Spandex, perms and leg warmers; let’s face it, there aren’t many fashion trends that survived the 80s. Here was the decade that brought us big hair and even bigger shoulder pads, but surprisingly, the 1980s were actually responsible for some of your favourite sneakers! Just take the Nike Air Max 1, a revolutionary breakthrough in footwear design.
Launched in 1987, this was the first time ever that Nike’s innovative Air technology was made visible in the heel. It’s all thanks to Tinker Hatfield - Nike’s legendary designer that would go on to inspire a whole array of Air Max models.
Now, more than 30 years after it first launched, the AM1 gets credit for being one of the most timeless sneakers in existence. The amount of rare and sought-after colourways is now in the thousands which makes picking 25 of the best all the more challenging. The question is, how many of the below grails did you manage to cop?
Nike Air Max 1 QS “Turf Pack Milano” (2013)
Ultra-premium goes someway to describing the beige suede uppers of this Quikstrike AM1. It was launched as part of a wider collection to celebrate three European cities – London, Milan and Paris. Other Air Max models launched alongside but everyone remembers this pair thanks to that striking hit of pink against those tonal uppers.
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 B “Viotech” (2003)
This 2003 release was actually the second shoe in a long list of Nike collaborations. Often cited as the most striking creation from the Japanese retailer, this pair earned its name thanks to the vibrant Swoosh. It’s an eye-popping addition to an otherwise muted coloured scheme. Subtle and luxurious hits of gold finish the look throughout.
Nike Air Max 1 “Watermelon” (2018)
There’s not many general releases that made this definitive guide, the “Watermelon” being one of the exceptions. It may not be a collab, or a shoe that launched in limited quantities, but this pair deserves a mention just on account of the summer-ready colourway. Borrowing cues from Nike’s South Beach colours, that watermelon Swoosh is offset nicely by green suede. It was a sellout pair which still commands high prices on resell platforms despite not being an exclusive release.
Huf x Nike Air Max 1 “Hufquake” (2007)
Designer Benny Gold set the bar high with this collaborative release at the hands of skate brand, Huf. It’s the cement detailing which makes these so unique not to mention that vibrant green Swoosh, all finished off with a gum outsole underfoot.
Nike Air Max 1 "BRS Powerwall" (2006)
Nike launched a campaign in 2006 known as the “3 Decades of Cushioning”. This was a chance to celebrate the heritage of Air Max with 56 limited-edition shoes designed as a nod to this timeless design. One of the most memorable has to be this Air Max 1 “BRS”, a reference to Nike’s original name, Blue Ribbon Sports. Unfortunately, these were limited to just 144 pairs.
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Animal Supreme” (2006)
Today’s sneaker collectors will be more familiar with the 2018 follow-up, a pair which also showcased pony fur uppers. That said, the original was revolutionary at the time, one of the first to feature so many unique patterns and textures. Not surprisingly for such a wild colourway, these still resell for upwards of £4,000!
Nike Air Max 1 “Grape” (2004)
What this general release lacks in exclusivity it more than made up for in its versatile and timeless theme. It’s one of the more simplistic colourways on the list, a pair which matches subtle hits of grape purple with white premium leather. The addition of the mini-Swoosh to the toe box makes these all the more stylish.
Nike Air Max 1 “Skulls” Pack (2006)
The tragic death of Steve “Pre” Prefontaine, long distance runner and Nike sponsored athlete, was commemorated in 2006 with the launch of two Air Max 1s. Both pairs were a nod to Steve’s alma mater, Marshfield High School. It was their skull and crossbones motif which gets stamped to the heal. Utilising a combination of ripstop nylon, leather and mesh, these were not only striking but hard-wearing too.
Nike Air Max 1 OG "Obsidian" (1987)
Sneakerheads will remember the re-release of this epic colourway back in 2017 as part of the anniversary campaign for “30 Years Of Air”. It was famously designed with an identical construct right down to use of fabric. The colourway is simple but one that perfectly compliments the clean lines of the Air Max 1.
Patta x Nike Air Max 1 “Chlorophyll” (2009)
Releasing as a nod to the café culture of Amsterdam, Patta unveiled this colour-blocking Air Max 1 back in 2009, just as they were celebrating their 5th anniversary. It was one of several releases, each one to get inspired by some aspect of the Netherlands capital. Now an unmistakable colourway, it’s hardly surprising that these are considered Patta’s best ever collab.
HUF x Nike Air Max 1 (2004)
Huf’s first collaborative project with Nike is said to have been closely designed by the brand’s founder and pro skater, Keith Hufnagel. What’s now considered a work of sneaker art features an effortless blend of greys, finished off with a city scape motif that gets etched to the heel in white silk.
