Tuesday, 5 April 2011

How Good Is Your Discerning Eye?

It has come to my attention that the time has come to shed some light upon the subtle design changes seen in the newer generations of Nike Air Max 1's. With the current rate at which new models are dropping, it is of integral importance to understand where these modifications are to be found on specific releases. By doing so (which I cant stress enough) it is possible to discover design changes that Nike have and more importantly have never authorized. This makes perfect sense in an age where internet sites like eBay have become all too easily the second mandatory port of call for anyone looking for a rare if not limited edition release of sneakers.  To avoid any further confusion this is not explicitly an exercise in the quality control of the Air Max 1 and so it's not my aim to dismiss the importance of quality control either. My efforts are to discern the evolving nature of the design elements of the Nike Air Max 1. The desired result of this exercise will be a clearer understanding as to how this sneaker, that is only statistically second to the Nike Air Force One in its number of different designs and collaborations, is able, without the crutch of retro re-releases, to still infatuate the sneaker community new release after new release. 

For the sake of simplicity and clarity, the sequence of sneakers to be discussed will abide to the chronology of their production. As illustrated in the introductory photo, the depicted models of Nike Air Max 1 are:

  •  Nike Air Max 1 "360 Celebration Pack" - 2006

First things first. Out of all the Nike Air Max 1's chosen, only two are constructed entirely of leather. The pairing in question consists of the above model and the sibling "Safari" model. As one might suspect in a cross comparison of the two, differences are sparse at best. With careful attention though I would say that there are two definite differences. With an age discrimination of two years between the two editions, the "360 Celebration Pack" has an ankle collar that is longer and the front part of the mud guard that goes slightly lower. These differences are definitely there. I was skeptical at first but by returning again and again to this work by 'Vagrant Sneaker - Angel Gonzalez' these alterations are visible to the naked eye. One further addition is the discrepancy in the finishing of the panel edges on the "360 Celebration Pack". In profile there is a clearly visible fraying of the edges so by creating a fuzzy/unkept aesthetic to the whole shoe. 

  • Nike Air Max 1 "Flamingo" 2007

It will come to you as no surprise that this sneaker is incredibly similar in capacity to the Nike Air Max 1 "Safari" of 2008 as well. The pleasure of this model derives from it being the roundest of this shortlist of six. Its minor adjustments are five fold: 

  1. It has a slightly smaller mudguard.
  2. It mid-sole is shaped differently - it is simply not curvy like the others
  3. The shaking up of the aesthetic sees a development of a thinner tongue which in turn introduces a different comfort factor.
  4. It has the finest quality mesh out the Nike Air Max One class of 2007 + 08 + 09.
  5. There is very minimal slopping with this model which primarily improves the silhouette and the performance of the sneaker. 

Due rather to its unsuccessful colourways, the "Flamingo" hasn't become a collectors staple just yet. There is no harm in floating the idea that due to its great constructual aesthetic and performance there will be a time when it beauty stock will drastically go up hand in hand with its price.    

  • Nike Air Max 1 "Safari" - 2008

If we are to compare this "Safari" model to the silhouettes of the 2009 class of Nike Air Max 1 it would seem that the "Safari" is that little bit rounder in the main body. Other observations to be made concern its simpler details. The shape of the toe is rounder, the swoosh is slightly thinner than we have come to expect and the mid-sole is slimmer too. I have a hunch that the reasons behind such changes was the use of premium, luxury materials that require their own unique working formula & technique due to their different handling qualities. 

You would be wrong to think that there aren't any other factors to diversify the Nike Air Max 1 gene pool. By venturing from the toe to the heel, the ankle collar is of a different cut, the mudguard has been made to be higher as well as rounder and for one reason or another, the back of the heel looks significantly better in this model. I can only suggest a couple of hypotheses towards the explanation of these changes. An overall tampering beneath the surface to the architectural structure of the sneaker (caused by the altering of the smaller components) is one suggestion. The other is possibly something as simple as a change in the material used which may seemingly make all the difference. Last but by no means least, the overall silhouette looks a bit rounder and shorter from the toe to the heel. 

  • Nike Air Max 1 OG '87 "Sport Red" QS - 2009

For the clearest illustration of this models idiosyncrasies I would ask you to compare it to the "Varsity Blue" model shown below. Also I feel the urge to denote that with the famed minimalism of the design elements of the Nike Air Max 1, the variety of components that can be different from one model to the other is obviously limited, so repetition is singularly not due to the cutting of corners on my behalf.  

Anyway, now back to the nitty gritty. 

The overall feel of this model is that its shape looks a bit low-profile from the above side silhouette shot. The result is that there is a slight elongation of the whole shoe from toe to heel. As with many models of 2009, it takes a major slope from the instep to the toe box, something that is very rarely seen with the models dating pre '09. As for the more specific detailing, the toe swoosh is the largest seen on any Nike Air Max 1. The thickness of the mid-sole has also been tampered with. This is most clearly visible by the thickness of its front part. The mudguard has been lowered again and we see a deeper curved ankle collar to increase the interplay between the structural elements of the foot and the shoe (when worn with shorts). For the sake of increasing it's performance and durability, the mesh is considerably thicker compared to such models as the "Flamingo". This would be a clear enough exemplification of Nike's consciousness to design new releases intended to target their original athletic purpose. Contrary to this, the design of the "Flamingo" for instance was inherently groomed for a much more luxurious and fashion conscious existence.     

  • Nike Air Max 1 OG '87 "Varsity Blue" QS - 2009

Quintessentially, the "Varsity Blue" & the "Sport Red" were a near simultaneous release. Their marketing and design strategies were effectively the same, catering for a greater workload than other Nike Air Max 1 models. So as with the "Sport Red" the shape looks a bit low-profile from this side silhouette of the image above and consequently looks longer from toe to heel. The other similarity would also be in the quality of the mesh. The same explanation hold true in this case too. Yet for a sneaker that is virtually from the same production line as its sibling "Sport Red" model there is a disconcerting lack of similarity. Starting again with the toe swoosh, it is more streamlined. The mid-sole thins out in the front as supposed to the SP version. A lower mudguard is favored allowing the back heel not to protrude as much. Finally the ankle collar has returned to being more naturally rounded. It begs asking the question as to whether Nike has a policy towards allowing each shoe in a specific model range to have its own signature qualities so by giving some form of unique identification to the sneaker, or is this an unearthing of the in-discrepancies of their manufacturing outlets? Truthfully I wouldn't like to side with the later but there seems little method or means of proving either.       

  • Nike Air Max 1 "West - Red" - 2009

I guess with this last example there is little of anything new to comment on as it is the third and final sneaker in the series of 2009 releases I have chosen. Like with the other two '09 models there is again variation in the height of the mudguard, the size of the swoosh, the slightly better quality of the toe and the greater degree that the back heel protrudes. 

In order to wrap things up, the aims of this exercise were not to portray a geek like practice in the quality control of the Nike Air Max 1 but to illustrate the degree at which the design elements of a single sneaker and its consequent follow up models are simply unique and two are never truly alike. Though, at times it may seem a little repetitive, the experience is very rewarding as a whole in its enabling of how to exactly differentiate one model from another. The knock on effect is that it provides evidence for any aesthetic judgement one might make on a sneaker and most importantly of all, it opens up a small window on the slightly more rigorous aspects of sneaker collecting that rarely get an airing at all.  

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