The Nike Air Max line has had an illustrious history and has been well regarded in sneaker lore since Tinker Hatfield designed the Nike Air Max 1 in the late 1980s. innovation that the braintrust of the brand envisaged at its genesis.
The Air Max line has gone through ups and downs of acclaim and acceptance among its fans, but has remained largely a mainstay in sneaker circles. The litany of releases has spurred icons, such as the Air Max 95, which have been re-released for over two decades without too many signs of slowing down.
Nike had some big shoes to fill after the Air Max 95 released and became one of their favorite silhouettes. The minimal branding and gradient color palette paired with neon accents make the shoes always in demand. Nestled between the popular Air Max 95 and 97, Nike kept minimal branding and a chunky design on the Air Max 96. However, the popularity of the AM 96 did not reach the level of the Air Max sneakers that came before or after.
The Air Max 97 was first adored in specific pockets around the world. Eventually, the silhouette became one of the line’s most popular silhouettes. The cutting-edge design of this shoe gave the Air Max 98 the freedom to push the boundaries. Revered designer Sergio Lozano, who was responsible for the Air Max 95, was once again called upon to lend his talents to the AM 98 and restore the sentiment of its previous offering. .
The sleek designs were part of the reason the Air Max 97 became popular among the masses. Lozano took a different route on the Air Max 98, however, creating a bulkier sneaker that was years ahead of its time in terms of acceptance by the sneaker community. The horizontal ribs that ran horizontally from front to back on the 95 and 97 Air Max have been rotated to create vertical ribs on the Air Max 98. Reflective piping curves around the upper separating the system unique lacing and mesh material contrasting leather wraps around the midsection of the upper. Another contrasting element completes the upper, while colored nubuck traces the top of the midsole.
One of the things Air Max fans looked forward to before every release was the inventive new way to showcase the visible Air. Each year’s release usually resulted in another rendition of Air Max visible in the midsole. However, the Air Max 98 simply used the same visible full-length Air Max bed that was first featured on the Air Max 97. Repeated use was not well received by fans of the Air Max 98. Air Max range. The bulky construction, lack of innovation in air bubbles on the sole, curved overlay on the upper, and overzealous branding made the $150 a hard pill to swallow at release time. For context, the Air Max 95 was still a sought-after sneaker three years after its original release – so much so that the original “Neon” colorway had a release date of 1998. When first released, the Nike Air Max 95 had a price. of $110. The Air Max 97 went for the same $150, but was deemed more justifiable due to its all-new, otherworldly “Silver Bullet” appearance.
(Fun fact: School sizes of the Nike Air Max 98 didn’t have the full-length AM 97 sole unit. Instead, it relied on a midsole and air bubble style of the Air Max 95.)
Over the years, the Nike Air Max has been the backdrop for Nike designers to implement new color palettes and cushioning systems. That didn’t necessarily happen on the Air Max 98. Instead, Lozano and Nike opted to splash the kicks with a colorway that used royal blue and navy blue to offset the stark white of the eyes on middle layer and tongue on top, and sprinkled red coloring. on lace eyelets and other accents. The Air Max 98 would release in a few other original colorways that hinted at Lozano’s Nike ACG past. Outside of the original color scheme, dubbed “Gundam” due to its resemblance to an anime of the same name, many Nike Air Max 98 sneakers faded quickly and ended up on retail shelves and in the market. markdown section of shoe retail magazines.
Adding insult to injury to Nike from the lukewarm reception of the Air Max 98, other Air Max iterations were released the same year and became classic sneakers. In the fall of the same year, Nike started a project with Foot Locker which resulted in the release of the Air Max Plus. With the launch of Nike’s latest Air tween, the Air Max plus, more affectionately dubbed ‘TN’, with its Tuned Air sticks, bold colors and gradient upper proved to be the most memorable Air Max release ever. this year and continues to invoke immense affinity between sneaker wearers. It’s plausible, if not understandable, that people would think the Air Max Plus was the yearly contribution to the vaunted Air Max line, but that wasn’t the case. The popularity of the TN continues to reverberate as the original 1998 release serves as the underlying inspiration for the expansive Vapormax worship of recent years.
As times and fashion change, so do people’s preferences. The bulky construction of the Air Max 98 was frowned upon when it first dropped. Thankfully, the success of previous Air Max entries in the years following release led Nike to slightly revamp the silhouette two years later. The Air Max 98 would return to shelves dressed in colors inspired by the popular Air Max 95 releases, along with a few new colors. Sneaker fans were still not ready to accept the Lozano design, and the retro versions saw a similar sales rack designation as its original brethren.
Fourteen years later, the fashion world was beginning to regard the bulky runner as a desirable look; perfect entry point for the return of the Air Max 98. Which it did. Once again the silhouette was doomed to sales racks and markdowns. One could have easily assumed that the Air Max 97 was shelved for good. The shoe just didn’t resonate even sixteen years after the original release.
Gone but not forgotten has been the mantra of many sneakers. The brands dug deep into their respective coffers to come up with sneakers that hadn’t been at the forefront of our hearts and minds for quite some time. Fashion shifted to thrifty and retro looks, especially the ’90s aesthetic, and the sneaker world followed suit. The Air Max 98 received its most considerable revival when it teamed up with notorious collaborator Supreme for a high-end release in 2016. The brand is known to go against the grain from time to time and take risks on sneakers that people would consider risky. However, just about everything Supreme has lent its red bar graph touch to turn into coveted. This was the case with the Supreme x Nike Air Max 98.
Glossy patent leather covered the sidewall and toe cap on three of Supreme’s four versions. Using very minimal color blocking, the pack featured navy and red patent leather colorways sitting under gray mesh and piping and finished with a white midsole and gray outsole. There was also a pair that was completely black from the inner lining to the outsole. The flashiest pair of Supreme x Nike Air Max 98 saw beige snakeskin wrap around the sneaker, while putting the same gray mesh, white outsole and midsole to work.
The Supreme pack was met with a high level of hype which resulted in the shoes being released as online exclusives and selling out within minutes despite the high price tag of $198. The Supreme collaboration coupled with the newly found adoration of “dad shoes” and chunky sneakers provided the perfect storm for sneaker fans to start clamoring for the release of the Nike Air Max 98 to the mainstream. Nike also hid the silhouette’s 20th anniversary marketing in its back pocket following the release of Supreme in 2016. Sure enough, the Air Max 98 would return in 2018 with a bang. OG and newly minted colorways will release in the 20th anniversary year starting with the original “Tour Yellow” color scheme which dropped in January 2018. The prized “Gundam” colorway also returned to shelves in 2018.
Since Supreme’s resurgence in 2016, the Nike Air Max 98 has seen its popularity peak on the Nike campus and among sneaker culture. The growing penchant for bulky kicks and growing love for retro racers create the perfect platform for the 98 to flourish. The Air Max 98 has been featured in a variety of promotional packs from Nike, which is a testament to its growing fame. It will be interesting to see where this late bloomer lands in the hearts and minds of sneaker lovers.
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