The Kicks You Wear, Vol. 45 — The truth about Air Max day
Diving in on Nike's big holiday
|Mike D. Sykes, II||Mar 16|| 2|
Goooood morning, folks! Happy Monday. Welcome back to the Kicks You Wear. I hope everyone had a great, productive and healthy weekend. Thanks for giving me a bit of your time today as we try to navigate through this truly weird space. If you’re not a subscriber, welcome! If you like this, you’re more than welcome to subscribe right here.
Today’s shoutout goes to all of the NBA players who are paying for part time arena worker’s salaries with the NBA’s season in limbo. More of their bosses need to do the same! Shoutout to the ones who already are — y’all are the realest.
Y’all bout ready? Let’s dive in.
What Air Max day really is
Ah, yes, it’s March. And you know what that means? Air Max month is upon us. And that means Air Max day is almost upon us. And that means Nike is giving us a bunch of new Air Max models on the way. Here’s this year’s lineup.
For those of you don’t know, Air Max day is on March 26. The first Air Max ever created — Tinker Hatfield’s Air Max 1 — was dropped on March 26, 1987. Fast forward 33 years later and March 26 is not only a company holiday, it’s a day that has turned into a real social experience for sneaker heads.
Just watch your Instagram feed next Thursday. I guarantee you’ll see a few sneakerheads posting their best Air Max kicks with a #HappyAirMaxDay hashtag or #HaveANikeDay or something like that.
It hasn’t always been this way. Air Max day wasn’t always a thing.
The shoe is legendary and will forever be a staple in Nike’s lore, but it wasn’t celebrated this way until six years ago in 2014.
It was launched by Nike on the Air Max 1’s 27th anniversary in a campaign to sell a new colorway of the shoe. It’s since become a social campaign for fans of the Air Max lineage.
And that’s really the genius of Nike. We think of Nike as the leading company in the sneaker space, and they definitely are that. But, I think, more than that they’re one of the best marketing companies in the world.
Think about how we absorb Air Max day as consumers. This is a faux holiday created by some execs and marketing “experts” at the company that feels just like a social campaign started by folks who love air bubbles.
They started off by paying influencers to spread their hastags, but today most of those folks participating aren’t being paid to. It’s just something they’ll do to celebrate their shoes and feel part of a moment.
This initiative has really flipped how we think of Air Max. The air bubble is one of the most important advancements Nike has ever made, but not because of how cool it was. It was because of the innovation.
Back in the 80’s when Air Max first launched, having an air bubble in your shoe was unprecedented in athletics. People tried to copy it — think Converse’s React juice or Reebok’s pump. But none of those quite held up like the Air Max did.
But it’s been three decades since Air Max sprung onto the scene. Over that span, the air bubble became common. It didn’t feel as special with new tech like zoom and, today, react foam coming into the picture. That’s before we get to how disruptive Adidas’ boost technology was when it launched in 2013.
So how do you make Air Max relevant again? You turn it into the lifestyle piece. That’s what Air Max day is. It’s the start of that transformation.
Think about what we’ve seen over the last six years since the holiday’s inception.
Old models like the Air Max 95, 97 and 98 have had a resurgence in a number of new colorways. New models like the Air Max 270, 720 and, now, 2090 are emerging.
And those models are dominating. The Air Max 270 and 97 were two of the top selling models in 2019.
But here’s where my discomfort comes in. Sneaker holidays aren't uncommon and they’re generally fun moments for sneakerheads. But there's a distinct difference between something like Black Friday or All-Star weekend and Air Max day.
Those other dates come naturally and surround other events. Air Max day wasn’t a tradition until Nike wanted it to be. And they wanted it to be that just to sell a shoe. Air Max day is definitely relevant to Nike's history, but I’d feel a lot better about it if that wasn’t how it was created.
Instead, it came straight from the Swoosh itself for reasons that didn’t have much to do with its history. And, to me, that feels kind of icky.
What the sports shutdown means for sneakers
Sports is probably one of the biggest areas impacted by the coronavirus so far with all the cancelations and postponements coming from the professional and amateur leagues alike.
A casualty of the virus’ impact on sports is the sneaker industry. Sneakers are very much so imbedded in sports. There’s a mutualism between the two where they both feed each other business. Losing sports — even if it’s just for a little while — feels like a big loss for the sneaker industry.
At least that’s what I thought. Experts are saying otherwise.
Sports isn’t necessarily the mover for sneakers that it used to be. Over the weekend, the NPD Group’s Matt Powell did an analysis on the impact. Here’s a bit of what Powell had to say. You can read the rest here.
