Nike Air Max 97

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    Nike Air Max 97
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    Air Max 97

    Two years after Nike partly put their visible Air technology in the forefoot with the Air Max 95, they decided to push things even further. Now they wanted to extend the use of air to the whole of the foot. Engineers set out to make the first fully visible Air sole, and the results of their work were incredible. The Nike Air Max 97 was born. These Air Max 97 shoes were first launched for use in sport, but they quickly hit the high streets as well. And that’s where sales of mens, womens and little kids trainers really began to grow. The world of sneakers immediately fell for the new Air Max 97. The AM97 proved to be universal from the first day of its release, with Christian Tresser's design quickly becoming a classic and people looking to buy a relatively cheap pair when it went on sale. It was even a favourite for baby’s wear, and the new sneakers were available in junior and infant sizes, so it wasn't rare to see a boy or a girl in the 97 as well as adults. The story behind the Nike Air Max 97 is remarkable. And so are the submodel designs. ‘What’s your story?’, legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield would always ask when starting a new project. ‘Why does your design look the way it does?’ Christian Tresser, who was about to add a new collection to the Air Max family, had a great answer to this question. Tresser found his 'why' for the 97 while looking out over a small pond. The calm of the surface was disrupted by a single raindrop, and lines quickly began to form across the water. A ripple effect. That’s where the wavy lines on the Air Max 97, and later on the Air Max 97 Ultra, Silver Bullet, OG and Premium, come from. The bottom, however, is a whole different story. Nike engineers and designers thought it was time to innovate and expand the visible Air to the rest of the outsole. The shoe would now have air along the whole bottom of the foot. The lines, along with the fully transparent Air outsole, gave the shoe a look of pure speed. And when different colours came in, things only got more stylish. The bold waves of the AM97 have always suited different colour patterns and combinations. Before this, though, we saw a shiny, block silver model which many assumed was inspired by a Japanese speed train. It was actually modeled on Tresser's own mountain bike. This came just before a rarely seen multicolour frenzy, best illustrated by the Rainbow, one of the colourway highlights of the 97. And that's saying something, with so many top contenders out there - like the ‘London Summer of Love’ or the ‘Court Purple’, just to name a few.

    The Nike Air Max 97 goes with everything, matching every outfit. Some versions are shiny like the Rose Gold, the Metallic Gold and the Metallic Silver, not to be mistaken with the Silver Bullet. There are ones that have brighter tones, like the Sunset and the South Beach, or have even brighter details, like the Neon. Others are fully covered in one single colour. Here there's a wide choice available. For example, the All Red or the Blue Hero, and models in yellow or orange. Similar to these simple colours, you have the Air Max 97 in the tougher and more industrial looking khaki and brown, and colourways such as the Anthracite, and the Wolf Grey, which has mystical, foggy shades of grey. The shoe's impressive versatility can be seen in the fact that it can be silky as well as smooth. Check out the Smokey Mauve for example, which looks like a combo of the pink and purple Taupe and the classic navy-coloured Obsidian. And don’t miss out on the off-white beige tones of the Cobblestone and Cream. Or what about the softness of the pink Air Max 97, or the chic-looking Burgundy. Of course, Nike also thought of more basic colours with the 97 Triple Black and Triple White, an all black and all white version. Subtle changes were made in the dark Nocturnal Animal, as well as the Summit White, which has minor black details. Still not satisfied with all this choice? You can get arty yourself using Nike ID, and make a custom pair with colours of your choice. Building on the extraordinary use of colour, Nike started creating different colour-based themes. For example, the Game Royal, that has red and blue lines, or the Playstation and the Nintendo 64 edition, which match those game consoles' brand colours. And as always, Nike also did incredible things with the use of animal print. They made the Snakeskin, adding various colours to a snakeskin pattern, and the Summer Scales, with its fish scale design. In addition to this, they brought out the Tiger Camo, a camouflage print with tiger stripes which uses olive green too. Country Camo is another version using a classic camouflage print with green and brown details. Other notable prints are Glitter, which, as the name suggests, has shiny sparkles on the upper, the Y2K, with its pixelated Nike Swoosh, and the Just Do It, on which the slogan was printed several times. As you can see, Nike isn’t shy about experimenting with colour and print on the AM97. That also goes for trying out new techniques and merging the shoe with other existing models. The 97 Hyperfuse has a top part made up of three layers of material, fused together to create a nearly seamless one-piece upper. This trainer comes in the really cool Blackout colourway. Then there’s the VT (Vac-Tech). Introduced by Nike in 2011, the special thermo-moulded technique gives the upper a shell-like look and feel, especially stylish looking in the Midnight Fog. Pointing out the exact moment Nike started merging different models is not easy, but it was only a matter of time before they tried it with the 97.

