25 Years of the Future – Nike Air Max 97
Nike's Air Max history is populated with classics at almost every stop. The only other product line which could hold a candle to the Air Max legacy is the Jordan franchise. Amongst that lineup, the Air Max 97 stands out as a particularly iconic silhouette.
Since 1995, Nike began bringing new designers in to continue the Air Max line established by the super-human Tinker Hatfield. The Swoosh recruited fellow American Christian Tresser to breath new life into the line for 1997. Having come from – at that time – industry titan Reebok, Tresser was ready to bring his own attitude to the Air Max line. Within his first ten months at Beaverton, Tresser had designed a slew of silhouettes which would go on to becomes classics. The Tailwind; Spiridon and Mercurial football boot all came from this period, along with the Air Max 97. Some might be familiar with another of Tresser's creations, the Salomon GCS from 2005 – progenitor to the present-day success ACS PRO.
Nike had big plans for the AM97 – since 1993 they had been working on the new technique of blow-moulding which eventuated in the Air Max 97 being the first shoe to successfully incorporate a full-length air bubble. Tresser's design called for the midsole foam to be replaced entirely with Air bubble. The Air Max 180 had given us 180º of Air and Sergio Lozano's AM95 had fore/aft bubbles, but it wasn't until the AM97 that Nike had worked out how to produce a full length bubble to bring maximum cush.
The flowing lines of the upper came to Tresser when reflecting on the radiating ripples caused by water dripping into a pond. He designed the uppers to look as if they radiated out from the oversized Air bubble – the technological star of the show. Although the iconic 'Silver Bullet' colourway is often attributed to the Japanese Shinkansen – in English "bullet train" – it's actually bicycles which inspired this famous metallic treatment. Tresser was inspired by the polished alloy and titanium parts which gleamed like jewellery on high-tech machines from the burgeoning mountain bike scene. He even incorporated reflective panels – a safety feature gleefully adopted by cyclists.
One interesting characteristic of the Air Max line is regionalised fandoms – certain countries have an affinity for specific models. As Aussies we know all-too-well how common place the Air Max Plus – aka "Nike TN" – is here, but outside Australia it has been an oddity at best. The UK took to the Air Max 1 in 1987 and Japan's social elite went mad for the anatomically-inspired Air Max 95 as the country's financial boom was in full-effect.
The Air Max 97 found a specific fandom in an unexpected country, with the Silver Bullets maintaining a following for decades in Italy. Dubbed 'Le Silver' the shoe released at a time of cultural upheaval for the country – allowing it to become the symbol of a new Italy. The AM97 was elevated to legend status, becoming much more than another Air Max and maintaining its status for twenty five years.
So here we are, a quarter of a century after the first release and heading towards the end of 2022. Nike kept us in the dark for most of the year, only now bringing back what we all wanted: a retro of the OG 1997 'Silver Bullet' colourway. There have been plenty of AM97 colourways over the years, from wild to weird, boring and insane – even with Swarovski crystals at one point – but nothing beats that original colourway which Tresser designed the shoes with.
The Air Max 97 'Silver Bullet' is available to purchase right now by hitting this link and bragging a pair before it's too late.