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Forever Infrared: 30 Years Of The Nike Air Max 90

Luke Taylor
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The history of the Nike Air Max 90 goes back 30 years to 1990 with original Tinker Hatfield designs and OG ‘Infrared’ colourways.

1990 marked a new chapter in the world of music, street culture and sneakers. In Germany the Berlin wall had fallen and the sounds of underground techno music were taken over the disused factories of the German capital. A sense of change and unity was spreading across Europe and with that came the birth of 90s sportswear and of course the latest Air Max on feet. Continuing the ‘trainer technology race’ of the 1980s, the Nike Air Max 90 was designed by the legendary Nike designer, Tinker Hatfield and marked the next chapter for AM. Hatfield had already created a legend with the Air Max 1 in 1987, closely followed by the Air Max Light in 1989. Originally dubbed the Air Max 3, the history of the Nike Air Max 90 has seen a unique street culture connection that not many other training shoes can boast. The Nike Air Max 90 is still just as relevant today in the sneaker world as it was 30 years ago.

Nike Air Max 90 Flyknit 2017

Above: History of the Nike Air Max 90 with AM90 Flyknit trainer from 2017.

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If you were a 90s kid you will of lived the hype of Air Max in the playground and the moment you first laid your eyes on the latest AM trainers. There’s just something about the Nike Air Max 90 that never seems to get old. Trainer culture has changed massively over the last 30 years with the rise of resale and sneaker platforms but its still the OG models that we love to talk about. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary for 2020 the Air Max 90 still remains the king of the playground.

Nike Air Max 90 Advert 1990

Above: History of the Nike Air Max 90 with an original JUST DO IT magazine advert for the AM90 trainer from 1990.

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The new sneaker design of the Air Max 90 became an instant in the world of running & sneaker culture from Manhattan to Manchester. Notable differences from the original AM1 included an updated ribbed plastic moulding around the visible Air window as well as the addition of ribbed plastic panelling to the heel tab, eyelets and side walls. Whereas the Air Max 1 and Air Max Light looked pretty similar as far as the uppers and sole unit were concerned, it was this updated plastic panelling that really gave the Air Max 90 its own unique identity. Hatfield also evolved the original AM90 design with updated fabrics, whilst also tweaking the Air sole cushioning system for even more bounce underfoot.

Nike Air Max 90 Wiley Dizzee Rascal e3

Above: History of the Nike Air Max 90 with Wiley (left) & Dizzee Rascal both wearing the AM90 trainer from the OG Grime days.

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As with many of the new Air Max styles that were introduced throughout the 90s, the Air Max 90 really found its home on the streets of the UK & Europe. During the original Grime scene of the early noughties in the UK the Air Max 90 was just as popular as other key Grime styles such as the Nike Shox & the Air Force 1 for example. Grime pioneers, Wiley & Dizzee Rascal, were famously photographed both wearing a pair of the original Infrared colourway in front of the landmark E3 tower blocks of Bow in East London. The AM90 still holds a close connection to the UK Grime scene today. 

Nike Air Max 90 Cork trainer

Above: History of the Nike Air Max 90 with AM90 ‘Infrared’ Cork Trainer from 2015.

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The Air Max 90 has also played a key role in sneaker culture over the last 10 years from collaborations to some of the most expensive Air Max trainers currently on the sneaker resale market. Some of the key Air Max 90 trainer collaborations over the last 30 years have included OFF-WHITE, Dizzee Rascal, Kaws, DQM, ATMOS with the legendary Duck Camo trainer & even the 41st president of the United States, George Bush. In 2015 Nike also introduced the AM90 in a unique cork version as well as as an updated Flyknit version in 2017. In 10 years time we’ll still be talking about the Nike Air Max 90 and the other 10 years after that! It’s just simply one of them classic Nike styles that keeps on giving.

Nike Air Max 90 Volt trainer

Above: The Nike Air Max 90 ‘Volt’ 30th Anniversary Trainer celebrates the original Tinker Hatfield silhouette.

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In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Nike Air Max 90, the original Tinker Hatfield silhouette is now introduced in a selection of OG inspired colourways such as turquoise, volt, hyper grape & hyper royal. The Nike Air Max 90 30th anniversary trainer will be dropping throughout 2020 from selected Nike stockists with further plans on the horizon for special packs and collaborations. Keep posted at Air Max Tings for further Air Max 90 news, drops & features. Shop the classic Air Max style now via the links and don’t forget to follow @airmaxtings for all things Air Max!

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