by Linda L. Franco

Air Max Day 35th Anniversary x Machina

nike exoskeleton

Air Max Day 35th Anniversary by Machina

Nike Air Max Day is celebrated on March 26 with a design that made it one of the most iconic sneakers in history. The day is pegged to the anniversary of the first-ever Air Max model’s debut in 1987. For a second time around, Nike invited Machina to collaborate con Air Max Day.

In 1987, Nike debuted one of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes of all time, the Air Max 1. The model was designed by Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, a man responsible for some of the greatest and most popular Nike shoes; the Air Max 90, the Air Jordan 3 and Jordan 4, just to name a few. The release of the Air Max 1 saw a revolution in athletic footwear, introducing never before seen technology. Tinker’s Air Max 1 is a shoe which is now recognized in every corner of the globe but its origins began in Paris, at the Centre George Pompidou. A storied history and standout engineering have made the Nike Air Max 1 of the best vintage Nike sneakers of all time. 

The first-ever Air Max model made its debut on March 26, 1987. Now the industry has designated March 26 as Nike Air Max Day – and deservedly so. This years anniversary commemorates a sneaker design that has gone on to inspire and influence nearly every make of athletic footwear of the last three decades.

Getting Ready for Air Max Day

Over the years, Air Max day has served as a staging ground for some of the Swoosh's biggest, most innovative releases, along with an opportunity to bring some of its most desired classics back onto the market. On March 26th, 2022, Nike celebrated the 35th anniversary of Air Max cushioning and the Air Max 1 by bringing back some old favorites and introducing some new ones.

Nike invited Machina to reinterpret air for one of its most important sneaker silhouettes during their Air Max Day global celebration.

How can we reinterpret air on one of Nike's most iconic sneakers of all time?  That was the biggest question that we had in mind once Nike invited us to participate in the 35th anniversary celebration. We knew that we wanted to make honor taking inspiration on its origins and we wanted to protect the silhouette that has been constantly changing and adapting.

For that, we designed our personal exoskeleton for the Air Max 1. A powered armor made mostly from sustainable or upcycled materials with an on/off button to turn on the micro turbines and feel air. We designed and developed a total of three exoskeletons. Each exoskeleton was designed to organically adapt to the sneaker silhouette.  

Air Max 1 Premium "Wabi Sabi"  Exoskeleton _ Behind the Design

Air Max 90 Exoskeleton _ Behind the Design

Air Max 97 Exoskeleton _ Behind the Design

 "MACHINA Crafts Nike Air Max 1 3D-Printed Exoskeleton That Redefines AIR Technology" - HYPEBEAST 

In early 1987, Hatfield premiered the Nike Air Max 1 as a ground-breaking shoe silhouette that introduced the brand’s trademark Air technology, marketed as an essential engine for top-tier track athletes and a style statement for everyday strutters.. we firmly wanted to replicate that sensation of awe through a bold piece that not necessarily does it need to be functional, but a protection of something holy, that has survived and evolved through out history. We strongly wanted to make a statement through our daring design, inviting only the brave to use it.  

We had the honor of creating a special design for the Air Max 1 and then replicating the piece with 3D printed materials to provide a workshop model — helping to further the legacy of this unparalleled piece of culture.  

Air Max Day - Workshop

For Air Max Day 2022 activities, MACHINA created a special new design of the classic Air Max 1, 90 and 97. MACHINA had the honor to design and develop a 3D printed customizable piece for the Air Max 1 “Wabi - Sabi”.  "WABI SABI," refers to the beauty of imperfection, and informs every part of the shoe’s outer construction. The left and right pairs feature alternate colorways ,  each made up of the same deep browns, creams, and disparate olives. 

The topmost stitching then pops with a white finish much like the miniature swoosh embroidery, and with threading rendered in an unrefined manner. Additionally, red darning marks on the back heel create the illusion that these sneakers were hastily repaired. A second pair of the shoes feature suede overlays in a range of greens, yellows, and browns that decorate a classic white mesh base while a cracked decal strikes the midsole.

In Machina, we looked to embrace the “WABI-SABI” philosophy using some sustainable materials such as micro motors from old computers and toys, PLA a plastic substitute made from fermented plant starch (usually corn) is quickly becoming a popular alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastics. 

MACHINA created a workshop model that ultimately became the template for the 35th-anniversary reissue — furthering the legacy of a beloved piece of culture. Allowing people to customize it to their own taste using several materials from left over leathers, paint and aerosols.

Attendees from different backgrounds were all challenged to design something representing their own identity using our 3D printed customizable exoskeleton as a canvas. The results were astounding as some people were afraid at the very beginning to experiment with new materials. However, this workshop had a solid base on innovation and creativity. Innovation is fueled by a restless intellectual curiosity, deep optimism, the ability to accept repeated failure as the price of ultimate success. They had no time limit, they were invited to have an open mind and express themselves. 

Workshop customization lasted 8 days. People left ecstatic, this is the recap of the workshop, enjoy.

Why Air Max Was Such a Gamechanger

Perhaps the most classic Nike design, Air Max has evolved to hone and perfect its design, building on the innovations introduced in 1987 while continuing to inspire new generations of sneaker enthusiasts to honor and esteem that first prototype. 

You’ll recognize Air Max shoes by their translucent pouches filled with pressurized gas. These pouches, known as “air units” or the Nike Air Max pouch, are embedded in the shoe’s midsole and visible from the exterior of the sneaker. The air units support the foot with next-level cushioning that outpaces traditional foam in its efficacy while reducing the weight of the shoes. 

The size, design, and the exact number of air units are different for each design within the product line. For instance, the "retro" Air Max 1 includes just one small unit under the heel, whereas the more contemporary Air VaporMax uses air units throughout the entire midsole. The shoes are wildly popular among urban subcultures and connoisseurs of retro aesthetics. They’ve certainly enjoyed enduring popularity among sneakerheads and collectors.

A Runaway Success - A MACHINA Success

With the release of Air Max 1, Hatfield launched an unprecedented revolution in athletic sneakers. The design took the world by storm, inspiring Nike to capitalize on its visibility and promote Air across the entire brand, ultimately making Air Max Running a franchise parallel to Air Jordan. 

Years later, in the 2000s, the original Air Max model designed by Hatfield asserted its staying power as part of retro life. The Air Max 1 had completely crossed over to the world of lifestyle, returning in original color palettes and prompting new collaborative undertakings that continue to this day. From San Francisco skate shop HUF to Harajuku sneaker store Atmos, the Pompidou pair was still racing away from retailers. Now, as the Air Max 1 turns 35 in 2022, the seminal style is set for yet another big run by way of revived cult classics, denim redrafts, and new collaborations.

It was a great honor to be invited by Nike to reinterpret air using one of their most innovative products, the one that placed them on the map and a true object of desire for all kinds of people and generations.