To celebrate 30 years of the Nike Air Huarache and relive each step that dragged Tinker Hatfield’s thermoplastic strap donning silhouette into the industry’s cut-throat limelight, Footpatrol and Morprime IndustriesTM have teamed up to cover every landmark, hiccup and even a handful of substories that lead to this model so sitting proudly at the forefront of technological innovation. Without further ado, follow us on a journey from 1991 until the present day; pulling apart thirty years of unadulterated excitement.
Re-writing global sportswear and fashion trends wasn’t an easy feat, in fact Nike have been working with and Tinker-ing the Air Huarache for three decades now. The man himself joined Swoosh in 1981, utilising his love for architecture to help line our shelves with some of the most aesthetically pleasing sneakers on the market. His jump into footwear’s design pool happened a mere four years after joining Nike.
Initial Air Huarache price tags sat at $110 and $100 GS respectively, however certain issues ushered Hatfield’s sketches into the shadows from day one. It was a case of first-run orders sitting below 50 units, taking product manager Tom Hartge to trust Tinker’s range and forge an order for 5000 units. This paid off, with each and every pair of the 9.5 ounce sneakers going home with a new owner during a three day stall-sale at New York’s Marathon. From here, Nike saw orders surpass half a million units – success was the next stop.
GB sprinter Derek Redmond was somewhat overshadowed in the sneaker-verse by his father, Jim, despite multiple World Championship medals. He carved a solo route into the Huarache ‘Hall of Fame’ by supporting his injured son across Barcelona’s ‘92 Olympics Semi Final finishing-line. What makes this so key, is the featured tee bestowing Nike’s ‘Have You Hugged Your Foot Today?’ advert, worn by Redmond Senior.
Media coverage didn’t persuade everyone, particularly publication ‘Runner’s World’ who slated the neoprene and lycra sneaker’s level on-foot breathability; a remarkably contrasting claim to that awarded by our now disparaged ‘The Source’ team. They handed Nike a gold star for ‘Shoe Technology of the Year’ to commemorate a sneaker inundated with space-age features; this tale of two halves gave early insight into an ensuing 30 year rollercoaster.
In the same year, North America’s NBA witnessed an Air Flight Huarache maze from court-to-couch, protecting the toes of superstars Pippen and Reggie Miller to name but a few. Kobe Bryant curated an immense library of Player Exclusive (PE) iterations throughout 2003, feeding nicely into 2004’s Zoom Huarache 2K4. It is said that the 2K4 silhouette wore an unofficial signature badge to fill a gap whilst legalities and ties from Kobe’s time with previous sponsors were erased. Until the Zoom Kobe 1 debuted in January 2006, he wore a miscellaneous of Huarache iterations completed by Erik Avar with Tinker’s guidance on fulfilling the outsole pattern and other minor details.
Retrospectively, the University of Michigan’s Chris Webber led squad constructed a perfect environment for Swoosh to further aid the cut-out sneaker’s 1991 hard-court takeover – suiting their team’s unfiltered, new-age style with inch perfect precision. Baggy attire, black socks and Air Flight Huarache – the unwritten recipe for success.
The Huarache name wasn’t only synonymous amongst circles of sneaker collecting fandom, a statement made painstakingly obvious as we observe the level of historical influences Nike’s palette planners took on board, dressing 1991’s silhouette in elaborately planned colour schemes designed to demand attention. Variations in green, shades of black and off-white tones attributed 1988-90’s ESCAPE collection, with ‘88’s Windrunner playing its part when designers drafted Stussy’s soon-to-be SMU – and of course, 2003’s very own Air Huarache ‘Escape’ namesake.
Nike tends to launch hybrids to aid the exploration of previously untapped markets, yet 2007’s Huarache trifecta may not be seen as so traditional. They pulled a second 1991 neoprene-ridden, heel-strap wearing silhouette from Tinker’s infinitely impressive and expanding portfolio – this time, lending a mid-height contribution from ACG’s rural Oregon branch. This version swapped mesh for perforated leather, going on to splash each panel in OG MOWABB colours thus displaying DNA from both sides of the fence. Many saw this gang as a final ‘Hua-rrah’ before dropping the silhouette in the short term.
Without a shadow of doubt, the Air Huarache’s impact on street and sports-CULTURE was that of biblical proportions – finding a middle-ground between basketball, running, going on to touch base with leisurewear and even tennis. Interpreting things differently, what impact did the CULTURE alone have on the success of this article footwear engineering? Well, MTV aired a Nike advert in 1992 focussing on purple lycra, USA World Champion sprinter Michael Johnson and the OG pair of Air Huarache ‘Purple Punch’.
Ayrton Senna, MC Serch and Mike Tyson were all photographed in their own pair of brightly coloured lycra-booties, as the technology became accessible to the masses.
Following Tom Hartge’s risky business that make 1991 so profitable, orders rocketed from sub-50 to beyond 250,000; furthermore, Tinker was quoted by Kahn, French and Corral in their 2017 hard-back ‘SNEAKERS’ announcing over four million sales during a single fiscal year on the market. His efforts made Hatfield’s idea float, where it naturally faded only to be brought back into the public eye early-2013 bearing a ‘What are you sayin. #huaracheAIR #STUSSY,’ Twitter caption. Global media welcomed Joey Essex to the stage as he wore Stussy’s millennium- curbing olive SMU during a photoshoot; aligning himself at the centre of Nike’s 2013 Huarache rebirth.
