Originally developed by Tinker Hatfield and Nike CEO Mark Parker in 1987, the Air Max 1 was the first shoe with a visible air unit, partly inspired by the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, a modern building with large glass walls that allow the inside of the building to be seen.
The Air Max 90 had a 20% larger Air bag than the Air Max 1, so the window got larger and the shoe wider, characteristics that added weight.
Hatfield compensated by designing an upper that used lighter materials. New mold techniques and eyelet technologies gave runners more options than they had ever experienced in a shoe before. The addition of more plastic components, along with geometric blocking that shuffled colors from midsole to the upper, gave the shoe a faster look and called out the bigger Air bag.
Hatfield also separated the midsole into front and back compartments to allow a range of performance and material options. “The approach was to design products that worked really well”, says Hatfield, “but also design products that stood out from everyone else and told a unique visual story”.