If any footwear company knows a thing or two about having back-to-back bumper years, it’s Nike. The Swoosh undeniably backed up their dominant 2018 with another big year in 2019.
Nike’s 2018 movements certainly laid the groundwork for 2019, with a lot of sowed seeds flowering, and wild concepts finally realised. Personnel came and went, retro cycles restarted, and the Air Jordan 1 seemed to come in even more colourways than last year! Here’s what happened for Nike in 2019.
Mark Parker Stepping Down
Seemingly out of nowhere, Nike announced that Mark Parker would be stepping down as CEO, after taking over the role from Phil Knight in 2006. Replacing Parker’s position in January 2020 is John Donahoe, who has been at ServiceNow, PayPal and eBay, among other companies. While the exact reasons for Parker’s departure remain unknown, it will be interesting to see the direction Nike take from here. There is plenty to reflect on his contribution over the years as designer and director – and perhaps the realisation of the HyperAdapt will be remembered as his masterpiece.
FlyEase Technology Reaches Maturation
While Nike’s accessible FlyEase closure system was in use as early as 2015, it was simply retrofitted onto existing styles like the Zoom Pegasus line. Finally, in 2019, a brand new silhouette was designed around FlyEase: a basketball shoe called the Zoom UNVRS. Hopefully, prominent use of the tech normalises its presence on and off the sporting stages. Jordan Brand released the Air Jordan 1 FlyEase in November – given it’s the zeitgeist sneaker of 2019, we should be seeing more of it on the streets.
Nike Shoes Broke Two
In 2017, Eliud Kipchoge made an ambitious attempt at running the marathon distance of 42km in under two hours. Coming 26 seconds shy of Breaking2, Kipchoge came back with a vengeance in 2019, finishing the iconic distance in a time of 1:59:40. The Kenyan runner wore a currently unreleased Nike shoe that used AtomKnit and visible Zoom tech. For us mere mortals, the Swoosh released the ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT%, the logically-named successor to the 4% model. We’re still waiting for a wider release of the Flyprint editions though!
Going for a Joyride
While running marathons at warp-speed is an activity reserved for the genetically superior, Nike’s introduction of Joyride ensured that casual runners were catered for as well. The cushioning system uses strategically-placed midsole pods filled with thousands of TPE beads that shift upon impact. Running should be fun and – even if it’s not for everybody – it can be comfortable. Joyride looks to achieve that, and featured in some new lifestyle models with co-signs from the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. and Matthew M. Williams. Within the next couple of years, we might see the full potential of the 8000 to 10,000 beads contained in each shoe.
Cry for sacai
Pundits were already calling the sacai x Nike LDWaffle the ‘Sneaker of the Year’ all the way back in June. If the metric is supply versus demand, then we likely haven’t seen a Nike colab this big since Virgil Abloh’s ‘The Ten’ in late 2017. Of all the colabs that released in 2019, Chitose Abe’s grafted take on a heritage waffle-soled runner pulled in old-school sneakerheads, new-age hypebeasts, and casually naïve fans. The LDWaffle didn’t discriminate: it handed out Ls to all. The colourful first release remains the most interesting, but those still hunting might have another chance, with rumoured upcoming tonal colourways.
Skewing The Swoosh
For the longest time, messing with Nike’s trademark was unheard of. Collaborators have tried to nip at Carolyn Davidson’s design for years, but in 2019 the dam finally burst. ,Slam Jam had the gall to flip the Swoosh upside down on the Blazer Mid 77 at Pitti Uomo 95, and then Travis Scott did the unthinkable. He enlarged the Swoosh and faced it back-to-front on his Air Jordan 1 colabs, spawning an endless slew of reverse-Swoosh custom sneakers – for better or for worse. However, the Swoosh-meddling crown goes to Cactus Plant Flea Market for building it out of garden wire on their VaporMax collaboration!
Skate or Die!
Nike’s skateboarding arm strengthened its grip on the casual sneaker market – who’s actually shredding their Dunks? The basketball-turned-skate shoe had colabs with all of the big names: Supreme, Parra and FPAR, just to name a few. Other heritage hardwood silhouettes got the griptape green light too, namely the Blazer Mid and Air Jordan 1. While the competing big footwear companies are beginning to nip at the toes of Nike SB, the Swoosh is still miles ahead. And the company’s statesmen, Eric Koston and Stefan Janoski, continue to lead the charge by actively skating their shoes.
So, 2018 got the ball rolling, and in 2019 Nike knocked it out of the park. Nike are expected to continue dominating in 2020 which is an Olympic year, so new tech is starting to emerge. What will come out on the collaborative and style fronts? We’ll just have to wait and see.
All images by Nike.