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Nike: The Rise Of The Most Popular Sneaker In The World

by Martha Simmonds
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It probably wouldn’t even be an assumption to say that when people think about sneakers, they think about Nike. The sports brand is one of the most famous and popular on the planet, and its shoes have been beloved by entire generations for over five decades.

What started as a relatively small import company has become a sports fashion behemoth recognized everywhere.

Comfort, advanced technologies, and revolutionary design made Nike a household name. But how did it all start, and where is the company now? Let’s take a closer look!

The Beginning

There would be no Nike without its founders, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, who united to create the best performance shoes for running.

A coach and a student of The University of Oregon found common ambitions and, with joint forces, established the Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS) in 1964.

The sixties marked the company’s humble beginnings when the men started importing Onitsuka Tiger sneakers from Japan. That’s only natural because their work at developing new running shoes needed a lot of time and research.

It took 7 years for the men to finally launch their own shoes, and so in 1971, BRS became Nike and was ready to introduce their first sneaker.

The Moon Shoe

Many find it amusing that Nike’s first sneaker was made in a waffle iron. But this appliance actually gave Bill Bowerman the idea to create a grippy sole that would provide traction for athletes.

And while this first prototype was later sold at an auction for a very high price, the “waffle shoe” was never made available to the public.

Luckily, Nike managed to improve the prototype and soon introduced the Moon Shoe, officially called Nike Waffle Racer. It got the nickname because the shoes left footprints resembling those made by astronauts on the Moon!

These sneakers were worn by US track athletes but did not garner massive success. Nike needed another model to do so, and they finally put themselves on the map with the Nike Aztec, later renamed Nike Cortez.

Nike Cortez crushed all the expectations after debuting in Mexico Games because it was highly advanced technologically and design-wise.

Finally, Success

After that, the company was on the trajectory to success, especially after hiring a new advertising company that managed to reach a massive audience and put Nike on the map everywhere.

Less than a decade after introducing their first shoe, Nike now had half of the entire US athletic shoe market and went public soon after. They’ve also expanded to athletic clothing and sportswear.

It took almost another decade until their now iconic slogan “Just Do It” was introduced. The ad agency says that it was inspired by the serial killers Gary Gilmore’s last words before his execution. It’s an unusual story, but that didn’t stop the slogan from becoming one of the most recognized ones worldwide.

Iconic Sneakers

The 80s were an incredibly busy and successful decade for Nike. The company introduced Nike Air Force in 1982 and Nike Air Max in 1987, which have become brand staples with such classics as Nike Blazer from the seventies.

Sneakerheads love the many variations and colorways of these models, and the revolutionary technology of Air Max air bubbles, advanced support, and security has blasted Nike shoes into the stratosphere.

Nike Air Max is one of the most popular models of all time, and Nike Air technology was so unique that it changed athletic shoes forever.

This technology uses pressurized air inside a bag, providing more flexibility yet keeping enough stability. The shoes are elastic, reduce impact, and are comfortable and lightweight.

The Air Jordans

We can’t talk about Nike without mentioning the most famous collaboration of all times – the Air Jordans. Michael Jordan was a legend in the making when Nike managed to persuade him to sign a partnership contract.

The first Air Jordans, the special MJ line, came out in 1985 and shook every fan’s world. The sneakers were like nothing seen before. They were big, chunky, and bore bright black and red colorways.

Initially, Jordan himself was not sold on the design but luckily changed his mind later. Air Jordans is now an iconic brand in its own right, with even 36 signature designs and the Jumpman logo is just as famous as the Nike Swoosh.

Nike Today

Nike’s brand has long crossed all borders and is now known around the globe. It has managed to reach more people and bigger audiences by identifying what they want and delivering the best options on the market. That includes sneakers explicitly designed for skaters and various lifestyle models.

In the new millennium, NBA superstars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant and the Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal jointed Nike’s ambassador ranks, resulting in more attention and sales.

In the 2010’s Nike became the official supplier of the NFL and NBA, and today, the company is the leading brand in supplying athletic shoes, apparel, and other sporting equipment worldwide.

Fun Facts About Nike

• Nike won an Emmy award for their commercials in 2000 and 2002.

• The designer of the iconic Nike Swoosh logo Carolyn Davidson was a student when she created it and was paid only $35 for her work. Later she was compensated with a hefty sum.

• When flying his hoverboard, Michael J. Fox’s character Marty wears Nike shoes in the movie Back to the Future: Part II.

• The famous Nike designer Tinker Hatfield created the first Batman boots.

• Nike is a supporter of the University of Oregon and its sports teams. The athletes not only wear exclusive apparel but also receive funding.

• The legendary long-distance runner Steve Prefontaine who tragically died at 24, was an inspiration for Nike running shoes.

• When experimenting with different Nike shoe materials and designs, Bill Bowerman tried kangaroo leather, fish skin, and deer hide.

• Company co-founder Phil Knight wanted to change the company name to “Dimension 6,” yet they finally decided on Nike.

Today you can find Nike shoes for any sport, taste, and preference. Explore the endless designs, colorways, and models in our online store SIL.lt! You can also see Dunk drops at fastsole.co.uk!

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