise the speckled sole, but the Air Mowabb was one of the first. Tinker Hatfield and his team had to spend extended amounts of time in factories in Asia to get the speckled sole just right, and then scale to mass-production. In fact, the first few samples were done individually, by actually flicking paint on them!
‘Once you come up with all these crazy ideas and you end up with a sample, then you’ve got to go to some factory in a foreign country and actually try and communicate your idea,’ Tinker said.
3. Tinker’s Initial Sketches Were Inspired by Fish, Rivers, and Native American Moccasins
Riding his bike along Slick Rock, Porcupine Trail, and the Poison Spider Mesa (and nearly dying along them), Tinker’s original sketches of the Mowabb took aesthetic cues from Native American moccasins, fish, and nearby rivers.
‘If you really think about it, in this neck of the woods, the very first outdoor athletes were Native American tribes,’ said Tinker. ‘So I just drew this picture of a fish really fast and I started thinking about trying to design an outdoor cross-trainer, a shoe you could just do anything in. I was also thinking about how shoes work on a bike pedal, how they should work as you step on a rock and wobble a bit – all of the little issues that you have to go through in your mind to design something multipurpose. Moccasins have no outsole, they’re leather on the bottom and on the upper. That’s partly because they didn’t have rubber, but it’s also because they didn’t really need it – the shoe actually conforms to the surface it’s on rather than dig into it. And that was a big revelation. No one had ever designed an outdoor shoe like that. I thought I was really on to something and I started thinking about the colours of fish, the nearby Colorado River, and the Green River that runs through here.’
4. The Air Revaderchi Waves Goodbye to the Mowabb
Whilst technically forming part of Nike’s Huarache line, the Air Revaderchi was the spiritual successor to the Air Mowabb, and was designed by Steve McDonald.
‘Steve McDonald came back to me with a new version of the Mowabb. He had a few additional ideas that he called the Air Revaderchi,’ Tinker revealed. ‘I think that’s just a super-funny name. If you look at it, the way it’s spelt there, it’s a joke. He had a few different ideas about the outsole and how it worked, which is why this shoe is a fun one to talk about even though it didn’t sell a huge amount. They are what we call niche products, but they help set the tone for every other shoe. They’re the leading edge of the product development process. And again, I think it was an interesting and unique approach to shoe design – no one really had caught up to us at that time.’
5. The Air Mowabb Appeared in an episode of Seinfeld
Appearing in the Seinfeld episode ‘The Library’ in 1991, the Mowabb was somewhat of a departure for Jerry Seinfeld, who routinely paired classic 1990s denim with white sneakers. In fact, there’s a vast collection of sneakers on display across Seinfeld’s iconic 9 seasons, including the Air Challenge Pro Low, Air Tech Challenge III, and Huarache ‘Purple Punch’.
Still, the all-terrain Mowabb is hard to beat, the sneaker appearing in one of Seinfeld’s more unforgettable episodes, a library cop on the hunt for a book Jerry loaned back in 1971: Tropic of Cancer.
This feature was originally published on July 27, 2021.