Forgotten Grails: Obscure Mid-2000s Nike Air Max Sneakers
Any self-proclaimed sneakerhead should recognise Nike classics like the Air Max 1, 90, and 95, as well as newer designs such as the Air Max 270. But, let’s not forget about some uncut gems and forgotten grails that were the white whales for many Air-heads before Air Max Day ever existed! Here are seven obscure releases that you’ll need to look beyond your usual avenues to find. If you already know about them, two thumbs up to you.
Air Max Dolce (2002)
The Air Max Dolce is an early 2000s design that looks like it survived the Y2K bug. Its techy webbed upper, hidden lace design, and strong loafer resemblance probably made it the go-to Maxie for rebellious white-collars and staunch bouncers with strict dress codes. Maybe they’d work in 2020 if Nike bring them back from the time of bootcut jeans and frosted tips. After all, it takes 20 years for a trend to come back into style…
Air Max 95 Zen Venti (2007)
‘Venti’ is Italian for ‘20’, and also describes Starbucks’ equivalent of a ‘Large’ drink. So, it makes sense that these Air Max 95 Zen Ventis are called thus, because they’re certainly large AF! Another oddity from the mid-2000s, the variant seemed to come outta nowhere as it was post-History of Air pack and pre-Sportswear era. Just something ridiculous from the Nike design team. While this only has 16 rows of eyelets (yes, we counted), the gargantuan, knee-scraping extension is the star of the show here. Never mind that it doesn’t even have forefoot Air units!
Air Max Groove (2004–05)
Groovy, baby. The Air Max Groove was a short-lived variant on the familiar Air Max 1. Bearing a reconfigured upper with perforated panels reminiscent of something from the 1980s V-Series, it’s become an obscure collectible. Suede and mesh were commonly seen, some with gum soles too. There were also some all-leather types, but they look way too geriatric for SF!
Air Max ST Opium Sample (2009-2010 Unreleased)
French boutique Opium have an unblemished record of Nike colabs. Their 2005 Air 180 is the connoisseur’s choice in GOAT AM conversations, and this unreleased Air Max ST colourway would’ve killed it too, had it released in 2010. Beyond some hazy sneaker blog images, and one good crisp shot above, these STs may as well not exist to the wider sneaker world. Really though, release them Opium. Please.
Air Max Total 365 (2003)
There is some incredible integration from the Nike Football team on this shoe. The T-90 line was one of the best series from the Swoosh in the 2000s, and the Air Max Total 365 was a street and futsal field-ready style. Deftly applying the K.I.S.S. principle, all they needed to do was add an Air unit to the heel. They must’ve been great to play in – best avoid the deadstock pairs on eBay, unless you plan on just looking at them, because they're definitely unwearable now.
Air Max 1 NikeiD Try On Samples (mid-2000s)
Hold up, this is just an Air Max 1… Yes, but not just any Air Max 1. Back in the day, Nike’s 21 Mercer St location (it’s still there in New York, now as a NikeLab store) was the place to go for NikeiD. There, prospective customers were able to try on greyed-out versions of sneakers available on the iD program at the time. Hence the ‘Try On’ moniker of these blank slate AM1s, circa 2006. Literally – there’s no branding on the heels. Nike did go on to release arguably lesser, and more easily obtainable, versions, but they pale in comparison to this HOA-era classic that technically is a sample.
Air Storm Beacon and Air Summer Beacon (2004)
A runner that did the rounds in Europe and the UK (RIP Crooked Tongues), the Beacons released in over 10 different colourways over the span of less than two years. Anecdotal evidence from wizened heads recall it being an outlet filler – but, of course, they’ve become the nichest of niche collectible Air Max styles. The Storm and Summer designation implies intended conditions that they’d perform best in. For something outta 2004, they were subconsciously influential in future sneaker designs.