Why Skepta’s New Nike Air Max Is A Tale Of Two Cities
The sneakers you need now.
The clue is in the name, but this year marks the 20th anniversary of Nike’s ever-popular Air Max 97 Running – a sleek, silver sneaker originally modelled by designer Mr Christian Tresser on a high-tech mountain bike. And with the label set to mark the occasion, all eyes were on Italy. After all, this was the nation that most fully embraced the shoe. In 1997, both Dolce & Gabbana and Giorgio Armani put it on their runways. The volume of local anecdotes about the shoe was sufficient to fill a book – and in fact, 20 years on, one Mr Lodovico Pignatti Morano has: Le Silver (Kaleidoscope, 2017).
However, the latest iteration of the Air Max 97 Running takes its inspiration not from Milan but from a pair of other, more unexpected cities. In collaboration with Nike sportswear, Mr Joseph Junior Adenuga (aka Skepta) has created the Nike Air Max 97 SK, a new version of the classic Air Max 97 running that’s influenced by his love of London, his hometown, and Marrakech, a bustling, colour-soaked location that excites and engages his creativity.
The London element of the shoe is all about Mr Adenuga’s personal sneaker history. The first Air Max Mr Adenuga got his hands on in north London was actually the Air Tuned Max — a biomechanical curiosity, released in 1999, that could have come straight from the mind of Swiss artist Mr HR Giger. As well as marking the debut of the short-lived, full-length Tuned Air unit, it was a cult favourite, and while it didn’t last long on the shelves, it left an impression on those in the know.
Skepta was a huge fan of the shoe and its pearlescent “Saturn Red” panelling. So, in 2017, he’s turned back to it as a source for his Air Max 97 SK design, which incorporates a one-to-one reproduction of the original 1999 Air Tuned Max mesh (as well as lifting the lacing system from the Zoom Spiridon, another design of Mr Tresser’s from the same sessions that birthed the 97).
Meanwhile, in tribute to Marrakech, where last year Mr Adenuga shot a zine and a look book for his Mains clothing label, the shoe incorporates a braided detail on the heel and tongue, inspired by the garments he saw worn on the street.
In summary, the shoe’s conflicting influences tell a past/present story: the North London teen putting his new shoes on the shelf so he could see those acquisitions when he woke, and the well-travelled veteran with new worlds at his feet. Whatever the budget and whatever the marketing plan, you can’t synthesise passion for the product. For those raised on that all-important Air and newcomers alike, Skepta’s experience is encapsulated here as much as the nitrogen in that sole, and it’s infectious.