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Short history of Nike Cortez

How a shoe designed for the runners became the symbol of LA street culture

Short history of Nike Cortez  How a shoe designed for the runners became the symbol of LA street culture

History of sneakers – and we mean all the historical sneakers – is under many points of view recurrent. Every shoe was thought to offer the athletes the best performance possible and then came to become street shoes, iconic for a part of the population or for the entire sample of it. It happened with almost every sneaker you can think about – two names: Converse All Star and Jordan 1 – and it happened also with Nike Cortez.

Designed originally in 1968, Cortez made their official debut during the 1972 Munich Olympics Game, when were presented as the ideal shoes for the long run, and the ones wore by the best marathon runners of the planet. It was for this peculiarity that Nike Cortez ended in history as the “most comfortable shoes ever”, a nickname confirmed by the huge quantity of shoes sold during the twenty years from the 70s to 90s. What is ironic, is that originally Cortez didn’t have that name…

When Bill Bowerman – co-founder of Nike and the man who introduced the jogging in the USA – designed that shoes, he call it Corsair: it didn’t exist yet Nike Inc. and the Bill Bowerman company was named Blue Ribbon. The shoes were thought to guarantee the best comfort to the runners, thank the application to the sole and the protection for the Achilles heel.

But where the name Cortez comes from? And why did the sneakers that today turn 45 is still celebrated as one of the main influents in the history of cinema and street-culture?

It is due to two elements, that are linked one to another: Los Angeles and the street gangs. Before of its official release, in fact, some of the most famous and dangerous LA gangs started to use the Corsair. Bowerman then decided – given the high percentage of Latinos in LA streets – to call them Cortez and start to sell them as the first sneaker ever featured the Swoosh. In the LA streets, it developed a kind of secret code related to the colors of the same Swoosh: having a black o red Swoosh could save your life or, instead, kills you. The transition to Hollywood was lead by hip hop, and in particular by the NWA.

In the same years of the gain of popularity among LA streets, Cortez reverses it in the most lucrative business of the city: Hollywood. Only in the first half of the 80s, the Cortez started to appear in the most iconic movies for the pop culture. Karate Kid, Seinfeld, Forrest Gump

To look back at the history of Cortez is important because permit us to state the importance of sportswear not only in streetwear culture but also in the different area of the actual pop culture. A process that a bit stopped during the 00s, but in the recent times started to flow again. Maybe in 45 years will be talking of the next Cortez.