Looking at both the pro and college leagues, rarely have we seen a championship or an MVP performance change the trajectory of athletic footwear sales. Consumer purchasing typically does not move in the direction of championship or player success. This year we have another major sporting event on the calendar as well – the Olympics. While no dates have shifted as of now, as I noted here the Olympics usually does not give much lift to the sports retail business, and I expect this will continue to hold true for the Summer Games.
At first I disagreed with this, but the more I thought about it the more it actually made sense.
The first piece I wrote for this newsletter was about how bad LeBron James’ shoes were and how basketball shoes were dying as a whole.
And, when you think about it, we haven’t had a “Flu game” or “Final shot” type of shoe come from an athlete in a while. The last one might be LeBron James’ Zoom Soldier 10 from 2016? And no one really remembers it.
So, on one hand, maybe this is right. Maybe the success of sneakers isn’t necessarily tied to what players do on the court. And the footwear industry definitely has life, still, without sports.
On the other hand, though, basketball shoes are still a large part of the footwear industry, even if it’s not as large as it used to be. You can’t sell Kyrie Irving’s basketball shoes if Kyrie Irving isn’t playing at all. Or LeBron James. Or Russell Westbrook. Or whoever’s name you want to put in here.
Without basketball players actually playing games, it’s hard to actually showcase your product. Even if the basketball, or whatever sport, doesn’t have the same margins it used to, every little bit counts when everything stops.
So, sure, sports don’t matter in the same ways they used to. But they still matter. And there’s probably going to be some loss from not being able to play games. The question is how big or small it will be.
By the way, I hope you all are staying somewhere safe and sound right now. Be careful out here.
More Off-White OTW
Rewind to about two or three months ago, and it felt like Virgil Abloh’s time with Nike had just about run its course. We didn’t know how good it could be after The Ten was done.
Nike and Off-White had just dropped the Vapor Street joints and I think they’re still probably sitting on the shelves. It was a good looking shoe, but the hype just wasn’t there.
But after dropping that Jordan V? Nah, he’s definitely not done. And, apparently, he’s coming back with a lot more over the next few months.
Abloh is apparently dropping three pairs of Air Zoom Next % joints coming this fall. They’re coming in black and green, blue and pink as well as gray and solar red.
On top of that, we already know that the Sail Jordan 4s are dropping later in the summer ahead of the Next% joints.
And I’m still holding out hope that we get these white AJ5’s Virgil was showing off during fashion week.
I don’t know if we’ll ever get a collection like The Ten again. That felt like a once in a generation moment for the culture that shifted everything. We probably won’t feel something like that anytime soon.
But if the last few joints Abloh has showed off are any indication? There’s still a lot more heat coming.
Ewing Athletics BYKE
Big shoutout to Patrick Ewing, man. There are a lot of Knicks fans who read this newsletter (for whatever reason?) and I appreciate y’all for it.
So I bring good news today. Ewing Athletics dropped their first shoe since 2012 on Friday and it’s a good one.
This looks really good, man. If you’re familiar with the build of the previous Ewing models, you can see that this one looks a bit less bulky than what we’re used to. That’s the exact feel that they were going for, per Footwear News.
The model is built with several features synonymous with the shoes Ewing played in during his storied career, such as the high-top upper and other shapes that dominated basketball shoes of the 1990s, and paired it with the characteristics athletes of today demand, including reduced weight, contemporary materials and state-of-the-art construction processes.
Ewing Athletics has always held a special place in my heart. They’re what Big Baller Brand is supposed to be. Pat Ewing was basketball’s first big disruptor in the sneaker space and that’s always been really cool to me.
Shoutout to them. Welcome back to the playing field. I hope I see this shoe out on the street soon.
Also, to my Knicks fans, I’ma pray for y’all.
What’s droppin’, bruh
I will have y’all know that I went 0-3 on the dunk releases this weekend. Shoutout to everybody who got their hands on the Kentucky or Syracuse joints. Wish I had your luck SMFH.
This week’s drops:
Melody Ehsani x Air Jordan Women’s OG “Cherry” — Thursday, March 19
Converse All Star “Disrupt” CX — Thursday, March 19
Air Max 1 London and Amsterdam “City” packs — Thursday, March 19
Air Max 96 “Safari” — Thursday, March 19
Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 v2 “Cinder — Saturday, March 21
Issa wrap for Monday, y’all! Thank you so so so so much for giving me a bit of your time today. I truly appreciate it and hope you’ll be back right here, bright and early, on Friday.
Also, family, we’re cooking up another giveaway! I think it’s time to make that next push and make our community even bigger. So make sure you tell your friends to subscribe! Let them know how much you love The Kicks You Wear.
Holla at your boy! Talk to you Friday. As always, peace and love. Be easy. Be well. Be kind.