Style The story of Nike’s “Batboots”

The story of Nike’s “Batboots”

Andrea Tuzio

Tomorrow is a big day for nerds and comics fans everywhere, finally coming out in theaters is The Flash, the first ungo film dedicated to the fastest man of all time aka Barry Allen-played by Ezra Miller-which, for goodness sake, will completely reset the DC Universe (the DC Comics cinematic universe) after years of resounding flops. The film is inspired by the comic book mini-series published by Warner Bros-owned publisher Discovery in 2011, titled Flashpoint, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Andy Kubert.

The movie, as well as the Flashpoint story arc, is about alternate timelines and parallel universes, consequently we already know-as anticipated by the trailers-that we will see two Flash, Kara Zor-El aka Supergirl and not Superman, but most importantly (for what interests us specifically) as many as two Batmans: Ben Affleck’s and Michael Keaton‘s iconic Batman, who returns to play the Dark Knight after a full 31 years since the last time.

In fact, Michael Keaton was the first major cinematic Batman thanks to Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), both of which were the brainchild of Tim Burton.

I take my cue from the highly anticipated The Flash, which will debut in Italian theaters tomorrow, June 15, to talk about a detail that has always intrigued fans of Michael Keaton’s Batman. The detail is related to the costumes of Burton’s two films: on both occasions Keaton’s Batman wears a pair of Nike shoes, which over the years have piqued the curiosity of sneakerheads everywhere.

Today I try to shed some light on the history of the two Nike models that were part of the Batman and Batman Returns costume design.

Let’s start with Burton’s first film, 1989’s Batman.
Apparently there was an unofficial agreement between the film’s production and Nike; in fact, Jon Peters, the film’s producer along with Peter Guber, pushed very hard for costume designer Bob Ringwood to get virtually all the actors involved in the shoot to wear a pair of Nike’s, and thus Keaton as well. The request was quite difficult to grant, given the dark, brooding, almost feral atmosphere that Burton had given to his Gotham, and, on top of everything, it did not match at all with the costumes of the characters, which consisted mainly of suits and formal dresses. The costume designers therefore, proposed that the film’s absolute protagonist, rather than the rest of the cast, wear a pair of Nike.
Nike apparently took on the project completely free of charge, involving Tinker Hatfield, a longtime designer for the Beaverton-based company but who had only been part of the design team for a few years at the time.

Hatfield received drafts and drawings of the man-bat costume so that he could think about which model to adapt so that it would fit naturally with the costume-design. He also met with Keaton to discuss details about the movements he would go through during filming.
The choice fell on the Nike Air Trainer 3, on which Hatfield designed the extension that transformed the sneaker into a knee-length urethane boot.
Made completely black, Batman‘s 1989 “Batboots” were also thought of with a neon yellow swoosh, but in the end Burton decided that detail did not match the aesthetic context of the film.

Let’s turn to Batman Returns.
The dynamics between the production of the film and Nike, were the same.

This time, however, Hatfield, also involved in this second chapter, chose the Air Jordan VI, designed by Hatfield himself and made immortal because they were the shoes with which Michael Jordan won his first career title in 1991 against Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers.
The customization that the designer made for the occasion, traced the one made for the first film, thus adding on the shape of the sneaker, an all-black urethane boot.
What is curious is that the jumpman under the sole remained intact but in the film it is obviously not visible.
Over the years these “Batboots” have gained a certain amount of importance among collectors, culminating in 2015 when the right boot alone was sold on eBay for $8,100, a price that today seems really derisory if we think of the figures to which ceti memorabilia reach nowadays.

So we just have to go to the movies tomorrow to see The Flash, maybe even to see what pair of Nike’s our Batman played by Michael Keaton will be wearing.

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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