In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Air Max Plus, Nike went into their vault to bring back some of the silhouette’s iconic iterations.
Designed by industry veteran Sean McDowell, the shoe combines an unlikely aesthetic influence with a trio of never-before-employed manufacturing techniques.
McDowell (albeit unknowingly) began conceptualizing the Air Max Plus before he even started his role at Nike.
“I hung out on the Florida beaches and just thought and sketched — it was one of my most creative times,” he remembers a vacation he took with friends between jobs. “One evening, it was turning to dusk, so the very blue sky was starting to fade to dark blue, and the palm trees were blowing in the wind.”
That local beauty fired his imagination. “I sketched that out, and I thought, ‘It could make a quarter panel like you could hold your foot down with those palm trees,” he says, filing that thought away for future use.
Shortly after and upon arrival to Nike in 1997, McDowell immediately took on the challenge of creating a new running shoe (and thus completing a nascent project for Foot Locker) that used a new Max Air innovation that implemented two opposing hemispheres to evolve the cushioning technology. Its working name was Sky Air, and more than 15 potential shoe sketches had been presented to the retailer. None had received the nod yet.
“As soon as I heard ‘sky,’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, I just saw this amazing sky in Florida,’” says McDowell, who resumed his sketching. “I did a sunset. I did a blue one. I did a purple one. I tried a couple of different colours and sky versions, some palm trees were a little more tech-y and very geometric, and others were waving.”
A whale inspired another of the key focal features of the Air Max Plus. “The shank is a modified whale tail,” says McDowell. “That tail coming out of the water is so iconic.”
You can pick up the Nike Air Max Plus OG “Hyper Blue” and “Sunset” online via Nike.com for the retail price of R 2,499.95 each.