Style Nike Air Huarache, “stripped to the bare essentials”

Nike Air Huarache, “stripped to the bare essentials”

Andrea Tuzio

It’s a matter of hours now and more than 20 years after the first release, the Stüssy x Nike Air Huarache will be released.

The sneakers represent the first unofficial collaboration between Nike and Stüssy, in fact, the original project was almost an ancestor of contemporary collaborations. Fraser Cooke from Nike (godfather among other things of the projects Gyakusou, HTM and “The Ten”) and Michael Kopelman of Stüssy UK made what we could call a bootleg of Stüssy x Nike Air Huarache and were sold in a very limited number in the chapter store of Stüssy in London.
Those Huaraches sold like hotcakes and kicked off the brand/retailer collaboration formula we’re used to seeing today.

On February 12th, Stüssy and Nike will re-release their Huarache in OG colorways, plus they will complete the collaboration between the two brands with a fleece crewneck and matching sweatpants. All will be available in select Stüssy Chapter stores, at Dover Street Market and on

For this historic release, we decided to connect the dots that tell the story of one of the most iconic silhouettes ever made by Nike. 

As in almost all projects that have made the history of the company of Beaverton, the person to whom to give our thanks is always the same, Tinker Hatfield.
The father of the Air Max 1 and Air Jordan III to XV, in 1991 he created a sneaker “stripped to the bare essentials” as one of the first ads dedicated to the Nike Air Huarache.

The “foot-hugging” shoe was the plastic realization of Nike’s most innovative functional and aesthetic design of the era. 

Between the late ’80s and early ’90s, Tinker Hatfield was going to try to design the shoe of the future and began to throw down some ‘sketches of what would later become the Nike Huarache but at the time was called “Harrachi”.

Legend has it that Hatfield drew inspiration for the Huarache while water skiing, and after a fall – very frequent in this sport – he was enchanted to observe the neoprene sock used to attach the skis and realized that it adhered perfectly to his foot. 

He immediately realized that he had the opportunity to solve one of the most important problems of sneakers at the time: each sneaker fit differently than the shape of the foot. 

Thanks to the neoprene sock, however, everything changes. It is the latter that adapts perfectly to any type of foot wrapping it, embracing it precisely, giving a comfort never experienced before. 

Once he had thrown down the sketches of the “Harrachi”, he put together all the work he had done and showed it to his late colleague Sandy Bodecker who not only immediately recognized its value but also contributed in a decisive way to the final name of the sneaker: with a red pen he wrote on Hatfield’s draft “Sneaker of the Gods”, simply because he thought that those shoes, so futuristic and apparently very comfortable, could represent the sandals of some Greek deity such as Zeus. 

Hence Hatfield’s idea to call those sneakers Huarache, the name of a typical Mexican sandal of pre-Columbian origins still made of various materials but mainly of leather, very similar to those we still see in the representations of Greek gods. 

The Nike Air Huarache landed on the sneaker planet in 1991 but despite the great enthusiasm of insiders, commercially it was a disaster: only 50 pairs were ordered.

This complete failure, however, did not stop Tom Archie, Marketing Director of the brand at the time, who, believing strongly in that futuristic project, had 5000 pairs produced and took them to the Nike stand at the New York Marathon that year.

They were all sold out, the marathon participants were thrilled: the bright colors, the futuristic silhouette and above all the incredible adherence to the foot thanks to the neoprene sock turned the tables and made the Nike Air Huarache an icon from that day forward. 

Worn by Michael Jordan and Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Johnson flaunted them in a famous commercial, the Nike Air Huarache have become a symbol, an icon with a well-defined legacy and now rooted that has meant that, over the years, were produced many models inspired by that silhouette that Tinker Hatfield realized thanks to a trip and water skiing.

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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