If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Footwear News may receive an affiliate commission.
Architect turned sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield’s vaunted Nike Air Max 1 was released on March 26, 1987. Thirty-five years after its debut, both Nike and sneaker fans will observe the annual celebration of the anniversary — dubbed Air Max Day — with the release of commemorative Air Max 1 colorways.
With the sneakerhead holiday on March 26, below is a history of past events and how they have evolved over time.
Air Max Day 2014
Nike began Air Max Day in 2014, decades after the first iconic shoe bearing the Air Max name’s initial release. By today’s standards, the inaugural celebration of Air Max Day was minimal. The Nike Air Max 1 Premium QS “Air Max Day” put a simple yet statement-making twist on the shoe that started it all. The limited-edition kicks donned the original red nubuck that wrapped the upper as it did on the 1987 iteration. A subtle ode to the celebration is “3.26” stitched into the tongue tag, and a far less subtle change to the 2014 pair is the midsole being completely coated with the brand’s signature volt hue. Though not universally loved, the shoe, which originally retailed for $125, kickstarted the Air Max Day annual festivities. These days, they are available on the resale market, including destinations Flight Club and several others, for quite a bit more.
Air Max Day Gets Bigger
The first Air Max Day included a few events in key cities, such as Los Angeles and New York. The second celebration in 2015, however, would be much more robust, including rolling out an all-new Air Max silhouette with elaborate activations in cities globally. The Nike Air Max Zero, deemed “the one before the 1,” was a sneaker created from early Hatfield drawings that predated the Air Max 1. The original drawing was an early attempt at the Air Max 1, and legend has it, the idea didn’t materialize because it was too futuristic in its design for 1985.
The next year, Nike went all in for Air Max Day. Tapping into its bevy of material and designer choices, the Swoosh employed heralded designers Hiroshi Fujiwara, Hatfield and Mark Parker to head up the collection. They created the Air Max LD Zero H, the Air Max 90 Ultra Superfly T and the Air Max Ultra M, respectively. By year three, Air Max Day had become an ordeal.
In 2016, Air Max Con brought Air Max lovers across the globe together in major international cities, such as Hong Kong, Tokyo, and NYC. The third Air Max Day was also commemorated with a short film documentary, titled “Masters of Air.”
The Biggest Yet
The 30-year anniversary of the Air Max 1 in 2017 trumped the first three, and Nike capitalized on the festive date in more ways than one. First, the brand took things up a notch by creating the “Month of Air” campaign that stretched the celebration across March. Free of the constraints of a single day, Nike added four releases to its Air Max Day collection, raising the count to seven. The marquee collection included both remakes of classics and OG sneakers. Along with the release of the Nike Air Max 1 “Anniversary,” which was an exact replica of the original monumental shoe, Nike also released brand new versions. The Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 was released again, years after the original collaboration with the Japanese retailer was included in the “Animal Pack” in 2006. The shoe meshed two of Hatfield’s most recognizable contributions to Nike by placing the iconic elephant print on the Air Max 1. The “Month of Air” also saw a blend of Air Max 1 favorites on one shoe in the Air Max 1 “Master.”
This particular Air Max day included other releases as well, such as the Air Max 1 “Ultra 2.0” that brought back the “3.26” tongue decal and featured new tooling to create a new, lighter sneaker. And after three decades, Nike pushed forward its visible Air with the release of the Vapormax. Now one of its most popular silhouettes, the Vapormax brought the idea of completely visible Air to life and sat it beneath Flyknit uppers to construct what is widely considered one of the most comfortable sneakers in the Air Max line.
Air Max Day 2017 was also the day that Nike announced the winner of the “Vote Forward” campaign that saw 12 hand-selected creatives from around the world converge onto Beaverton, Ore., to try their hand at designing a one-of-a-kind Air Max to be released the following year. From that contest, the world was introduced to a corduroy-clad hybrid of the Air Max 97 and Air Max 1 designed by famed sneaker collector and Round Two storeowner Sean Wotherspoon. The Sean Wotherspoon x Air Max 1/97 hit retailers on March 26, 2018 for $160 and became an instant classic. If fans weren’t able to buy a pair, it will now cost them four-figures to do so.
Nike followed up the well received 2017 “Vote Forward” contest with the international “Nike: On Air” campaign that allowed thousands of hopefuls a chance to see their design in stores. Of the 18 finalists, six were selected. Their kicks were released in 2019 and are now a part of the Nike Air Max lore.
Nike Air Max Day is celebrated in various ways on a local scale, beyond that put on by Nike. Big Box retailers and local boutiques each have their own way of paying homage to the esteemed celebration. Air Max Day 2022 is guaranteed to be no different. With three Air Max 1 iterations dropping, including the “Blueprint” colorway, it is bound to be another big year for the already legendary Nike Air Max.