Me and my Nike Air Max

For me, it’s always been trainers, not sneakers. To the people who appreciate them most, Nike Air aren’t trainers they’re sneakers. And yet my obsessive streak which usually encompassed three stripes rather than a swoosh still managed to take the odd detour from time to time. This is my story of when that happened.

I’ll gloss over the SPX years, ignore the British Knights era and not say a bloody word about those Troop boots I had. A close shave with some Pony Linebacker brought me to my senses and for most of 1994 I wore Nike Air Max 93. Not being a sneaker geek I can’t tell you if that was me being late to the party or whatever, but I loved those shoes. I wore them until they squeaked and stank simultaneously.

I recently read this great article on Complex Magazine’s website.

While a lot of the US-UK cultural references crawled agonisingly over my head, the sentiment was bang on. The stuff about having to buy footwear in person, from sports shops. The fact trainers, sorry ‘sneakers’ weren’t some obsessive compulsive outlet but just something you wore until they were so tired you replaced them. There was no such thing as the phrase ‘beaters’. There still isn’t in our house, to be fair.

Since I’ve been a grown up, my thirst for footwear has grown way beyond the basic need to be shod. At one point I had surpassed three figures. I know some of you reading this right now will think “100 pairs, pah! Amateur” and you’d be right. But for a scrubber who once took pride in British Knights from Wynsors world of shoes, cut me a little slack eh?

I can’t be sure where my brief hiatus from adidas began but I’ll tell you where it ended. Typically for me – a socially awkward teenager – it involved embarrassment.

Having worn my Air Max 93 relentlessly, even playing football in them, their swansong came while I cleaned floors and filled vending machines. A keen midfielder in my time, I decided my work experience at a local leisure centre was a bit of a touch. Checking the chlorine level in the pool, filling the vending machine and mopping the squash courts isn’t what I had in mind. It was a terrible two weeks. I could have handled the boredom, but what I remember most is the smell. Not chlorine, nor bleach, or even the box of caramacs I dropped and broke. But my Nike Air Max.

Evidently, I loved them so much, I had worn them until they could be worn no more. I hadn’t just worn them to look fucking cool, I wore them for sport too. Imagine that… sports shoes being worn. For sports. I know, those days were crazy. But the problem was after months of not so tender loving care, they kicked up a whiff. The only sport they were fit for by the time I started at the leisure centre was ping pong. Pong, geddit?

I cleaned them with baby wipes, sprinkled them with that powder you can get, all to no avail. Even stinking and squeaking they were better than my knackered Pumas. Then I caught two members of staff pretending to hold their noses. If you’re reading this now Gary and… whatever the girls name was. I hope you’re happy. You made the 15 year old me feel very unwelcome. You’re the reason my loft housed more shoes than you’ll ever buy in your lives, you scruffy, shit-haired pair of divs. Gary is probably like Gordon Brittas now anyway so the joke’s on him. Unless he’s dead in which case he and his family have my deepest and most sincere condolences. Although if he sees anyone with smelly trainers in heaven I’d like to think he’ll hold his tongue (his actual one, not the one on his shoes) this time, the nasty little man.

Anyway, I’m over it now. No really I am.

I continued to wear my Air Max 93 for some considerable time afterwards. I managed to dispel the smell using a combination of a 40 degree wash and a coating of Lynx Africa.

It wasn’t until the summer of 1995, after a brief spell in retirement where I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away, that they really became unwearable. On my first holiday on my own, aged 16 going on 17, I took them down to Newquay where they once again took up the role of beaters. Although we never called trainers beaters back then, as I said before.

The point of no return for me came when the ‘Air’ bit (or it might have been the ‘Max’? I’ve never been sure) started making a pronounced squeaking sound which punctuated my every step. For a short while I developed a very clever walking technique which meant the squeak only happened once every few steps but I was kidding myself, plus walking with a slight stoop when there’s nothing wrong with isn’t the most powerful look.

My brief fling with the swoosh was over all too quickly. I sometimes look back at those days wistfully and wonder what might have been. Should I have remained faithful to those Air Max and graduated onto their later models? Would I have ended up entrenched in a different type of scene, calling sports shoes sneakers and using words like awesome to describe things that aren’t really awesome? Would I have followed the path into wearing a hat with the sticker still on it? Who knows. Eventually the football thing got me and influenced what I wore on my feet far more. And in the North West of England that meant three stripes.

These days, my loyalty is to my feet, not some big brand. My mind is open and as such, I’ve been casting admiring glances at that sexy little swoosh again, imagining what it’d look like naked. No that doesn’t work doesn’t it? Something about hi-tops off? No.

What I’m trying to say is that like everything fashion or trend related, you can look back at your adolescence and see grains of influence from two decades ago. In Manchester last week I saw two lads wearing Nirvana t-shirts. Two. In an hour. And these people were probably dancing to Teletubbies in 1993, not Kurt Cobain. It’s coming full circle and that includes me.

My current beaters (although I don’t call them that) are a pair of Nike Lava Dome. Prior to the Air Max era I wore a pair of Nike Son of Lava Dome. They were, to coin a phrase ‘Hikerdelic’ and I demand Nike re-release them.

In lieu of that though, I’ve got my eye on several pairs of Nike Air. I’m spoilt for choice …..These Lava Domes won’t last forever and as we’ve already established the trainer geek days are over for me. As such, the oddball practice of buying a ‘backup pair’ isn’t something I can bring myself to do anymore, even if I really want to.

So it’s onto the next one. While adidas continue to occupy a place in my heart and always will, and New Balance keep on seducing me with their US/UK made goodness, right now I’m immersing myself back into Nike. And if feels good man. It feels awesome.

This time I’ll avoid melvs who work in leisure centres and indeed the sports which take place therein.

If you fancy declaring your undying love for the Air Max, head to JD’s latest Heroes campaign. Maybe have a watch of the video below first. Ok so they’re not the 93’s I mentioned but they’re still Air Max, and crucially, they do not smell bad, nor do they squeak.

To put your cyber-weight behind the Air Max, get on twitter and hashtag #JDHEROES #AirMaxJD . You could win a pair of you bestest shoes if you do.

Mark Smith

I had pizza for tea.

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