    The sneaker was given the famous Tn-logo when it was merged with the Air Max Plus, resulting in the Air Max 97 Plus. Moreover, an upper exchange was done with the Air Max 97/BW and the very well-received Air Max 1/97. The last one was designed by prize winner - and vintage store owner - Sean Wotherspoon. Another model was given the Air-only VaporMax outsole. And, at the same time, Nike bridged the gap between different sports, combining an original running shoe with a 90s basketball shoe, leading to the Air Max Uptempo 97. With all these colourways, prints and special models, Nike came up with a way to categorise a few of them. For example, the Air Max 97 Essential focuses on keeping the traditional design while modernising the materials. The Air Max 97 LX takes it even further, with variations in print - such as the Overbranded with its small Swooshes - and in colour. Some have limited availability, so they have to be bought quickly, like the Air Max 97 QS. Furthermore, there’s the Air Max 97 SE, a special edition line, with unique features like reflective upper panels. And there are other exclusive versions, those made through inspiring collabs. Nike decided to give certain artists and other brands carte blanche for the Nike Air Max 97. In 2017 the famous sneaker store and brand, Undefeated, got to make a pair of their own, resulting in the Air Max 97 Undefeated. Fashion designer Virgil Abloh made a 97 Off White. Artist Skepta also got to deck out the AM97, resulting in the Moroccan inspired Air Max 97 SK. Football legend Cristiano Ronaldo got a personal golden Air Max 97 CR7, honouring his career. Jewellery brand Swarovski also got the spotlight with the gold and silver glittery 97 Swarovski. Models referencing some of the world’s most famous cities were made as well, like the confetti Jacquard patterned Rio, the Neon Seoul, or the Milan. Nike even released a fun edition of their own, wishing people a ‘Nike day’ with the 97 Have A Nike Day.

    Air Max 97 Ultra

    Getting rid of unnecessary aspects of the shoe is something Nike has turned into art. With the Nike Air Max 97 Ultra, they made the 97 lighter, pared down to only the essentials, in keeping with the overall goal of always allowing athletes to run faster. A lot of Nike classics have an Ultra version, all built by using the same design technique. The weight is taken off the Air Max 97 Ultra by minimising the upper, with fewer stitches on top, making it almost a one-piece. The outsole also looks less bulky and thick, and that’s the case for both the men’s and women’s shoes - still with air all along the bottom of the foot. The trainer may be slimmed down, but that doesn’t mean it's less comfortable to wear. The Ultra still has air all along the bottom of the foot. For its twentieth anniversary, the lighter version of the original sneaker was honoured with the Air Max 97 Ultra '17. A great complement to the already impressive colourways and colours this model had, such as the Triple Black and versions in grey and bronze. In addition to the already impressive Ultra models there were a variety of special submodels under the name Air Max 97 Ultra SE.

    Air Max 97 Silver Bullet

    Now let’s focus on the model it all started with, the Nike Air Max 97 Silver Bullet. This shoe has to be one of the most recognisable and sought after sneakers of all time. Quite a few media channels have claimed that the classic model was based on a silver bullet train, but this has never been confirmed. Nike did say the shoe gives a nod to the bullet train, but designer Christian Tresser explained where the silver colour really came from. The Air Max 97 Silver Bullet is based on a mountain bike. The kind popular in the 90s which had ‘metal on metal finishes like aluminium and polished titanium’, Tresser himself explained. It didn’t take long for a golden version to come out in the form of 1999's Gold Bullet. Later on, experiments with what Nike called Engineered Mesh (EM) were done, losing a few ripples in the design. Yet, of course, the silver colour would always stay.

    Air Max 97 OG

    Nike is a brand that loves to keep its history alive. Every now and then they put the spotlight on one of their classics by releasing a modern update. For the 97, this means the Nike Air Max 97 OG. The last two letters stand for Original, highlighting the collection's link to its first model. As you know, the original AM97 came out in silver and gold. So it won’t come as a surprise that the Air Max 97 OG has a Silver and Gold colourway. And these two classic colours pass by time and again, including in the limited Air Max 97 OG QS. For this one you'll have to move fast to get your hands on a pair.

    Air Max 97 Premium

    So, now onto the last submodel of the 97 that we’re putting in the spotlight, the Nike Air Max 97 Premium. We’ve seen lightweight models and originals, and now we reach the place where things get more modern looking, more comfy, more luxurious and, in some ways, more stylish. The 97 Premium has been kitted out in all kinds of material, ranging from leather to suede, and even special mesh, which was used beautifully in the silver Tape. The word premium brings to mind top quality. Nike combines this with exclusivity and takes it a step higher. The Air Max 97 Premium SE and QS are unique models which have some great variation in print and colour, from black to camo and onto inventive use of the classic Nike wordmark logo. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Air Max 97, though, is that no matter what colour, graphic or detail the shoe uses, it's still always recognisable as a 97.

    Rank the Nike Air Max 97

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