Air Max 90 CS: 30 years never looked this good

Giulia Guido · 1 year ago
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For the launch of the new Air Max 90 CS, we made an editorial focused on the history of the sneaker, telling how it has established itself on the market, how it has evolved over the years, the most emblematic collaborations and some curiosities.
All this with particular attention to the Spanish territory because the whole work has been thought for 24 Kilates and Foot District, two of the most important shops in Barcelona, so we have created a landing page dedicated to the sale of the product on their online shops.
You can find the same in-depth editorial below. Enjoy!

This year, Nike has decided to celebrate the 30th anniversary of its iconic model with the Air Max 90 CS, a shoe that takes a step back from the 2008 revisitation and returns to a silhouette much more similar to the original. For this model, the Triple Sail colorway was chosen, which manages to highlight every single detail. The sneakers also have pearlized lace dubraes on which “1990” and “2020” are respectively engraved and are sold in a special box that recalls the original shape of thirty years ago.

The Air Max 90 CS represents a blank canvas for all future Nike projects, a new starting point that does not forget the past and looks to the future.

The birth of Air Max 90

The thirty-year history of Air Max began in 1987, when Nike arrives in Spain through basketball, NBA games and the figure of Michael Jordan, but especially when the young architect Tinker Hatfield changed the game in the shoe industry by raising the fortunes of the company from Beaverton with a futuristic idea, to say the least: making visible, in the middle of the sole, the Air Unit.

The invention of the latter is credited to Marion Franklin Rudy, aerospace engineer, who developed the system that consisted of gas encapsulated in a urethane cushion, in turn, inserted into an EVA sole (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate), making the shoe more performing and shock-absorbing.

This technology was used for the first time in 1979 with the Air Tailwind and then proposed again with the Air Force and the Jordan 1, but always enclosed inside the sole. We had to wait until that fateful March 26, 1987, to see the Air Max I and its iconic air technology in the stores.
The idea of showing the Air unit – an internal and structural part – came to Hatfield studying the design of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, designed by Renzo Piano ten years earlier. The building, considered contested by many and loved by others, reveals the entire inner structure in a complex interweaving of colored tubes and load-bearing elements. Just as tourists in the French capital could see the museum’s interior from the outside, sneaker enthusiasts could see what was hidden inside their shoes.
Despite its technological characteristics, this model does not achieve the expected sales success, both because the price was around 15900 pesetas, comparable to 350 euros today, and also, except for the Pegasus, basketball shoes were much more used in that period than running shoes.

Two years later, Hatfield himself decided to create a lighter model than the Air Max I, the Air Max II, also known as Air Max Light. Compared to the previous one, this shoe has a sole divided in two: the front part in EVA and the rear section in EVA and visible Air, designed to facilitate the movement.

But for Hatfield, it is not enough to have created a shoe that captures the attention not only for its aesthetics but also for its composition and structure and to have presented to the world a product at the edge of perfection. Nike’s architect and designer decided to face an almost impossible challenge: to improve the two previous models in terms of design and performance. There were two possibilities: to fail miserably or to create an even greater masterpiece.
So, at the end of the Cold War, while in Berlin the Checkpoint Charlie is dismantled, in Moscow the first McDonald’s opens, in Italy the World Championships are held, in Spain the 1992 Olympics are organized and everyone is getting ready for the birth of the World Wide Web, the small world of sneaker fans begins to grow and the Air Max III marks a real turning point.
The new design presents an even clearer division between the front and the rear, which enables the sole to be composed of many elements made of different materials.

In addition, the Air Max III has an Air Sole with greater volume than the previous ones, which makes the whole sole higher, a multi lace lock that offers the wearer the ability to customize the way to tie the shoes, the fluid lines of the side panels of the sole are ribbed and serve as a frame to further enhance the Air Unit. “Hyvent Orange” is the color chosen for the details of the first colorway, making this shoe a style icon of those years. This shade of red will then take the name of “Infrared”, from then on, each model with this color will be named this way.
Since their launch, the success of the Air Max III has undergone several changes: if the shoe does not initially find an adequate distribution on the part of the stores, between 1992 and 1993 it began to have a lot of space inside the Spanish shops, while in 2000, the year in which it was renamed Air Max 90, taking the name of the year of its release, it took second place. For example, when Nike relaunched the Air Max I in 2002, people were so uninterested that they only cost 30 euros. For real success, we have to wait until 2005, when unexpectedly the public rediscovers this iconic shoe, ensuring a place in the Olympus of sneakers.
Since 1987, Nike has continued to present to its audience several versions of the iconic Infrared and new colorways or models born from the collaboration with artists and designers. The result is a shoe that looks like it’s moving even when it’s still.