Eminem x Nike Air Max 1 “Big Proof” (2006)
The murder of Eminem’s closest friend, the rapper Proof was commemorated back in 2006 with a collection of no less than 8 pairs. Each style was auctioned off with all proceeds going to Eminem’s Marshall Mathers foundation. They've since joined the rarest kicks in existences and the AM1s remain one of the most priceless in the range.
Nike Air Max 1 “Master White F&F" (2017)
The 30th anniversary of the Air Max 1 was celebrated in style back in 2017. Nike revived several iconic styles and launched brand-new colourways alongside. Just take the Air Max 1 “Master” – a shoe which featured fabrics, colours and prints from 10 of the best Air Max 1s all combined into one unmissable release. If you thought that was striking, wait until you realise an all-white pair launched too, gifted exclusively to only the most loyal and dedicated of Air Max collectors.
Patta x Parra x Nike Air Max 1 ”Cherrywood” (2010)
Patta are responsible for some of the best ever Nike collaborations so is it any wonder one of their Air Max 1s made the shortlist?! It’s hard to pick favourites but we can all agree that maroon coloured suede and a Velcro patch tongue sets these apart as a classic. Only 200 pairs were ever released making them one of the rarest colourways!
Nike Air Max 1 SP "Desert Camo" (2014)
When it comes to camo themed sneakers few are quite as special as this winterised model. Crafted with the elements in mind, it features a rubber mudguard which makes these ideal for tackling the winter elements. But that’s not what makes these so hyped. It was the camo fabric, in a sand colourway, that would explain why these were one of Nike’s more popular SP releases.
Patta x Nike Air Max 1 “Albert Heijn” (2005)
Maybe it’s the mystery that surrounds this Patta exclusive that makes them even more hyped! It’s said that Dutch artist Peter Janssen, aka Pier Parra, inspired this colourway after the Dutch supermarket, Alber Heijn. Unfortunately, before these went into full production, that famous store changed its branding and Nike pulled the plug, leaving just 24 pairs for friends and family.
Nike Air Max 1 “Huarache” Pack (2006)
The hype was real for this Huarache-inspired Air Max 1. Transplanting an iconic colour theme, Nike even included the speckled midsole and those vibrant hits of shock orange. It was an instant success when it launched as part of a Euro exclusive pack.
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant” (2007)
In what is now considered a stroke of genius, Japanese label atmos chose to borrow from Nike’s iconic colourway seen on the Jordan 3 for this collaborative release back in 2007. The result was nothing short of striking. Unfortunately, a follow up release in 2017 was almost just as limited making these a best-seller across resell platforms.
Nike Air Max 1 "Have A Nike Day" (2019)
As far as colourful sneakers go, this Air Max 1 might just be the most out-there. No less 5 colours are utilised with panels of peach coloured mesh sat alongside vibrant turquoise panels. The feel good theme is continued with a metal lace dubre of a smiling emoji! Just looking at these is enough to make you happy!
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Safari” (2002)
Years before that “Supreme Animal” pack came another atmos collaboration and it was just as wild. The full safari treatment includes everything from ostrich print detailing to beige and tan coloured suede. The 2016 re-release wasn’t quite as limited but those wanting to cop the 2002 OG will be looking at resell prices of over £1,200.
Nike Air Max 1 “Kid Robot” (2005)
As the world’s leading supplier of art toys, Kid Robot surely knows a thing or two about what makes a good collectible. Just take their Air Max 1 which exudes luxury and manages to remain playful all at once. It’s just a shame these were only ever released in limited quantities at Barneys, New York.
Nike Air Max 1 “Urawa” (2004)
Back in the early 2000s, the Air Max 1 was undergoing a major revival, in part due to releases as special as the “Urawa”. A fiery colourway pays homage to the Japanese J League football team, the Urawa Red Diamonds, otherwise known as the Urawa Dragons. To cap it off, Nike replaced their conventional Air embroidery on the heel with an oriental dragon motif.
Parra x Nike Air Max 1 “Amsterdam” (2005)
250 pairs were sold of this eye-popping Air Max 1 which almost seems like an injustice given the demand. This was actually Nike’s second choice after having stopped production on the supermarket-inspired “Albert Heijn”.
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 "We Love Nike" (2018)
“We Love Nike” was the message atmos shared back in 2018 as they gave a unique twist to the OG “Royal” colourway. Of course, it was the printed graphics that made these a must-have for collectors. Stacks of Nike shoe boxes are shown in the image which hits not only the sidewalls but the inner soles too.
Nike Air Max 1 OG “Varsity Red” (1987)
Dialling it right back to the very beginning, how could we not finish with the one that started it all?! That’s right, the OG “Varsity Red” introduced the world to visible Air. It was during a visit to the Pompidou Centre in Paris that Tinker Hatfield got inspired. Just like the architecture of the building, which put the inner workings on the outside, the Air Max 1 putt the spotlight on its technology. And of course, the rest is history!