Where has the year gone? It feels like just yesterday when the sneaker industry was barely catching its breath to recap all of the unpredicted events of 2020. Now, it’s already time again to look back on the moments that highlighted how Nike went in 2021. Between an onslaught of Dunks, big releases and controversial events, there were some big positives for the Swoosh. Here’s the best of the past 12 months for Nike.
Nike began life as a running shoe company, and while they’ve diversified their offering over the decades, in 2021 they were keen to remind everybody that they still make some of the best track and field products. That claim was backed up at the postponed Tokyo 2020, whereby the Air Zoom Maxfly clinched gold medals in both men’s and women’s athletics 100 metre events, therefore making it the fastest shoe on the world’s greatest stage. Over on the basketball court, Nike shoes helped Giannis Antetokounmpo win an NBA championship.
Getting Retros Right
Looking back, Nike’s retro department lived through the Dark Ages during the early 2010s and put out some rather forgettable reissues. Entering a new decade has brought enlightenment to the team that probably endures the most scrutiny from pundits, and they’ve finally come to the party with some strong revisions. The Air Huarache retro was very, very good and the Air Max BW also exceeded expectations. However, nobody is perfect, and the same critics were quick to decry the ACG Air Mowabb retro that took some creative liberties with key branding details.
Nike began developing the FlyEase system almost a decade ago, before officially launching in 2015 and enabled people with impairment greater access to shoes. 2021 marked the latest significant step forward for the technology with the GO FlyEase, the brand’s first-ever handsfree sneaker. While actually acquiring pairs at retail is still something Nike are working on, it looks like more pairs will be coming in 2022, meaning greater availability for all. The FlyEase concept also continued to be used in key lines like the Air Zoom Pegasus 38 and even the Air Jordan 1 from their subsidiary Jordan Brand.
Entering the Metaverse
With virtual spaces, blockchain transactions and all other sorts of plugging-into-the-Matrix activities encroaching on the sneakersphere, Nike are being proactive and preparing for another digital revolution. The gateway? Apparently it’s Roblox and the expansive ‘NIKELAND’, a cartoonish, avatar-powered world to play games (and eventually spend money) in. Before the brand gets too deep, they’ve also set up some legal frameworks to ensure their trademarks don’t potentially get used incorrectly online. In more familiar territory, the SNKRS app was reportedly improved this year, especially the ‘Exclusive Access’ section.
Countdown to Zero
After announcing their ambitious ‘Move To Zero’ back in 2019, Nike put words into action by both overhauling their favourite models with eco ethos and introducing new designs created using more conscious materials than ever before. The latest pinnacle of the strategy was represented this year by the Air Zoom Alphafly Next Nature, the simultaneous flagship of the brand’s performance and sustainable sneakers. There was the Cosmic Unity basketball shoe, which proved trash talk could exist beyond the proverbial. The Next Nature approach was also applied to the on-fire Dunk, which only helped to proliferate the importance of ensuring the design decisions of yesteryear don’t negatively impact the future of footwear – and that of planet Earth.