DUBAI: Sneakerheads rejoice, for March 26 is a celebration. The date marks Air Max Day and it has been written that for 24 hours we should all bathe in the brilliance of legendary US designer Tinker Hatfield’s creation.
Yes, it’s a self-congratulatory moment of joy invented by Nike, but it’s also a celebration of the shoe that genuinely changed the sneaker game forever.
Well, unless you are from the Middle East.
While the Air Max is undoubtedly one of the most coveted footwear collections ever created, it has never resonated on a large scale in the region, according to sneaker aficionados. Never mind that the idea for the air unit derived from NASA tech, or that the Air Max 95 was so hot it actually sparked a crimewave in Tokyo in 1996.
“Regionally, we were behind the curve when it came to sneaker culture,” said Gareth Warren, founder of sneakers.me, the Middle East’s first platform dedicated to sneaker news and reviews.
“Growing up in Dubai around the late 1990s and early 2000s we had the brands, but the ‘hype sneakers’ remained in the West.”
While you can now find sneakerheads from Riyadh to Ramallah, the gap in exposure led to a different emphasis placed on which shoes were coveted.
“Air Max arrived in 1987. That’s two decades before Air Yeezys were even a thing and close to three before Yeezy jumped from Nike to Adidas.
“In Dubai, sneaker culture coincided with the rise of things like Sole DXB – initially a small gathering in an Al-Quoz warehouse in 2011 – and stores such as Concepts in 2016 and The Good Life Space a year later. By that time sneakerheads here were too busy obsessing over Jordans and Yeezys to have any room in their hearts for Air Max,” Warren added.
It is also worth remembering that this is not just about aesthetics. Sneaker culture is big business, and the resale market – where Jordans and Yeezys hold value better than most – has been embraced by the region.
However, Air Max could actually represent a real opportunity for collectors.
“The Air Max is legendary and always will be,” Warren said. “There are some great versions coming out this year, and the Air Max family just has so much history to play with. Air Max isn’t going anywhere any time soon.”