A Look Back at Andre Agassi's Early-90s Sneaker Style
Nike’s radical court sneaker the Air Tech Challenge II is set to make a comeback this month, so there’s no better time to take a look back at the man who catapulted it into the limelight: Andre Agassi.
The ‘Las Vegas Kid’ blazed a trail during the late-80s and 90s thanks to his unmatched charisma and on-court steez. His hair may have disappeared, but the swagger never wavered.
Bright stripes with neon Nikes were standard issue, and the team at Beaverton knew they were onto a winner (they did sign him at age 16, after all). Check out the pictorial below to see what the Swoosh and Andre served up.
Air Trainer 1 (1988)
Agassi kick-started his career sporting the famed Air Trainer 1 – Nike’s first-ever cross-training sneaker. Popularised by another American tennis ‘bad boy’, John McEnroe, the sneaker was designed by Tinker Hatfield after he noticed athletes packing two pairs of shoes – one for running and one for lifting – in their gym bags.
Air Tech Challenge II (1989)
John McEnroe's retirement from the game opened the door for Agassi to headline Nike's Air Tech Challenge line. Bringing a never-before-seen aesthetic to the court, the mid-cut sneaker was a shift away from the conservative court constructions of years on gone by. Searing pops of colour, visible Air, and a snug Dynamic Fit sleeve were just the beginning.
Air Tech Challenge III (1990)
Moving away from 'Hot Lava' hue made famous by its predecessor, the Air Tech Challenge III came through with an updated aesthetic, but recycled the II's game-changing tech. Fun fact: the Air Tech Challenge III's neon green detailing was inspired by the tennis ball.
Air Tech Challenge 3/4
Prior to the release of the Air Tech Challenge IV, Agassi also donned this mysterious pair. The upper resembled his familiar ATC IIIs, but Nike fitted a special clay-court sole unit for improved traction at the French Open.
Air Tech Challenge IV (1991)
It was short lived, but the OG ATC line would come to an end with the IV. It remains one of the rarer ATC sneakers out there, and a sought-after collector's item.
Air Tech Challenge Huarache (1992)
Combining the Huarache with elements of all the Tech Challenge models, Nike’s Air Tech Challenge Huarache was packed with industry-leading tech. Featuring a neoprene bootie, polyurethane midsole, and visible Air sole unit in the heel, the sneaker spurred Agassi to his first Wimbledon title in 1992.
Air Challenge Future (1993)
The end of the ATC line resulted a shift to more conservative creps for 'The Punisher'. Despite a more muted palette, the Air Challenge Future did deliver some ambitious tech updates, most notably a Huarache-esque sock liner and a forefoot strap.
Air Flair (1994)
By '94, the neon schemes had made way for simple black and white. However, the Air Flair didn't take any shine away from his game, serving him well as he claimed the US Open – his third Grand Slam title.
Agassi was reaching his peak, but his wild style certainly took a decline. By the end of the year, he had no hair, and his creps had hardly any colour. One thing's for sure, though: his influence on the sneaker game — on and off court — will never be forgotten.