Shortly after the release of the first Air Max, Dave Forland, one of the developers of Visibile Air technology, was calling one of his colleagues when he suddenly saw a passerby wearing a pair and was captivated by the movement of the Air Sole: “Someone bought them, I see the Air Sole going up and down!” he said.

Air Max 90’s evolution

After several remakes of the “Infrared” OG at the beginning of the 2000s, in 2005 an edition of this sneaker was born with the same features of its older sister but with the smaller Air Heel, that is the History of Air (HOA). From now on almost all future Air Max 90’s will be produced with this characteristic.

A year later Nike presents the first hybrid experimentation of an Air Max 90, the Air Max 90 360 – One Time Only. Made in a very limited edition, this model presents the upper in its original version, in mesh and synthetic suede, while the sole is the same as the Air Max 360’s.

Another updated and modern version is represented by the Air Max 90 Current released in 2008. Again, we’re looking at a hybrid model that always has the popular color scheme, but in which the latest Nike innovations of the time are introduced such as the all-mesh upper, leather mudguard and the “FREE” sole, typical of Nike Running.

In the same year, Nike Sportswear launched the Air Max 90 Premium Ostrich, which uses a combination of new and quality materials, such as suede and premium mesh, with an ostrich skin mudguard.

For another great model, we have to wait until 2011, when in London is presented the first Hyperfuse Air Max 90 and launched at Crooked Tongues’ barbecue, available to the participants only and never officially released. This model uses a pressure weld called Hyperfuse that removes the seams.

We arrive in 2014 with the Air Max 90 Leather that Nike releases on Valentine’s Day as a declaration of love to its fans. The shoe has a latest generation upper in perforated leather and a super cool sole made entirely of compressed air.


For the 25th anniversary of the Air Max 90, Nike Sportswear has released the Air Max 90 “Cork”. Technological improvements have led to an update of textures and materials: the upper is made of cork, with details and sole typical of the Infrared features.

Iconic collaborations

It is not only the Infrared colorway that has been revisited but, over the years, also the Air Max 90 has become an object of experimentation through different colorways or collaborations with other brands, designers and artists. Talking about all of them would be almost impossible, so we have selected some of the most iconic models. Born from the collaboration between Nike and Dave’s Quality Meats – historic concept store in New York – the DQM “Bacon” appears in all the “best of AM90” lists. Conceived in 2004 by store founder David Ortiz who, through materials and colors, expresses all his love for bacon.
In 2006, the partnership with the Amsterdam store Patta gave life to the “Homegrown”, a real celebration of the Dutch city, characterized by the legalization of the sale of marijuana. For this reason, in the model, this type of light drug is recalled through the color and texture that create a clear contrast with the orange details of the Air Heel and the interior lining. Another very rare version of the Air Max 90 is the Dizzee Rascal “Tongue & Cheek” by Ben Drury, designed by the two London hip hop artists Ben Drury and Dizzee Rascal. It was on the occasion of the release of the latter’s album “Tongue in Cheek” that the sale of this model took place exclusively at the NikeLab 1948 in London.

We are in 2013 when the ATMOS x Air Max 90 “Tiger Camo” raises, even more, the bar. The shoes have an attractive look, thanks to the black tiger-camouflage upper with black leather overlays, a Swoosh with snake-effect and a spotted midsole. Also, in this case, the orange details create a strong and pleasant contrast.
In the same year, on the occasion of July 4th, the Air Max 90 Hyperfuse QS “Independence Day” is released, made in three different colorways: those of the American flag, red, white and blue. This model consists entirely of a Hyperfuse mesh upper, a small American flag on the tongue and the unmistakable Air Max 90 logo on the side. With its simplicity, this shoe has managed to leave everyone speechless.
We arrive at 2017 when Virgil Abloh was entrusted with the design of a shoe that would emphasize the inner structure of the 1990’s iconic model, for this very feature the Air Max 90 OFF- WHITE are renamed “Revealing”. Perhaps there is no better model than the latter to represent the change in sneaker culture. The Air Max 90 are shoes that have marked an era, entire decades, that lend themselves to reinterpretations and small technical devices, but that continue to fascinate thousands of fans and not even in their original form. From a simple running shoe, belonging to subcultures, it became a status symbol for old and new generations.


Air Max 90 – ENG

Released in 2006 in French stores such as Footpatrol, Colette and Opium, the Footpatrol x Nike Air Max 90 reflects the trends of those years, presenting polished pois. Nevertheless, many have criticized the shoe as too simple to be born from a collaboration.


Digital Art Direction
Pieralberto Faggian
Giovanni Vitale
Motion & Graphic Design
Andrea “Muten” Carveni
Rickie Snice
Elisa Scotti
Air Max 90 CS: 30 years never looked this good
Air Max 90 CS: 30 years never looked this good
Air Max 90 CS: 30 years never looked this good
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