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Lifting the Lid on John McEnroe’s Mac Attack!

Nike Mac Attack

This article was originally published on March 23, 2021 and updated December 11, 2023.

Debuting in 1984, the Nike Mac Attack carried as much attitude as its hot-headed wearer, John McEnroe.

A trailblazer on the tennis court, the Mac Attack famously deviated from the all-white tennis sneakers that dominated the era. Embodying the ‘bad boy’ image that Nike and its sponsored athletes cultivated in the following years, McEnroe and his signature sneaker balked at the status quo and helped blaze a path for the hard-headed hardwood personalities like Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman in the 1990s.

After being spotted on the feet of LeBron James and a fiery colab with Travis Scott, we thought we’d revisit the Mac Attack and some of the lesser-known facts about the cult-classic silhouette.

Match point, McEnroe!

Forget Your Wimbledon Whites

A departure from the all-white tennis shoes that made up the bulk of tennis footwear in the 1980s, the Nike Mac Attack featured an eye-catching checkerboard tongue label and unique mid-cut design. A 3/4 shoe built with leather and mesh, the Mac Attack is still the only sneaker in the Swoosh catalogue bearing McEnroe’s name.

Manufactured in a 'Light Silver/Black' colourway, the light and dark design reflected the mercurial temper of John McEnroe, the polarising player known as much for his volcanic temper as his on-court talent.

As they say, there is no light without dark!

Rebel With a Cause

Sponsoring bad boys would form part of Nike’s marketing ethos in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, McEnroe helped establish a novel strategy for Nike in the following years, with Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman and Andre Agassi all receiving the Swoosh stamp of approval.

Perhaps McEnroe’s most iconic advertisement of the era was when he donned a trench coat and brooding attitude for the Rebel With a Cause poster, the tongue-in-cheek parody a nod to James Dean’s 1955 classic, Rebel Without a Cause.

Although not specifically lacing the Mac Attack in the advertisement, the Mac Attack was undoubtedly the sneaker that paved the way for more iconoclastic messaging in the following years.

Remember, kids: hate the player, not the shoe!

The Retro Has Arrived

Models like the Nike Manor of 2012 came close to imitating the legendary OG Mac Attack, but the Swoosh-less reinvention still had sneakerheads salivating for the original. Due to its cult appeal, Nike decided to retro the silhouette in original form this year. Following the OG release back in June, and multiple GR editions and collaborations, it was announced that the Travis Scott version was set to land this December. There was a little bit of drama between the tennis legend and rap superstar, although everything looks to be on track for the release.

Keen to stay on the courts? Check out five of the best signature tennis sneakers ever!

Images via.

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