Want the low down on the icon? We’ve got you covered, stay locked in!
With basketball sneakers dominating in the early ‘90s, the Air Max 95 was an opportunity to turn people’s attention to Nike’s runners – a big shift in the market! It was time to reinvent the Air Max series, taking it up a level.
For the design, Nike turned to Nike ACG designer, Sergio Lozano; a relatively new designer from California State University. Rather than using a designer already on Nike’s running team, they recruited from a different category to get a fresh perspective. The brief? Simply to do something Nike had never seen before.
Before taking on the challenge in a new department, Lozano’s office overlooked a lake on the Nike campus. It’s been said that this is where he first got inspiration for the iconic 95. While in his office on a rainy day, Lozano got thinking about how the earth gets eroded by rain. Imagining what something would look like if underground, being unearthed by erosion. This is where the layers of overlays come in.
Lozano also took notes from fellow Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield – who had already created the Air Max 1 and the Air Max 90. While working on other projects, Hatfield would say “Okay, so that’s a great design, but what’s your story?”. Through asking why, Hatfield told a story through his sneaker designs and Lozano wanted to do the same.
Not only inspired by erosion, the designer took influences from human anatomy. He created a layered upper with overlays that represent muscle and flesh. The nylon eyelets on the lacing system nod to ribs, while the midsole resembles the human spine.
He decided on a gradient grey colourway, which was inspired by eroded rock walls. Taking cues from the bright colour palette of Nike’s race kit, the sneaker has ‘Volt’ accents to the eyelets, Air unit and branding. The bold look from Lozano’s sketches didn’t get a great reception, but was actually the colourway the Air Max 95 made its debut in – an OG style that’s become iconic over time! You’ve probably seen it being used on other Nike silhouettes.
Underfoot, the Air Max 95 is the first ever sneaker to have visible Air in the forefoot, with Nike’s iconic cushioning sitting at both the toe and heel. It was originally designed to suit the most powerful runners, where extra cushioning was essential – though the additional Air units work for everyone. Taking cushioning up a level.
Nike’s legendary Air units were housed in a black midsole; the first Air Max trainer to use black. It was chosen to complement the gradient grey colourway and hide the look of dirt etc. on muddy runs. Flipping the colours to start with black at the bottom just made sense. In rainy Portland, Oregon where the trainer was created, fresh white midsoles could never stay clean.
The Air Max 95 started out without Nike’s iconic Swoosh, which was eventually added to the design and can be seen on releases today. Without distracting from the rest of the shoe, the Swoosh was added in a minimal fashion to the heel.
When it first hit the shelves in ’95, the Air Max 95 was controversial, much less restrained than some of Tinker Hatfield’s previous designs and not your typical running shoe. Lots of details were new; from the brash colourway to the mini Swoosh.
Over time, it’s evolved into an icon, especially in youth culture! The mention of Air Max is nothing new in hip hop, and the 95 has been called out in a number of tracks. In 2005, the Game called them out in his single ‘Hate It or Love It’, as well as Gucci Mane in ‘Bricks’ and Danny Brown in ‘Shootin Moves’.
We’ve also seen the silhouette evolve, with new iterations, colourways and updated versions of the OG. From the streamlined Air Max 95 Ultra to the Jacquard and the Essential, Sergio Lozano is a big fan of experimentation, blown away by the interest in the 95 over 20 years after it first launched.
The Air Max 95 is a sneakerhead favourite, but has also been worn by some of the biggest celebs in the game. Some of the hottest names that have been seen in a pair of AM95s are Eminem, 2 Chainz, DJ Khaled, LeBron James, Justin Timberlake and Tom Hardy- just to name a few! For the girls, Kardashian gal Khloe has been spotted wearing them, as well as Halsey, Little Mix’s Jade and it-girl, Bella Hadid.
Never satisfied, designer Lozano thinks there’s more to come from Nike. Watch this space…