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Nike’s history with the Pompidou Centre

In 1987, Nike debuted one of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes of all time, the Air Max 1. The model was designed by Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, a man responsible for some of the greatest and most popular Nike shoes; the Air Max 90, the Air Jordan 3 and Jordan 4, just to name a few. The release of the Air Max 1 saw a revolution in athletic footwear, introducing never before seen technology. Tinker’s Air Max 1 is a shoe which is now recognised in every corner of the globe but its origins began in Paris, at the Centre George Pompidou.


The Pompidou centre opened its doors in 1977. At the time it was an extremely controversial building as it is in complete contrast to the surrounding area which is built up of typical french houses and restaurants. The Pompidou centre towers over the surrounding landscape and consists of steel and glass foundations. When stood outside of the structure everything is visible, mainly the escalators and piping as well as the different levels of the museum exhibits inside. It is entirely transparent, with its piping painted in an array of primary colours on the outside of the building. It is a building like no other! When I visited Paris, going to the Pompidou centre was top of my priority list.

Much like the Air Max 1, the Pompidou centre changed architectural design and changed the way people looked at buildings. Before becoming a shoe designer, Tinker was an architect and worked with Nike on building projects for years before moving to shoes. After visiting Paris and the Pompidou, Tinker began work on his new design. Years later in an interview, he claimed that seeing this building “turned his architectural senses upside down”.

Nike ‘Air’ had been around since 1978 at this point however it had never been utilised in the way it was on the Air Max 1. The airbag had previously been encased in polyurethane, embedded within the sole of a performance running shoe. The new airbag of the Air Max 1 was widened for stability, and the midsole was cut away, revealing the air unit. This was the first time the air unit was actually visible. This inspiration behind this design was, of course, the ‘inside-out’ aesthetic which the Pompidou Centre is so widely known for. Tinker famously said; “I am fully convinced that if I had not seen the building, I might not have suggested that we actually expose this airbag and make it visible”. He wanted to let people see inside the shoe, and actually through it!


Just like the Pompidou Centre, the original Air Max 1 was very controversial. Despite its revolutionary outcome, people did not understand it at first, and it received a lot of backlash. As well as the visible air unit being out of the ordinary, the original colour scheme was unheard of. The shoe featured a bright red mudguard and swoosh, a striking colourway entirely different from any running shoe at the time. This was another influence of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The piping and mechanics of the building are painted in bright colours, making it visible from almost anywhere! Tinker wanted to recreate this on the Nike Air Max 1 and did just that. This shoe stood out!


Since 1987 the shoe has been held in the highest regard by sneakerheads everywhere and has been the forefather of a whole host of Air Max models. It has undergone many collaborative makeups with brands such as Atmos and Patta (most famously) as well as thousands of different colourways. The OG red colourway has been retroed a handful of times since its original release, most recently in 2017 for the shoes 30th Anniversary. It’s crazy that 30 years later the shoe’s rerelease can sell out almost instantly! The Air Max one has certainly stood the test of time as it is still one of Nike’s most popular models today.

The reason I wanted to write this article was due to a pack consisting of two Air Max 1’s, which came out this year. The pack was called the ‘By Day/By Night’ pack and was inspired by Nike’s heritage with the Pompidou Centre. Pictured below, the two colourways are reminiscent of the Pompidou during the day, and at night.


The ‘By Day’ pair (on the left) is the more eye-catching of the two. The shoe features coloured piping detail all around it, which of course is inspired by the Pompidou’s colourful makeup. My favourite detail about this pair is the colour used on the swoosh and the airbag. The red air unit symbolises that used on the original 1987 red Air Max 1 and the blue swoosh recognises the second OG colourway of the model – with the same colour blocking, just in blue. This pack is certainly paying homage to the inspiration behind the shoe and the history of the Air Max lineage. I am a sucker for all that so this was a must cop for me. In hand, they’re even better!