Air Max designs are Nike Internationalist Damen built for speed. What else is fast? Bullet trains. As folk lore goes, the Air Max 97 was designed with a Japanese bullet train in mind, hence the ‘Silver Bullet’ moniker given to the OG Nike Air Vapormax Donna colourway. But recently, Nike 'Behind the Design' states otherwise. The mind behind the 97, Christian Tresser, explains the layered uppers are representative of ripples of water in a pond, and that the silver colouration was actually inspired by the 'metal finishes like aluminum and polished titanium' on BMX bikes. Go figure!
1998 saw Nike take the Air Max bulk to new heights with the Air Max 98. A stark contrast to 1997's bullet train-inspired Air Max 97, the AM98 took on a heavily padded upper of mesh and leather while retaining the 97's tooling. Despite the bulk, though, the AM98 had a panel-laden upper similar to that of the 95 and 97, which Nike Air Zoom Spiridon Femme designer Sergio Lozano had previously said was inspired by the striations on the walls of the Grand Canyon.
Before 1998 was up, Nike sought to give the bulky Air Max 98 a sleeker, Adidas ZX Flux Damen speedier makeover. The resulting Air Max 98 TL featured a similar overall silhouette, but modified the tooling in favour of additional segmentation while the upper featured sweeping lines and mini Swoosh branding at the toe.
The Air Max 98 was essentially a chunkier, less fluid version of the Air Max 97, so the Air Max Plus easily stole the show in 1998. For his entry in the iconic Air Max lineup, industry vet Sean McDowell took cues from his Florida stomping grounds to clad the Plus — which debuted the Swoosh's new Tuned Air technology — in palm tree-inspired moulded overlays and gradient executions that looked like the Sunshine State's beautiful Nike Air Vapormax Heren sunsets.
European rave culture was at its height in 1999, and the Air Max Deluxe perfectly captured the zeitgeist with its avant-grade aesthetic. The in-your-face design even went Nike Cortez Donna so far as to channel the bold colours and wild prints favoured by ravers to decorate its upper, marking the first time Nike had put an all-over digital print on neoprene. A moulded Foamposite heel also recalled the kicks that were dominating on the hardwood at the time.
We’re only speculating, but it looks like the team behind this one wanted to close out the 90s with a tribute to the most offensive trends of the era. They basically channelled 10 years of tribal tatts, ill-fitting rave fashion, and chunky skate shoes into one silhouette, which clearly hasn’t stood the test of time. The Air Tuned Max was the first to have a full-length Tuned Air system,Nike Internationalist Mujer one year after the technology first appeared in the Air Max Plus (aka TN). As hard as it is to look at, if Nike were to retro this one we’d be tempted to cop — there really is Adidas Ultra Boost Damesno other shoe quite like it.
Maximum cushioning was the name of the game in 2003 so, as a juxtaposition to the maximalist principles on display with the Air Max 2003's full-length Max Air cushioning, Nike went the minimalist route with its upper. Instead of the bold colours and out-there designs of past Air Maxes, the Swoosh utilised a Teijin performance material that was similar to those employed in elite track spikes and football boots. The result? A lightweight Air Max that didn't even require any break-in time.
The Air Max 360 is the culmination of 19 years of visible air development. It was inevitable that Nike would drop a shoe cushioned entirely by air, and it came in 2006 in the form of the Air Max 360. As a tribute to its heritage, the OG 360 dropped in a colourway paying homage to the Air Max 1.