The Air Foamposite One made its debut in 1997, arriving on the scene without precedent. Eric Avar's unusual composite design was simply like nothing the sneaker world had ever seen before. Developed in conjunction with Nike's Advanced Product Engineering group at the time, such a revolutionary design needed some pretty left field inspiration. As Avar explains, 'There was this notion of what if you literally just dipped your foot in this liquid bath of material and it just sucked around your foot? And what if you could go play basketball in that? That was the inspiration and I tried hard to get people to see that'.
Such an unusual concept required a whole new way to create footwear. 'It was basically just an envelope of material that we were pouring polyurethane into. And that was creating the form and the structure,' Avar divulged. 'The centre core of the mould was last and then the outer walls of the mould was all this outer detail and then you pressed everything together.' It was not an easy process, however, and even with the assistance of current director of Footwear Innovation Exploration, Jeff Johnson, it took nearly four years to make the now legendary design a reality.
Unusual as the design may be, it curiously proved an instant hit with Orlando Magic superstar Penny Hardaway when he was presented with a sample at a product meeting – although Avar almost resisted showing it to him at all. 'The Foamposite sample was the last thing left in the bag and I hadn’t even taken it out because all the voices had gotten in my head and I was almost embarrassed. So we’re just finishing up and Penny looks over and says, 'What’s that in the bag?' I almost hesitated to take it out, but I did and he grabbed it, and just goes, 'What is this?!' I said it’s this concept we’re working on. He just stopped me right there, and said 'That’s it. I want that to be my next shoe.''
From that sample to the version that would ultimately hit shelves, the Air Foamposite One underwent many changes in production, including experiments with visible Max Air and the addition of Penny's iconic 1Cent branding. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Air Foamposite One, Nike have shared a selection of these samples and concept sketches – many that have never before been seen publicly.
In honour of the model's 20th anniversary, Nike have brought back the Air Foamposite One in its original 'Dark Neon Royal' colourway, available now from select Nike Basketball stockists. Look for more classic colourways to drop throughout 2017.