If you missed our previous “Fresh to Death” piece examining GOAT shoe designer Tinker Hatfield’s most iconic sneakers of the 80s and 90s… you blew it, clown!
Just kidding. But be sure to check that out. It’s a great primer for the below… our round up of six of the top Hatfield non-Jordan shoes. There’s a lot to discuss, so let’s dispense with any further intro and jump right in!
1. The Nike Air Flight Huarache (1992)
Source: Sneaker News
Tinker has been inspired by many things, but you probably didn’t think sandals were among them.
Yup. The master architect behind Nike’s look drew inspiration from the light, barely-there aesthetic and feel of sandals to design the venerable Nike Air Flight Huarache. Basketball sneakers weren’t particularly light back in the early 90s, but that changed with these kicks, which were quickly cemented in pop culture lore thanks to their adoption by Michigan’s “Fab Five”—Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson.
2. The Nike Air Trainer 1 (1987)
Have we mentioned that ya boy Tinker pretty much invented cross training shoes?
That’s right. Back in the day, it was far more common for folks to have multiple specialized kicks for different forms of athletic training. A separate shoe for basketball, running, tennis, weight lifting, et cetera. Hatfield frequently packed multiple shoes just to go to the local Y. Eventually, he grew tired of that nonsense and unleashed the Air Trainer’s on the world. We’re in your debt, Tinker.
3. Nike Air Tech Challenge 3 (1990)
Source: Sneakers Addict
These were arguably what made tennis shoes a thing, and why your mom probably still refers to sneakers as “tennis shoes.” Made specifically for this writer’s all-time favorite player, Andre Agassi—who used to rock a very different aesthetic—the Tech Challenge 3’s were appropriately brash, bold, and neon. They served to redefine the sport’s look in a time of stoic, Sampras-inspired plain white athletic shoes.
4. Nike Air Max 180 (1991)
Source: Hypes Are Us
“His Airness,” Michael Jordan, didn’t always stunt in Air Jordans. Sometimes he donned other Nike shoes. And the Nike Air Max 180’s are particularly notable because they’re the shoes #23 rocked in Barcelona with the Dream Team during the historic 1992 Olympic games. Offering a stellar, leisurely mix of neoprene and nylon, the Air Max 180’s were far ahead of their time for everyday comfort.
5. Nike Air Trainer SC (1990)
Bo knows sneakers, so it only stands to reason he’d team with Tinker on his own branded shoes. At the time, Bo Jackson was inarguably the greatest athlete on the planet—his eventual injury remains a shocking event that forever changed the sports world—and the Air Trainer SC’s would only further cement him in the public consciousness. Plus, the “sail cloth” straps would later inspire Nike’s Flywire tech.
6. Nike MAG (1989)
There was no chance we were gonna leave the Nike MAG’s off this list. Debuting in 1989 via Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in 1989’s Back to the Future II, Tinker designed both the once-fictional (now real-deal) self-lacing shoes and the scene storyboard for their appearance in the film.
“This was an opportunity to think about the future, which is a great exercise to go through when you’re designing any shoe, really, because it will be in the future anyway,” Hatfield said. “I thought about the year 2015, and I had a strong opinion that shoes might be somewhat intelligent and able to turn on and become alive in the future. I just naturally designed that into what ended up being this shoe.”
In related news, just the other day the original Nike MAG’s worn in Back to the Future II were announced for auction. The expected going price? A cool 40 grand. (Totally worth it.)