It might be the height of summer but sneakerheads are already thinking about what’s going to enter their fall rotation this year. The latest collab from Nike and UK-based retailer size?? could be the drop they’re looking for: an all-brown and gray Air Max 1. It’s a super clean looking sneaker featuring debossed Air Max branding on the heel and what looks to be some interesting material choices.
Air Max 1 fans have been going wild over this collab, noting especially the smart fall colorway and choice in materials. In a teaser supplied to the AM1 community am1ent, Nike says “this pair places emphasis on environmental sustainability and is inspired by Nike’s ‘Considered’ concept from the early 2000s which encouraged creating shoes using recycled and less harmful materials.” But, apart from the use of hemp on the tongue, what’s making these AM1s more sustainable than other Nike products?
First, a little history lesson on the Nike Considered line which, for its time, was considerably progressive. Its goal was to consider the future by reducing waste and energy, and by using recycled materials. Nike debuted the line in 2005 with the Considered Boot. It looked — and still looks — unlike anything else produced by the world’s largest supplier of athletic goods. That’s due to its woven upper and sewn seams which reduce the need for harmful glues. The interwoven hemp lace upper that gives many Considered shoes their iconic look is tied into untanned leather pieces.
There’s also a distinct lack of plastic on these shoes — even the eyeholes use leather. Parts of the shoes could be easily disassembled to aid with post-use recycling. And some products in the Considered line also made use of recycled materials which was pretty innovative for its day. Water usage, textile waste and even locality of production were all considered too.
In the Considered line, there are prototype designs and ideas that can be seen across the whole of Nike’s current range: the interwoven and glue-free uppers inspired Flyknit which came onto the scene in 2012; the use of hemp as a material; and the easily disassembled parts that can also be seen on Nike’s ISPA line.
Another legacy of the line is the Considered Index. Nike’s designers could use this to work out how eco-friendly their design choices were before new products went to commercial production. In this line, we can see a Nike that’s really thinking about every part of shoe design and production.
But, to bring things back to today, how much about these Air Max 1s has been considered for the future, rather than just style? With the progressive designs of the Considered line, why does this latest effort with size?? feel like a step backward?
Alongside the hemp and corduroy, there’s also a considerable amount of leather including a brown hairy suede base and a suede Swoosh. While the old Considered line did use leather, material technology has developed plenty in the last 10 years, and we’d expect this to be a great opportunity to use some. There also doesn’t seem to be any way to separate the materials post-use and we’re sure there’s glue being used to bind the materials.
If Nike is positioning this product as inspired by its Considered line, it’s going to have to do a lot more than chuck some hemp into the mix. The progressive and innovative thinking of that line seems to have got lost along the way. If anything, the callback feels just like a marketing ploy. And we’ve been here before: a seemingly eco-conscious, forward-thinking pair of kicks that lets us down at the last moment; a shoe that touts its use of plant-based materials but then decorates them with animal leathers.
If Nike really wants to move forward, it might be a good idea to take a closer look back at the Considered designers and their beliefs.