Nike Air Max 95: a matter of anatomy

Inevitably, this year 2015 we’re hearing a lot about the Air Max 95 (or simply “95” for sneakers fans), since this is the 20th anniversary of their release. With basket in full trend, the 90’s were a difficult time for running sneakers. Specially inside Nike -which didn’t enjoy its current fame- and Nike Running couldn’t match the success of Nike Basketball. While Jordan was a full hit for the brant, running sneakers desperately needed a boost which arrived in 1995 when Sergio Lozano, another designer from the brand who had developed different sneakers, stumbled upon the solution.

Vía Sneakers News
Vía Sneakers News

For a while and together with a group of running designer, we worked along the line started by Tinker Hatfield with no great results, until one day the team decided to include a visible chamber also in the front of the sneaker. During the design process, Lozano leafed through the brand’s anatomy books, one thing led to another and… voilà! The first sneakers inspired by the human body were born. Though it might not be evident at first sight, in Sergio Lozanos’ physiognomic translation of the human body, the midsole corresponds to the spine, the overlaid panels would be muscle fibers, the laces and lateral supports the ribs and the breathable mesh is the best representation of our skin.

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Vía Sneakers News

One of the keys to this sneaker is no doubt tis simplicity, and in that spirit they chose not to use the usual big Swoosh on the side, something that set the first Air Max 95 model apart from all previous designs, and which in fact didn’t please everyone. The brand and the swoosh are only featured in a small space near the heel, going almost unnoticed in the global design. Its technical esthetics, so different from the rest of the Nike Air Max, was the reason why they started an independent model and not just another one in the series. Nevertheless, even back then the logo of the brand was quite well known, and the took the risk. Soon people praised this decision.

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Detalle de las Nike Air Max 95 Anniversary QS. Vía footdistrict.com

The story of the release of the Air Max 95 is the symbol of their success and that of Nike’s essence: design, colourway and other aspects that were doubted at the beginning were something the designer was absolutely convinced about, and instead of changing his course, he went on with it.

The first Nike Air Max 95 had an unique colourway for an Air Max, combining white, black and different tones of grey and neon yellow to highlight areas like the front supports or the air chamber. The color choice and their gradient disposition was carefully planned, and according to Lozano himself the reasons behind it are practical, like the fact that in Oregon weather is rain and runner’s sneakers get dirty fast, so they chose a darker colorway for the lower areas. But functionality wasn’t the only motivation. Neon yellow is a hint at other running models by the brand, and grey was a challenge: someone said it wouldn’t sell.

Nike Air Max 95 OG Premium, con el mismo colorway que la original aunque con material reflectante. Vía Footdistrict
Nike Air Max 95 OG Premium, con el mismo colorway que la original aunque con material reflectante. Vía footdistrict.com

Up to this day, the Nike Air Max 95 has been dressed with over 150 colourways, which have been released over the years. Maybe the least successful was the Air Max 95z, which had a zip on the upper as an update and was almost a catastrophe, probably due to breaking apart from the original esthetics. This summer the Air Max 95 were Nike’s hottest reissue with models like the Nike Air Max 95 Ultra Jacquard or the celebratory Nike WMNS Air Max 95 Anniversary QS.

Nike Air Max 95 Ultra Jacquard. Vía Footdistrict
Nike Air Max 95 Ultra Jacquard. Vía footdistrict.com

The list of materials that went into the uppers of the Nike Air Max 95 is widely varied: synthetic leather, natural and premium leather, suede, nylon or reflective material. The designers behind 2015’s models –Dylan Raasch and Ben Yun– didn’t hide their intention of maintaining the original esthetics, but to achieve an improvement they did apply changes to the materials. One of the main differences is the visible air chamber, which they gave up in order to create more flexible soles, and they even wanted to discard the lateral panels to further simplify them.

Nike WMNS Air Max 95 Anniversary QS, vía Footdistrict
Nike WMNS Air Max 95 Anniversary QS, vía footdistrict.com

In these two decades they were subject to different look updates, specially in what refers to their colorway -the latest example would be the Jacquard pattern- but the initial esthetics is still there, something well deserved since the Air Max 95 meant all over the world, and specially in countries like Japan, something similar to what sneakers mean nowadays: design is more important than their benefits, to the point of generating fans by the thousands who choose their sneakers based solely on their design, and not on the technology they actually feature.