Sneaker of The Gods: A History of Nike Air Huarache


(hip hop melody)
– The Nike Air Huarache is another one of those genius sneaker designed by the great Tinker Hatfield. The shoe has been on Nike’s
bestseller list for years and it shows no signs of
losing its popularity. In this video, you’re going to learn about the shoe’s water skiing origins and why Nike almost decided
not to release a silhouette. But hey, my name’s Nacho. On this channel, we make dope videos on sneaker culture, sneaker history. If you guys enjoy the
videos, consider subscribing, and let’s get into this video, guys. In 1989, the design of
the Nike Air Huarache was conceived during a water skiing trip taken by Tinker Hatfield. He was impressed by the
water skiing booties he was wearing, which were made out of a special material called neoprene. Hatfield was struck with inspiration. The neoprene bootie in a water ski fits a bunch of different people, so I’m thinking, that’s kind of cool. That’s one of the problems
we have with shoes. They really don’t conform
to different shapes of feet very well. Neoprene does that. After the water skiing
trip, Tinker Hatfield returned to his studio, filled with ideas. He resurfaced days later with a sketch of what would later become
the Nike Air Huarache. The first person that Hatfield showed this early sketch to was, none other than, the late Sandy Bodecker,
who would later become known for developing Nike’s
skateboarding division. When Hatfield showed the sketch to Sandy, Sandy declared it the sneaker of the gods. He went on to clarify his
bold statement by saying, “Yeah, this is what Zeus would wear, “or Mercury, or somebody.” Sandy Bodecker thought
that the shoe looked like an ancient sandal. His initial comments to the
design mentions gods and Zeus, which hints at an ancient European sandal. But when it came time to name the shoe, they took inspiration from Mexico’s ancient sandal, the huarache. Since I speak Spanish,
(latin music) I’m gonna teach you how to really say it. You say, “wah-rah-che.” But obviously, nobody in the
sneaker world calls it that, so we’re just gonna stick to huarache, the Nike Air Huarache. These elaborate handmade
sandals feature a leather upper that’s woven with individual pieces through holes pounded into the sole. The invention of the
huarache is often attributed to the Mayans but could have
easily been the Aztecs, too. They were constantly
at war with one another and their cultures clashed. Throughout the years, they
have been worn by farmers in rural parts of Jalisco,
Michoacan, and Yucatan. Huaraches did not yield to the
European invaders’ influence, but instead, have persisted and evolved as an artisanal craft across Latin America over the last several centuries. (hip hop melody)
The Nike Huarache broke a number of conventional
ideas in sneaker design. It had no heel counter, opting instead for the distinctive harness-like
strap, exoskeleton support. Not to mention, it also used neoprene, which had never been done
before in a running shoe. The shoe was one of the lightest runners available for the time period. It only weighed 9.5 ounces, which was crazy to think about in 1991. Tinker Hatfield was so sure
of his innovative design, that he decided not to put
any Swooshes on the sneaker. He wanted the shoe’s
uniqueness to speak for itself. Here’s a quote from Tinker
regarding the decision to omit the Swoosh branding. “It didn’t need a Swoosh, because
people knew that only Nike “could think of the crazy
idea and then pull it off.” Despite its genius
design, believe it or not, the Nike Air Huarache
almost never existed. Yes, Tinker Hatfield was
certain that the shoe was the next big thing, but
when Nike began to shop around the prototype to potential distributors, nobody placed any orders. The shoe was just too
different, too unusual. It was looking like Nike
would have no choice but to shelf the Huarache. Hatfield breaks down what happened next, “One of our product
managers actually thought “it was awesome, and without
proper authorization, “he signed an order to build 5,000 pairs, “even though there were no orders. “He stuck his neck way out there. “He saw what I saw and
he took those 5,000 pairs “to the New York Marathon,” “not a place you typically
went to sell shoes, “and then sold them in like three days “at the Exhibition Hall. “They went like hot cakes. “In a month we went from zero orders “to half a million pairs.” When the shoe released in 1991, advertisements for the
Huarache included the iconic, “Have you hugged your foot today” poster, and a two-page ad in
the Sports Illustrated that boldly stated, “The future is here,” which, funny enough,
turns out to be very true since the Huarache’s technology, designed by Tinker Hatfield, is still being used by Nike, today. In 1992, Hatfield and the team at Nike realized that the innovative
design of the Huarache could easily be adopted
to the basketball court. Well, I’ll just sort
of take the same idea, and transfer it into both a cross training shoe
and a basketball shoe. And just like that, the Nike
Air Huarache Flight was born. The model was very much a
departure from the bulky style basketball sneaker Nike
was producing back then. The shoe was made famous by
the legendary Fab Five squad from the University of Michigan, which consisted of Chris
Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. Thanks to the nationwide
exposure from the Fab Five, the Huarache’s multi-faceted
technology was a major success. All throughout the 90’s, Nike continued to prioritize enhancements and borrowing the use of
Air Huarache technology. The shoes even ended up on the soles of TV star, Jerry Seinfeld. Nike also made a commercial
with Olympic gold medalist, Michael Johnson, and even gave
Andre Agassi his own model. Scottie Pippen rocked the Huarache tech with the neoprene-centric
Nike Air Dynamic Flight version of the shoe. A pivotal moment for the
Nike Huarache technology happened when Eric Avar, the designer for the Kobe Nike
line, created the Nike 2K4, which is widely considered by many, as one of the best basketball
playing sneakers of all time. This was Kobe’s go-to, before
he had is own signature shoe. Kobe famously wore the
2K4’s in the Laker colorway during the NBA finals in 2004. In recent times, the Nike Air Huarache has been the canvas for
collabs with brands like Stussy, Undefeated, and Nice Kicks. Nike is still putting massive
funds behind the silhouette. It’s now sold over
4,000,000 pairs worldwide and is even considered
a casual shoe nowadays. Moms love them, sneakerheads love them, the people love them. Maybe this shoe’s just having
one big resurgence right now, but I’m willing to bet
that the legacy of the shoe will continue to live
on throughout the years. What do you guys think of the Huarache? Have you ever tried the
neoprene stock for yourself? I’d say it’s one of the
most comfortable shoes Nike ever put out. If you’re interested in copping a pair, peep the links in the description box. All right guys, thank
you guys for watching. Like, comment, subscribe, the whole nine, and have a great day. See you on the next one. Peace. (jazz music)

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