Air Max Day is right around the corner, and 2022's a big year for Nike's big bubble tech: it marks the 35th anniversary of the Air Max 1, the model that started it all by showcasing visible Air for the first time. Air Max Day has been an official Nike 'holiday' since 2014 – and is responsible for some of the brand's biggest moments in the 2010s, from the introduction of VaporMax technology to the memorable 'Vote Forward' contest – but over the last few years, the pandemic has forced the Swoosh to rethink its Air Max Day strategy, discarding any in-person celebrations or drops in favour of a scaled back release slate and a more low-key affair. The dawn of a new era for AMD is starting in 2022 though, and we know exactly what we'd like to see going forward!
Focus on Key Pillars
Air Max Day is a standalone event, but it's a perfect opportunity for Nike to showcase some of their brand's pillars. Three that come to mind are their women's-specific product offerings, innovation and a commitment to sustainability. To the first point, we'd love to see some unique women's-sized Air Max Day colabs from the Swoosh – in the vein of, say, how Jordan Brand teams with Aleali May. Give a women's sneaker store in a city with rich Air Max history a colab, and let them tell the story on their terms!
To the second, Air Max Day seems to be a perfect time to introduce the latest and greatest Air Max technology, but the last time we saw something truly groundbreaking in the performance space on AMD was the introduction of VaporMax back in 2017 which, intentionally or otherwise, quickly shifted into the lifestyle sphere. And regarding the third point, sustainability has been a huge part of Nike's recent marketing push. It's more than just lip service as well: the brand aims to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions 65 per cent by 2030 and be fully carbon-neutral by 2050. The VaporMax line has shifted towards sustainable materials in recent years and the 'Give Fresh Air' initiative encourages reusing and recycling but imagine how cool it would be to see a slate of Air Max Day retro releases done completely in earth-friendly materials!
Air Max Community
Any sneaker lover will tell you that one of the most wonderful things about being into kicks is the community that comes with the hobby (who are we kidding – obsession!). Even in the age of the Internet, there's a decidedly social aspect to sneakers. The conversations you have and the bonds you form with your peers are some of the most fulfilling parts of sneaker culture.
Digital or physical (where public health allows, of course) events that promote community have always been a key part of Air Max Day. In the past, 2019's 'On Air' contest brought together creatives around the world to redesign their favourite Air Max silhouettes, and 2017's 'Vote Forward' contest saw a groundswell of support for Round Two founder Sean Wotherspoon, whose Air Max 1/97 won the contest on the back of cult-favourite 'More Air, Less BOOST' T-shirts and a voting machine in his stores (whether the second part was fair to the other competitors is an entirely different story). Physical and digital gatherings can bring Air Max Day's pageantry back in full!
Assertation of Technical Dominance
You could write a book on Nike's technical footwear dominance... oh wait, Nike actually did write a book on their technical footwear dominance. Innovation is at the very core of what the Swoosh does, no matter if they're trying to help the world's finest runners break the two-hour marathon barrier or make the world's most functional kids' shoes.
However, early adopters in the lifestyle sphere are trending towards high-tech running shoes for casual wear, giving hybrid performance-meets-lifestyle products from Salomon or ASICS an extra jolt of energy. Though Air technology has been in Nike's footwear since 1978 and was first made visible in 1987, it's still at the core of Swoosh innovation – but doesn't seem like it's been treated as such recently. Let's see an ultra-technical running model with some big and bold Air Max cushioning! A statement-maker designed for performance but adapted for lifestyle purposes, a la classics like the Air Max 95 and Air Max 97, instead of a high-tech gimmick like the Adapt Auto Max. Competition is always a good thing, but Nike is due for a monstrous 'Nike moment' on the Air Max line that shifts paradigms once again.
Besides the sneakers themselves, one of the best things about Air Max Day is the stories that Nike – and the Air Max community – go to painstaking lengths to tell. Just two years ago, Nike released a nearly 25-minute long The Story of Air Max: 90 to 2090 documentary, a fascinating inside look at the process behind one of the most famous Air Max sneakers of all time and a look into the technology's future. The Masters of Air docu-series from 2015 showed off some notable Air Max collectors too, shining a spotlight on the individuals outside of the brand who helped make its products iconic. These detailed videos aren't just from the Swoosh either: in 2018, Afew released Nike Air Max 90 Culture \ A London Story, a short documentary that explored the UK's love of the 90.
At the end of the day, Air Max Day's job is to increase brand awareness and loyalty, all for the sake of driving up Nike's sales. No matter how good the product is, there's a transactional element to the festivities. Rich storytelling and audience education help make sure it's not all about commerce!
All the Air Max 1s!
Okay, okay – this point may be more specific to 2022. We know the Swoosh are already dropping plenty of Air Max 1s for Air Max Day this year: the perfectly imperfect 'Wabi-Sabi', the luminescent 'La Ville-Lumière' and the technical 'Blueprint', plus Concepts' swath of 1960s-inspired colabs. However, we want more! There are so many great Air Max 1 colourways that haven't retroed yet that we wrote a whole article about them! 'Viotech', 'Dave White', Kidrobot, grey micro mesh with a mini Swoosh? We'll take 'em all. Here's hoping there are a few more Air Max Day surprises in store.