In other news, the SMU’s backstory is a thing of great fortune…
Simon Porter was in contact with Nike’s Jason Fulton asking specifically for ‘unique product’ to line shelves soon after opening Stussy’s FIRST London Chapter store. It just so happened
that four QS were in the works; The Hideout took two Footscapes, whereas Simon nabbed Tinker’s neoprene model for himself in a duo of colourways.
Nobody discussed the pairing with Stussy’s US team due to its intended London store-only presence, eventually selling out through word-of-mouth alone.
By blowing Swoosh minds, Stussy gained access to a certain Dunk SB struggling to gain its market foothold.
Black and white mono, mesh-based pairs launched worldwide from 2014; THIS marked the point of no return as Tinker’s Huarache gathered a second wind, going forth with immeasurable force and inadvertently coasting that infamous runner’s high until fully customisable NikeID options were dropped at its feet mid-2015 .
Gary Warnett was one of the first to hint at its comeback in 2012, kickstarting a renaissance that size? later joined by draping the ‘Light-er’ version in MOWABB’s COA; beginning to line stomachs of starved collectors.
Now for a little something along the lines of Footpatrol’s origin story. Calling St Anne’s Court, Soho its first home in 2002, FP was a product of Nike approaching both Michael Kopelman and Simon Porter to open a premium sneaker store off the back of Stussy’s ‘00 SMU success.
Just over a decade later, Footpatrol launched their OWN Huarache singing to the tune of a mere 500 ‘Concrete’ units. Their team took on 1993’s LIGHT silhouette which unlike its heavier, original form saw a solo ‘Ultramarine’ colourway spanning small and larger sizes at time of release. With a heavy heart it didn’t mimic the height of popularity Footpatrol managed to harness, despite sharing an intricately sculpted tri-hole caging system and streamlined suede upper panelling.
Tales of origin encompassing Tinker’s Huarache and its tagline are now common knowledge – however, here’s a recap for those somewhat unfamiliar.
Tales change throughout time but facts remain the same; in this case, we have the late Sandy Bodecker to thank for sculpting Nike SB into the force it is today, as well as scribbling ‘Sneaker of the [Greek] Gods’ in response to Hatfield’s preliminary Huarache design. Inspired, he drew on the repeatedly remodelled ‘harrachi’ mexican sandal when naming – a form of footwear that could fulfil any purpose whilst consistently fitting with modern trends.
Unfortunately, North America’s infamous sandal was merely a namesake as ‘Huarache’ became its production tag, and technical inspiration grew from an elaborate water-skiing bootie epiphany. He was impressed by the neoprene’s ability to stretch and mould its form dependent on each wearer’s dimensions, proceeding to bury the concept beneath a combination of structural exo- skeleton and lycra across early sketches. His idea to stretch above tarsals opposed to lateral metatarsal spread worked at a tangent from 1986’s elasticated Sock Racer forefoot – one of Bruce Kilgore’s creations.
Although Tinker introduced ‘flex-sole ridges’ to the Huarache’s tooling and left Avar to conclude the Flight’s outsole at a later date, coming years saw an uncontrollable spawning of hybrids forming beneath the model’s polymerised chloroprene umbrella – utilising details from both models in a way not dissimilar to the duo of designers’ own tandem efforts.
Andre Agassi is often overlooked for his contributions to the sneaker’s success, with an eye-catching signature Air Tech Challenge II in tow. Two of Hatfield’s silhouettes were united to initiate a concoction of ‘89 performance and ‘91’s lesson in technological finesse – birthing the Air Tech Challenge Huarache, allowing the sneaker to contend in a way it was not famed for. Of course, Agassi claimed his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon with this visible-air-bootie on court.
Nike‘s Huarache FREE 2012 QS capsule was composed of three ingredients – two cut-out basketball silhouettes in original colourways and a single, low-slung pavement beater clad in 1991’s ‘Emerald/Resin’ autumnal palette. FREE technology met retail shelves for the first time mid-2004, three years after Stanford University’s running team was seen cooling-down barefoot in line with a theory encouraging improved foot health; from this point, footwear designers tried to incorporate literally slicing soles into their practise.
2019’s Autumnal season was the lucky recipient of ‘Back to the Future-esque’ FitAdapt technology – forming a bridge over what was a previously untapped market incorporating smartphone applications, 1991’s heartbeat and a lot of fun. Everything else aside, wearers (or users in this case) could adjust ‘lace’ tightness with ease and skim a multitude of LED midsole colour options through an app-reliant sneaker feature.
So, each of these steps contributed towards 2021’s retro of 1991’s storymaker; a sneaker with enough history to pack a small novel and more iterations than your favourite games console. Its ‘dynamic-fit’ technology has, and will continue to push boundaries across industries far outside of lines deemed to be its comfort-zone. Tinker’s designs revolutionised our shelves, transforming all collections with early career prowess.