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From the mathematical point of view, the zero has no value: its purpose is to represent the lack of a number. But for Nike, zero means more than you can imagine: we're talking about Air Max Zero, a sneaker designed 29 years ago without which Air Max 1 would never have existed.

We have already talked about the history of the creation of the legendary Air Max 1: Tinker Hatfield  made a trip to Paris and was so fascinated by the design of the Centre Pompidou to want to replicate its innovative concept. Once back in Oregon, he sat down at the desk and created the concept of air visible in a revolutionary running shoe.

So far, so good. Perhaps not everyone knows that the Nike Air Max 1 was not designed in one shot: it was rather the result of a series of design iterations. Hatfield wanted to create a shoe that would fulfill the need of comfort and allow high-level performances. Trying to create the AM1, he instead drew a sketch of what would become almost three decades after the Air Max Zero.

The upper was designed to be comfortable and form-fitting, with a tipless vamp, an idea borrowed from the 1985 Nike Sock Racer. The sketch also featured an external heel strap that lacked a heel counter, a design concept that would remain unseen until the Nike Air Huarache release in 1991.There was only one problem: Hatfield designed a shoe so advanced which couldn't be produced at that time.

“In many ways, it was ahead of its time” Hatfield says. “Not just in regards to its appearance, but also in terms of the construction it required. The technology and materials available to us at the time weren’t advanced enough to execute the original vision.”

Faced with the reality, Hatfield was forced to reinterpret his design. This led to the creation of the Nike Air Max 1, which started a revolution in the industry of the sneakers. The visible air would soon made its way to become a real universally recognized landmark of lifestyle  .

And what about the brilliant sketch? Like all the unattainable things, it was abandoned in the dust of the Nike archives. On the other hand, however, the intuitions don't deserve to end up in oblivion, or at least, not for too long.

A few decades later, the Nike designer Graeme McMillan was commissioned to create the Air Max Zero and, as a starting point, he walked around Nike archives.

“There was an Air Max retrospective on display, complete with early prototypes and samples that had never seen the light of day. The sketch was something that was never fully realized. We thought it would be great if we could share this with the world and shed some light on the development of the franchise” says Graeme McMillan

Ironically, the first impression of McMillan about the sketch of Hatfield defined it perfectly: "I thought it looked like a more contemporary version of the Air Max 1".

To bring the sketch into the future and accomplish Hatfield’s goal, McMillan upped the ante by adding the latest Nike innovations: the newly-introduced Air Max 1 Ultra outsole with its cored-out Phylon, fuse uppers that reduce bulk without sacrificing support, and monofilament yarn mesh that helped build the unusual tip without sacrificing breathability. With that, Hatfield’s original concept was realized. The one before the 1 lives.


“I love it” Hatfield says. “It features modern materials and construction methods, and I think that’s the only way to do it. That was then, this is now. If you handed me the project, I would have chosen new materials similar to what the team has done here”.

The Air Max Zero will be available for preorder on the Nike SNKRS app in North America and in select markets on March 22. It will be available at select Nike Sportswear retailers and on on Air Max Day (March 26).

If it's true that there isn't a tree without roots, an Air Max collector without an Air Max Zero can't even exist.