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The History of the Nike Blazer Sneaker

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The Nike Blazer is one of the Swoosh brand’s pioneering silhouettes and continues to remain a relevant style in the sneaker world.

Originally created as a basketball shoe in 1973, Nike continues to release renditions of the classic sneaker. Over the years, the Nike Blazer has transcended multiple markets, including skateboarding, and most recently, the luxury sector. Limited-edition models with Supreme, Comme des Garçons and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White imprint have propelled the almost 50-year-old sneaker to new heights in the last 10 years.

nike blazer, Off-White x Blazer Mid 'All Hallows Eve', off white sneaker
Off-White x Blazer Mid ‘All Hallows Eve’
CREDIT: Courtesy of Goat

When Nike created the Blazer, the brand’s first basketball sneaker, the company was only nine years old. Originally named Blue Ribbon Sports, the brand was founded by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight as an organization that distributed Japanese footwear in the U.S. It wasn’t until 1971 that Nike would adopt its iconic name and Swoosh logo, which was conceptualized by a design student named Carolyn Davidson for $35. 

Two years later, the Beaverton, Ore.-based brand plastered its now-famous Swoosh logo on a plain white high top sneaker. Nike named the style “the Blazer” after its regional NBA team, the Portland Trail Blazers. Loved for its simplicity, the Nike Blazer was one of the most technologically advanced shoes for basketball at the time.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

To buy: Nike Blazer Mid ’77 Vintage, $180; Nike.com

The 1970s were the early days of technical performance sneakers, and basketball players opted for shoes with rubber soles for sturdy support and traction. To get eyes on the model on the court, Nike tapped NBA basketball star George “The Ice Man” Gervin to debut the shoe.

george gervin, nike blazer, san antonio spurs nike blazer
San Antonio Spurs’ George Gervin beats Chicago Bulls’ Mark Olberding in Nike Blazer sneakers on Oct. 23, 1982.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Fred Jewell

Known for his icy cool attitude on the court, the San Antonio Spurs legend brought the shoe into the spotlight, helping Nike forever solidify its relationship with basketball.

“When I first joined the NBA I used to wear Adidas and then Nike came on board and Nike approached me and wanted to give me much more money and they had a better quality shoe, I thought,” said Gervin in a 2013 interview with Nice Kicks.

 

As Gervin continued his career, so did his relationship with the brand and its high top silhouette.

Nike used its marketing magic and came out with what today’s sneaker fans would consider a “player exclusive model” for Gervin. Although “PE” models are common these days between top athletes and brands, in the 1970s the category was virtually nonexistent. The custom shoe had the words “Iceman” instead of “Nike” across the heel of the hightop sneaker, a nod to the baller’s nickname.

Although the shoe was never made available to the public, the Iceman PE, or Gervin Blazer, was just the beginning for Nike and the now almost 50-year-old silhouette.

The Swoosh brand continued to evolve its basketball sneaker, developing its Air renditions and overall sneaker technology. By the 1990s, basketball players wanted to leave behind the hard vulcanized rubber-soled sneaker, but another group of athletes soon picked up the shoe, giving the Blazer a second life.

Skateboarders gravitated toward Nike silhouettes such as the Dunk, the Air Jordan franchise and the Blazer because of their stylish silhouettes and durable build. The Nike Blazer was among the most popular models for skaters because of the way the vulcanized rubber sole would stick to the grip tape of their board. The heavy suede and leather uppers also could withstand the wear and tear of skating.

NBA x Nike SB Blazer Low
NBA x Nike SB Blazer Low in action, a collaboration that was released in 2018 and inspired by the two sports that put the sneaker on the map.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

By the mid-2000s, Nike had created a new model for the classic shoe just for the skateboard community: the Nike Blazer SB. The Nike Blazer SB design featured a padded collar and insoles, as well as Zoom Air cushioning technology. To cultivate even more of a following within the market, Nike tapped pro skater and artist Lance Mountain, a California native who specialized in pool skating, to promote the new and improved shoe.

Nike teamed up with Mountain to release the first SB Blazer model in 2005. Since, the brand has released a few renditions with the skater, including collaboration with the Stüssy in 2018. Although the limited-edition pair is sold out online, you can find the shoes on resale sites such as Stockx.com.

CREDIT: Courtesy of StockX

To buy: Stussy x Blazer Mid SB ‘Midwest Gold’, starting at $260, StockX.com

However, it was a collaboration with another brand rooted in skate that would launch the style to new heights. In 2006, Nike and Supreme collaborated on a limited-edition collection of three quilted sneakers in black, white and red, each sporting a snakeskin Swoosh. The shoes also notably had golden D-rings on the back, inspired by Gucci’s luxurious hardware features. The shoes retailed for $180, which was three times the usual price for a Nike SB Blazer.

Supreme Blazers are considered one of the greatest sneaker collaborations of all time. The 2006 model is rare to find online, and worn pairs can cost up to four figures. In 2016, Supreme teamed up with Nike for another rendition of the SB Blazer. The 2016 Supreme Blazers were of the GT Low silhouette and released in pink, beige and blue suede colorways.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Goat

To buy: Supreme x SB Blazer Low GT QS ‘Cannon’, starting at $250; Goat.com

Supreme’s 2006 collaboration with Nike helped put the style back on the map for a broader audience, no doubt opening the door for designer brands to also come up with Blazers of their own, such as  Comme des Garçons in 2013 and Abloh with Off-White in 2017.

Today, the Blazer continues to drive buzz with both its original models and collabs with designers and streetwear brands. FN reported that a new Off-White x Nike Blazer Low will release sometime in 2021. Though, Nike has yet to confirm the details. 

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