ARTICLE BY Minh Vuong

What Sneakerheads Want from the Nike Air Max BW 2021 Retro

Nike Air Max BW Ad

Hot on the heels of last year’s very well received Nike Air Max 90 OG retros is the supposed return of the Air Max BW in 2021 – just in time for its 30th anniversary. The BW has featured prominently in the Nike Air Max lineage over the years, actually staying in heavy circulation for the first 20ish years since its debut. After taking a bit of a breather following the 2015 retro, the rumour mill is ablaze again with word of another reissue cycle. Here’s what to expect (or perhaps what the fans really want) from the respected model.

Nike Air Classic BW Box
via @platinumlexuses (Depop)

Return of the Classic

During the last round of BW retros in 2015-2016, Nike decided to slyly rename the model to Air Max BW. Like the AM90’s renaming to Air Max III for its super-OG editions last year, perhaps the Swoosh should bring back the BW’s original name: Air Max IV. However, that might be a little too obscure; so is just ‘Air Max’ (as it was known back in 1991). Perhaps the next best thing is to call it the Air Classic BW – like how it was known for most of its existence. What’s in a name? For a sneaker nerd, everything.

Nike Air Max BW Tinker Hatfield Sketch
,Nike Air Max BW Tinker Hatfield Sketch

Remastered in Full HD and Big Windows?

Certain releases of the AM90 last year received the fully remastered treatment, undergoing a bucket list of nip-tuck modifications to bring the silhouette more in-line with its past brilliance. However, there was also an even more accurate version reserved for the OG Air Max III (the AM90’s original name) colourways like the ‘Infrared’ (sorry, ‘Radiant Red’) and ‘Laser Blue’. Like its generational predecessor, the BW was afflicted by the much-maligned ‘cliff toe’ during the Nike Sportswear era of the mid-2010s. Even the 2015 retro faced many issues (mesh instead of embossed nylon tongues!?) that irked even casual fans. Nike have the means to produce a good retro when they feel like it, and they should heed the call of long-time BW fans to restore the model to its former glory as envisioned by its designer, Tinker Hatfield. BW stands for ‘Big Window’ (it used the same Air unit as the AM90, but just cut away more foam to reveal the bubble), so make the bubbles bigger!

Nike Air Classic BW 1998
Author's own

‘Persian’ Won’t Be the Only Prince

It wouldn’t make much sense to reissue just one colourway if Nike are going to the trouble of bringing back the BW. The 2015 retro cycle saw the return of the ‘Marina Blue’ for the first time ever, and the ‘Olympic’ gave ‘heads a chance to refresh their ’04 pairs. Maybe this time around Nike will bring back the ‘Pink Persian’, which is the White/Persian women’s OG colourway but with an addition of pink on the Swoosh. In fact, there are plenty of colourways from the BW’s first 15 years in circulation that can be re-upped in 2021, or used as a mood board for similarly sympathetic palettes to contemporary sneakerhead tastes.

Stash x Nike Air Classic BW ST 2003
(2003) Stash x Nike Air Classic BW ST| via @royosss

Colabs Are Inevitable

The BW has been the big-bubbled foundation for some of Air Max’s most legendary collaborations. Arguably the greatest was the Stash effort from 2003’s Nike Artist Series. With only 1000 individually-numbered pairs available, these shades-of-blue BWs became a Sneaker Freaker Forum staple (a wet-weather favourite thanks to the weather- and graff-resistant materials used) – there’s even an old archival photo of Kanye West rocking a pair! Other notable drops over the years include the size? Clerks Park, the PSG editions, and even an unofficial Nintendo tribute.

Gabber Time

Nike have put out various music-themed sneakers in recent years, evidenced by examples like the Air Max 90 ‘Side A’ and the upcoming ‘Pirate Radio’ release. With healthy reference for the musical subcultures that embraced their iconic designs, when will the Swoosh officially acknowledge the role Gabber has played in making the BW the shoe of choice in the Netherlands (and abroad) hardcore techno scene? The Air Classic BW ‘Gabber’ would be pretty hectic for the crowd of that particular inclination, and would sell like hotcakes on the shelves of high street sportswear stores like Foot Locker, JD Sports, and Courir. C’mon Nike – Just Do It!

Well, this is all speculation until Nike confirm the official return of the BW. But it does give them more time to get this retro right!

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