Air Max 90: more air, more legendary

The next round of the Off-White x Nike AM90 is coming. Let’s explore one of Nike’s most influential sneakers – from design & history, to its impact on the industry.


Early summer in 1981, a recent University of Oregon graduate joined the growing Nike team. Though he majored in architecture, he would go on to reshape the entire footwear industry with his innovative design throughout the 80s & 90s. You’ve no doubt guessed we’re talking about Nike’s legendary designer, Tinker Hatfield.

Tinker began his career at Nike illustrating marketing books & later designing retail spaces. In 1985 he joined the design team. The goal of that initial team was to create the best running shoe ever. In the spring of 1987, they did… the Nike Air Max 1 (aka, the Air Max 87).


The most notable feature of the sneaker can be attributed to Tinker’s background in architecture: the exposed Air unit. The idea was influenced by the skeletal structure of Renzo Piano’s unorthodox Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

After some initial resistance to the Visible Air, Tinker forged ahead with support from Mark Parker. Three years later, they took the Air Max to a new level. Based on the more air = higher performance mantra, the Air Max III was launched in 1990. The colorway of that initial release featured a quintessential 90s accent color, Hyvent Orange (aka, Infrared).


This new model promised runners more comfort from Nike’s largest Air unit yet. Along with the Visible Air, the sneaker incorporated breathable mesh panels plus a multi-lace system for a secure fit. What really set this shoe apart, however, was style. With swooping, fluid lines & bold colors, the Air Max III looked fast. That aggressive style has ensured relevance over the past decades. It was retroed for the first time in 2000 & has since been known as the Air Max 90.

Twenty-eight years after the initial launch, the AM 90 is as fresh today as it was when it first released. Because of this, it’s the perfect canvas for collaborations. Virgil Abloh’s “The Ten” took the Air Max 90 to a new level. His creative approach was to reveal Tinker’s vision by exposing the shoe’s construction.

“Having all these layers be raw edge, or having the stitch line removed, in my mind, is one part aesthetic and one part giving a view of the technological innovation on the part of Nike that goes into these iconic shoes.”

-Virgil Abloh

Virgil is at it one last time with his final iterations of “The Ten”. Dropping next week are two more versions of his take on the Air Max 90. The first has a softer, organic feel thanks to the Desert Ore colorway & suede construction. The second is a classic Black & White scheme. Both feature trademark Off-White elements including contrast stitching, exposed layers, blown up Swoosh, & the model detail stamp on the side. The end product is a celebration of the Air Max 90’s structure & design. That young architecture student from 1981 would be proud.


Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 “Black”

Release Date: January 17, 2019

Color: Black/Cone-White-Black

Style #: AA7293-001

Price: $160


Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 “Desert Ore”

Release Date: January 17, 2019

Color: Desert Ore/Desert Ore/Hyper Jade/Bright Mango

Style #: AA7293-200

Price: $160