The Nike Air Max 97, 25 Years and Counting

With great discipline comes superior ideas. A forward-thinking masterpiece. Timeless and ahead of its time, 25 years later, here we are still talking about the Nike Air Max 97. Sneaker junkies across the globe unite as we briefly educate you on what you need to know about this iconic footwear emblem.  

The year 1997. A pinnacle moment in sneaker history saw the birth of the Nike Air Max 97. Visible air continued to shine but this time throughout the entire midsole as well as a hidden lace up system which enabled Nike to innovate a shoe model loved by many to this day. Air Max was first born in 1987 through Tinker Hatfield’s daring design on the Air Max 1 (originally known as just ‘Air Max’ with experts not knowing how legendary the first of its kind would become therefore naming it the Air Max 1) – a shoe which to many changed lifestyle culture and foot comfort forever. Fast-forward 10 years later and here we are with the updated/futuristic 97 iteration of the legendary line.

As Tinker Hatfield and Sergio Lozano stepped away from Air Max to focus on more performance-based and flagship Nike footwear, the reins were handed over to Christian Tresser – little did he know this moment in his career would stand the test of time amongst sneaker evolution. With a new millennium approaching and technology advancing it was vital Nike kept one step ahead of its competition. Tresser, taking inspiration from rain drops, nods to the Japanese Bullet Train, automobiles, CD’s, the waves of the sea and of course mountain bike frames – the Nike Air Max 97 emerged. 

The shoe was a huge hit in Italy, especially the neck-breaking Silver Bullet which had a significant regional elegance to it with a sense of luxury – a fan favourite to the always stylish Italians. This version of the shoe also takes reference from the infamous, high speed, Japanese bullet train which revolutionised the way people travel. With the help of Japanese culture and design, Tresser had a solid base to work from in producing a new vision for Air Max under high pressure and big expectations. The 2 year earlier success of the Nike Air Max 95 (the 110’s to us in the UK), Japan also helped the evolution and innovation of sneaker culture and with this demand, came the need for upgraded premium releases. Connected fact: The small boutique street-style stores in Japan also inspired Footpatrol London’s earlier shop interior decor.

2017 brought the silhouette’s 20th anniversary, a welcomed return with many new retroed versions of some classic colourways, along with some clean in-line and premium itterations, plus some new high heat releases alongside. The year revived the AM97, fueling sneaker addicts to acquire pairs they had once forgotten about. 2017 will be looked back at a key time for the Air Max model. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on the Footpatrol launches app calendar for what’s coming up in the Nike Air Max line. 

Over the years Nike has come up with some truly outstanding Air Max pairs worthy of any sneaker rotation or collection. Here are a few of our favourites picked by the team over at Footpatrol. 

Nike Air Max 97 Silver Bullet (See Below)

There have been a few versions of the AM97 Silver Bullet since its beginnings in 1997 – the colourway even inspired further silhouettes in the Nike production line such as TN’s, Zero’s and Jewel’s. The jarring colours scheme inspired by the Japanese Bullet Train and the ripples from a water droplet sets precedent to the Air Max 97 DNA.

Over the years, the Air Max 97 Silver Bullet has retroed only a handful of times since its original release, hence its consistent high demands from consumers and sneaker enthusiasts alike. The iteration from 2012 released along a pack of original Air Max silhouettes and had a slight change with its monochrome black outsole. After its hiatus, the AM97 returned in 2016 with Italy being host to its pre-release due to its huge popularity in the 90’s. With that being said, Nike released the AM97 Silver Bullet in Italian retailers only. The ‘La Silver’ came with special badges which the inline Silver Bullets in 2017 didn’t. In addition to the Italian market, on a separate occasion, a special edition was released with the Italian flag on the heel tab and tongue in very limited numbers.

