Every March 26 since 2014, Nike has taken a full 24 hours to commemorate one of its most seminal footwear technologies with its own holiday: Air Max Day. It’s a chance for the brand to applaud the legendary work of Swoosh designers like Tinker Hatfield, Christian Tresser and Sergio Lozano and celebrate the wealth of sneakers in the Air Max lineage that are considered cultural artifacts. For the 2023 festivities, Nike is catapulting two new styles to the public in the Air Max Pulse and the Nike Air Max 1 “Big Bubble.” The former is a newly-concocted performance runner that features a retooled Air Max 270 unit, while the latter salutes the OG Tinker-designed Air Max 1 from ‘86 with a larger midsole bubble, or in other words the “one before the 1.”
To those that celebrate, we’re looking forward to celebrating your “Big Bubble” SNKRS W’s and watching you flex the coveted Air Max grails in your personal stashes on your IG stories. And ahead of the annual festivity, we wanted to take a trip down memory lane to recall some of its biggest collaborations, bring-backs and competition-winning installments.
Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97
Round Two co-founder Sean Wotherspoon instantly became a household figure after he was crowned the winner of Nike’s RevolutionAIR voting campaign in early 2017. His vintage-inspired Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 1/97 design won the hearts of footwear enthusiasts for its eye-catching multi-colored corduroy build that rode atop an Air Max 1 sole. Energy was so high around the release that the Round Two location in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia was shut down due to the Max-hungry crowds getting out of control. Before the official 2018 Air Max Day launch, Wotherspoon also drove around Los Angeles in a minivan to give away free pairs. It was an earth-shattering moment for Wotherspoon and the Swoosh team, and arguably the biggest Air Max Day release to-date.
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant”
Nike introduced its “Vote Back” campaign during Air Max Day 2016, giving its loyal fans a chance to revive a classic Air Max offering from the archives. The majority called for a return for the atmos x Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant,” which was originally released in 2003. Resell prices for the OG launch were continuing to soar before this announcement was made, so it was a perfect moment of redemption for those who couldn’t get their hands on a pair. All of the design cues from the “Clear Jade” Swooshes and Nike Air branding to the elephant print mudguards to the black suede overlays were brought back.
Nike Air Max 90 “Bacon”
NYC-based graffiti artist Dave Ortiz first launched the Nike Air Max 90 “Bacon” exclusively through his boutique Dave’s Quality Meat in ‘04. It was a highly coveted launch not only because of its rarity but also because of the storytelling aspect that brought Ortiz’ butcher shop-inspired vision to life. In 2021, Nike opted to bring back this classic installment for its Air Max Day 2021 celebrations, and when you consider the nostalgic value that these held to sneakerheads who grew up during the early 00’s paired with the idea that it was finally going to be offered at a wider scale, it truly is one of the most special non-original Air Max drops of all-time.
Nike Air Max 1 “Master”
In celebration of the Nike Air Max 1’s 30th anniversary, the Swoosh honored it with the “Master,” a colorway that fused an array of its biggest collaborations. Sandwiched between solid black leather uppers and midsoles was a mudguard that fused patterns from the model’s team-ups with atmos, Parra, Kid Robot and Patta. It was essentially Nike’s way of putting together a greatest hits album for the silhouette that started the Air Max journey.
Marc Newson x NikeLab x Nike Air VaporMax
After crafting the cult-favorite Nike Zvezdochka in 2004, legendary industrial designer Marc Newson was tapped by the Beaverton sportswear brand again in 2017 to contribute to its Air Max Day celebrations. The result? The Marc Newson x NikeLab x Nike Air VaporMax. Highlighted through the “VisionAirs” collection, the kicks are still one of the most obscure-yet-striking VaporMaxes to have been released, as Newson revamped the silhouette by giving the model a boot-like shape and striking blend of “Rio Teal” knit uppers with “Vachetta Tan” overlays.
Nike Air Max 180 “Berlin”
The nightlife scene in Berlin is second to none, and so, Nike decided to give its Europe-based sneaker fans special treatment for Air Max Day 2019 via a regional exclusive Air Max 180 “Berlin” colorway. Inspired by the buzzing nightlife that began to develop after the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late ‘80s, the “Berlin” featured grey mesh and leather uppers that saluteed the city’s architecture while potent pops of neon yellow and pinks along the tongues, heels and Air Max insignias represent dance-y disco lights that you’d find in a bustling EDM club.
Nike Air Max 97 “ Shanghai Kaleidoscope”
In 2018, Nike invited locals from New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai to cook up their own colorways of any Air Max model. The public was then able to vote on 18 finalists to choose one winner from each city, and Cash Ru’s Nike Air Max 97 “On Air” Shanghai Kaleidoscope” was selected to represent Shanghai. The iteration generated a sizable amount of buzz, as Ru revamped its construction with a translucent blue upper and multiple tabs atop that heels and tongues that nodded to the way the clouds interact with the skyscrapers in Shanghai.
CLOT x Nike Air Max 1 “Kiss of Death”
Nike dug into the vault to reincarnate some of its most impactful collaborations for Air Max Day 2021 Aside from the aforementioned Air Max 90 “Bacon,” the Swoosh gave another one of its early ‘00s collabs a second life: the CLOT x Nike Air Max 1 “Kiss of Death.” The sneakers attracted a substantial amount of attention back in '06 for its see-through toe boxes and nod to the art of Chinese reflexology. Its return was an opportunity for Edison Chen and his CLOT team to re-introduce one of the earliest projects that kick started its longstanding partnership with Nike to the modern sneaker community and offer up the old heads a chance to re-up on a coveted classic.
Nike Air Max 1 “Air Max Day”
When Nike declared March 26, 2014 its first official Air Max Day, it knew that it had to start off the journey with a bang. So in poetic fashion, it took things back to the Nike Air Max 1 for a special quickstrike release. The Air Max 1 “Air Max Day” was modeled after the original “Sail/University Red” colorway but tweaked with special “3.26” tongue branding and volt Nike midsoles which achieved a classic-meets-contemporary look. The retail pairs were sold in traditional boxes while various promotional pairs were housed in special “Air” packaging to generate even more excitement around the release. To this day, this is still one of the most acclaimed Air Max Day releases, reflected by the fact that they go for upwards of $800 USD on the resell market.
Nike Air Max 1 “Wabi-Sabi”
2022 marked the 35th anniversary of the Air Max 1, so Nike opted to shower the silhouette with love by cooking it up in a trio of regional exclusive colorways. One pair in the assemblage was the Nike Air Max 1 “Wabi-Sabi” which attracted the most attention thanks to its earth-toned arrangement, exposed stitches that called out the silhouette’s anniversary and collection of patches that came packaged with the kicks. This pair was only released in retailers throughout the Asia Pacific and Latin America regions.