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The Air Max 90: A Sneaker Icon’s Origin Story

The Nike Air Max 90, an enduring and beloved sneaker, has a rich history that dates back to its inception in the late 1980s. This iconic shoe, with its distinctive design and innovative technology, has captured the hearts of sneaker enthusiasts and athletes alike. In this article, we’ll delve into the fascinating origin story of the Air Max 90 and the creative forces behind its timeless design.

The Birth of Air Max:

The Air Max series, known for its visible air cushioning in the sole, was a groundbreaking concept introduced by Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. In the mid-’80s, Hatfield drew inspiration from the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, where the building’s structural elements were exposed on the exterior. This novel idea of showcasing the shoe’s technology led to the creation of the visible Air unit, a design feature that would revolutionize the world of sneakers.

Tinker Hatfield’s Vision:

Tinker Hatfield, one of Nike’s most celebrated designers, was tasked with creating a new shoe that incorporated this Air technology. The Air Max 90, originally known as the Air Max III, was Hatfield’s second design in the Air Max line and a follow-up to the Air Max 1. Hatfield’s vision was to create a shoe that not only offered exceptional comfort and performance but also stood out as a fashion statement.

Design Inspiration:

The Air Max 90’s design drew inspiration from various sources, including high-speed trains and the human anatomy. The shoe featured bold, wavy lines on the upper that symbolized motion and speed. Its layered panels and contrasting colors gave it a dynamic and eye-catching appearance, setting it apart from other sneakers of its time.

Infrared: An Iconic Colorway:

One of the most iconic aspects of the Air Max 90 is the “Infrared” colorway. The striking red hue used on the Air unit and other key design elements immediately caught the eye of sneaker enthusiasts. It became synonymous with the model and remains a fan-favorite colorway to this day.

Cultural Impact:

The Air Max 90 quickly gained popularity among athletes and sneakerheads. Its release in 1990 coincided with a burgeoning sneaker culture and hip-hop’s golden era, further propelling it into the cultural spotlight. The shoe’s blend of performance and style made it a versatile choice for both athletic pursuits and everyday wear.

Evolution and Endurance:

Over the years, the Air Max 90 has seen numerous iterations and collaborations with artists, designers, and brands. Yet, it has retained its core design elements and the signature Air unit that made it a classic. Its endurance and timelessness can be attributed to its initial innovative design, which transcended trends and became a symbol of Nike’s commitment to both form and function.


The Air Max 90, with its bold design and groundbreaking technology, has stood the test of time and continues to be a sought-after sneaker. Its origin story, marked by Tinker Hatfield’s creative vision and the revolutionary Air technology, provides valuable insights into the evolution of athletic footwear and sneaker culture. As we celebrate this iconic shoe, we also honor the innovation and design excellence that shaped the Air Max 90 into a sneaker icon.