Nike Air Max 1/97 Sean Wotherspoon – 2017/2018 (See Below) 

The most important Air Max Day to this day? The Nike Air Max 1/97 x Sean Wotherspoon for Vote Forward in 2017. Wotherspoon competed alongside our very own former Footpatrol London store employee Alexandra Hackett [a.k.a @miniswoosh]. Sean’s shoe boasted a hybrid of Air Max 1 and 97 whilst structured with contrasting corduroy materials. The campaign elevated Sean’s career as not only a lover of vintage fashion at his consignment stores Round Two but also as a new and upcoming sneaker designer – which has now seen him venture onto adidas. Check out Sean’s latest releases here.

Nike Air Max 97 x Undefeated (UNDFTD) – 2017 (See Below)

Undefeated never seem to miss when it comes to an Air Max collaboration. In 2017 we saw black, white and green versions of the shoe. Not easy to spot nowadays, a rare commodity and a sneaker many people wish they had bought. Undefeated branding ran through the waves as well as their iconic logo on the tongue of the sneaker. 

Nike Air Max 97 x Skepta 2017 (See Below)

A key player in Nikes locker – another 2017 release saw our very own UK resident MC and Grime artist Skepta collaborate with Nike on a jaw dropping colour scheme on a Ultra variation of the 97 which boosted his recognition not only in music but in fashion, design and all round pop-culture status. Skepta has since gone on to make several key Nike models including a Nike Air Max Deluxe as well as a Air Max Tailwind V.

Around that time, Nike were heavily pushing hybrid models – constructing 2 silhouettes into one. Nike’s GS sizing were hybrids at a time where Air Max 95’s would come with an Air Max 93 midsole, so these releases weren’t anything new. With the Skepta collaboration, Nike took the Air Max BW and the Air Max 97 to create a Paris inspired project. From the contrasting Swooshes taken from the French Flag to the mesh material, the AM97/BW paid homage to the love Paris and Skepta have for each other.

Nike Air Max 97 Gold (See Below)

If silver does not take your fancy, don’t worry Nike has you covered with a gold version of the Air Max 97 Silver Bullet. The metallic hints make this shoe very noticeable on the streets. The dark red swoosh Nike branding reinforces the style’s strong status. The shoe also comes in a strong patterned Italian version. 

Nike Air Max 97 Baroque Brown

A stand out colourway pasted in earthy tones with a speckled midsole, contrasted with the full length Air Max bubble, the Baroque Brown 97’s are a must-have pair. From the bottom of the outsole to the top of the upper, the waves fade lighter in tone giving a stand-out finish. Once more, a premium suede has been used rather than the favoured metallic prowess recognised to many AM 97 fanatics. 

Nike Air Max 97 Puerto Rico – 2021

In more recent times we have seen the Air Max 97 Puerto Rico hit the shelves. Similar to the Italian version, the design features Puerto Rican flags as well as a subtle change in the swoosh embroidery.

Nike Air Max 97 Rio Jacquard Brazil – 2016 

A wild pair but one which will now set you back a fair few pennies since its release in 2016. Carnival vibes throughout are just what Brazilian people are known for – this shoe is meant to be worn on the streets, joined by good people, music and dance. The digital speckle highlights this shoe, uplifting its presence whilst the pine green reminds you of its South American heritage.

Nike Air Max 97 Hyperfuse Hasta – 2012 (See Below)

In 2010, Nike introduced its latest innovation of Hyperfuse technology used in its footwear.

Eliminating its traditional cut-and-sew method, three layered composite and durable materials are fused together using heat and pressure to give off a lightweight and breathable feel. In 2012, Nike relied heavily on Hyperfuse and applied it on their classic models with the Air Max 97 being one of them. The hyperfuse material is used all over the upper with a combination of open mesh for maximum breathability.

Nike Air Max 97 Kashima Antler – 2006 (See Below)

In 2006, Nike released the ‘Kashima Antler’s Pack’ which was an ode to Japan’s most successful professional football team, the Kashima Antlers. Nike applied the inspiration on 3 icons, the AM95, AM97 as well as (at the time) newly innovated Air Max 360. The Air Max 97 combines subtle tones of black and grey. It also boasted the much-beloved elephant print on the upper with a teal-colored Max Air unit and Kashima Antler branding on the tongue and heel tab.

Download our Footpatrol launches app here for all the latest news and releases. 

Shop the latest Air Max styles here.

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