They are one of the most divisive designs in Nike’s long history. Yet the Air Huarache has a die-hard fan base that’s growing with every re-issue. See what Gary Warnett, of sneaker heaven, Crooked Tongues, has to say to ASOS about the black sheep of Nike’s stable.
Who designed the Huarache?
They were created by design legend, Tinker Hatfield, the man responsible for the majority of Air Jordans from 1988 onwards, the Air Max and Air Max 90, among other bestsellers that thrive as reissues now.
What inspired them?
They were inspired by water-skiing booties. With a framework on the outside and a sock-like neoprene lining, the system he created with a handful of Nike thinkers, designers and scientists was christened Dynamic Fit.
They’re pretty unique. Was there resistance from the suits?
There was. The lack of swoosh branding was enough to give an exec cause to hyperventilate, but the look was a foot hugging step into the unknown – even the exposed foam on the sole and previously unseen colours like Scream Green and Royal Blue had the suits sweating.
And it nearly didn’t happen?
That’s right. Shoe development is a multiple step process, and sales based on the sample were weak, with just 5,000 orders secured (100,000 was the average order amount to justify production). The Nike Air Huarache was cancelled.
But they were saved, clearly. But how?
One maverick marketing man’s decision to get the 5,000 pairs produced and sell them guerilla-style at the New York Marathon was a high-risk strategy that worked. They sold out in two days. An order for 250,000 followed, with half a million made the following year. The Nike Air Huarache’s 1991 launch revolutionised the running shoe. Even the ads for it displayed an appropriate level of irreverence. One tagline simply resorted to an astonished, ‘What was that?’
When was the first re-issue?
In 2000, as a response to a new kind of sports footwear collector, Nike reissued the Air Huarache, launched with a Stüssy collaboration. The wider release hit hard with a generation who wore it the first time around or envied peers, older brothers, or cousins who owned them almost a decade earlier.
What’s next for the Huarache?
This February, a new version drops, evoking some of the scarcer, muted versions of the shoe that sold around 1992. Nothing captures the early 1990s like the Huarache and with resurgences of the era’s style, it’s little surprise that it’s uniting tribes of boys, girls, shoe hoarders and nostalgics right now.