Nike and the UK have a relationship cast in Swoosh-branded stone.
Beyond its current status as Central Cee’s go-to get up and England’s football kit manufacturer, Nike and the UK have plenty of history.
In 1987, Nike launched a new range of sneakers, starting with the Air Max 1. As most sneakerheads will know, the model was designed (primarily) by Tinker Hatfield. When Hatfield was in London recently, the man himself recently admitted the model wouldn’t have existed without the UK showering the sneaker in love from the jump.
From Truro to Glasgow, the UK’s love for Nike – and Air Max in particular – is undeniable, with “110s” sitting alongside the Air Max TN, 90, 97, and 98 as models that have been the go-to streetwear silhouettes – with Liverpool’s relationship with the Air Max 95 (aka 110s or “boss webs”) so pronounced it’s etched into the fabric of Scouse style and demeanour.
Fast-forward to the future, and Nike silhouettes still rule supreme in the UK. Naturally, the strength of this synergy has led the brand to seek collaboration with the country’s finest designers. The most recent example of this was supercharged by an internet-breaking link-up with London-based streetwear powerhouse, Corteiz.
From the collab’s game-changing rollout to the silhouette selling out in seconds, the excitement around the release got us reflecting on the Nike collaborations that have come before it and set the tone for the brand’s symbiotic relationship with the UK.
From Alexander McQueen to A-COLD-WALL*, here is the best of British when it comes to Nike’s collaborations in the UK.
Stüssy Nike Air Huarache (2000)
You’d be forgiven for wondering why a California-founded label and Nike collaboration is doing on a UK-specific list – but Stüssy and the Swoosh’s collaborative debut would never have existed without Stüssy’s London chapter.
After launching into the centre of popularity in the late 80s under the creative direction of Shawn Stussy, the California-based brand was initially launched as a surf brand. And while its passion for riding the waves is still as present as ever, Stüssy’s graphic-heavy designs have consistently caught the attention of streetwear fans, rappers, and of course, Nike.
The collaborative footwear efforts between Nike and Stüssy started in 2000 with the Nike Air Huarache LE, before moving on to other silhouettes such as the Dunk High and Blazer. However, for the Huarache, it gave Stüssy’s leader at the time, Michael Kopelman, the chance to stock two exclusive colourways of the silhouette in the brand’s London-based flagship.
Presented in a low-cut silhouette, the stand-out colourway came with a blend of earthy tones, while its underlays were hit with speckles of “Light Straw” and “Desert Oak” hues. Meanwhile, the shoe’s synthetic layer wrapped around the back of the sneaker, complemented by the caged detailing around the lateral sides and heel counter. – Jack Lynch
Alexander McQueen x Nike “Black Laser Series” (2004)
Many might not be aware of Alexander Mcqueen’s previous collaboration with Nike, held in high regard due to its immense value and rarity. Crafted in 2004, the late British designer collaborated with Nike on the “Black Laser Series,” which recently sold in a Sotheby’s auction for over £30,000. The pack consists of a Nike Air Max 90 SL Laser, a Ride Jacket, and an Epic Backpack, debuting during McQueen’s first event back in London, following his move to Paris in 2000.
For his seasonal showcase, the designer held an exclusive retrospective highlighting extravagant pieces from his past collections. During this time, the “Black” auction took place and displayed the collaboration in full force. Each item boasts tribal-style laser engraved motifs, while the Air Max 90 is crafted from premium cowhide suede and genuine pigskin liners. The one-of-one creation was accompanied by a complementing Rider Jacket and Epic Backpack, matching the sneakers perfectly. Designed by Tom Luedecke and Chanhmy Vongxay, the Alexander McQueen x Nike “Black Laser Series” remains one of Nike’s hardest collaborations to date. – Andrea Sacal
London Underground x Nike Air Max “Roundel” (2013)
Whether you’re travelling on the underground, overground, or bus, Transport for London is the saving grace that keeps us covered when navigating the UK’s capital (well, when it’s running). However, it’s not just London busses and patterned seats that the governing body is best known for.
Over recent years, TfL has presented a slew of collaborative efforts in the world of fashion and footwear. For example, recent collaborations have welcomed a new kit with Arsenal FC, a footwear link-up with adidas to celebrate 15 years of the Oyster Card – but the collaboration that lives long in the memory is the glistening London Underground x Nike Air Max “Roundel.”
The London Underground x Nike Air Max “Roundel” was originally released in December 2013 – and was made available exclusively via a Piccadilly Circus pop-up shop. Paying tribute to London’s train car fabrication, the limited-edition AM90 uses a densely-woven jacquard material to construct a single-piece upper that transitions from blocks of tan to red, brown, and black that feature on the carriage seats. – Jack Lynch
A-COLD-WALL* x Nike Air Force 1 High (2016)
A-COLD-WALL* and Nike hold an extensive collaborative catalogue, joining forces in 2016 on a technical pair of Nike’s Special Field Air Force 1s. Ever since, the duo has elevated tenfold, releasing a flurry of cold collaborations that became instant sell-outs.
One of the pairing’s most sought-after models is its high-top Air Force 1, which was first teased by designer Samuel Ross ahead of a secretive release at a London-based pop-up shop. The pair made special appearances at several footwear conventions before its launch, which only gathered further attention from the public. In collaboration with NikeLab, A-COLD-WALL*’s Air Force 1 High now fetches thousands of Pounds on the resell market and marks its most limited creation with Nike. – Andrea Sacal
Kim Jones for Dior x Nike (2020)
Kim Jones fell under Nike’s glance in 2016 and opted for an obscure model for his first collaborative debut. Using the Air Zoom LWP, he pulled motivation from dated Air Max colourways and released three renditions of the forgotten silhouette. Nike kept Jones in close reach thereafter and continued to tap the designer in 2018, 2020, and 2021.
Throughout this time, the duo released collaborative versions of the Nike Air Max 360 High, Mercurial Superfly 360 football boot, and Air Max 95, later taking things one step further with the launch of the Dior x Air Jordan 1 “Air Dior.” With a $2,000 USD retail price, the extremely limited kicks marked one of Nike’s most legendary collaborations. As its first union with the European luxury House, the menswear Creative Director favoured the silhouette above all else and holds dozens of Air Jordan 1s in his extensive footwear archive.
The “Air Dior” was crafted from premium grey and white leather and features Dior’s monogram blasted on textile Swooshes alongside an oblique iteration on the tongues. The sneaker’s classic tongue tags were revisited with collaborative branding and completed with text-infused rubber bottoms, which outlined the partnership for decades to come. – Andrea Sacal
The Basement x Nike Air Max 90 “City Series” (2017)
British multi-faceted imprint The Basement has become synonymous with community, having launched its platform as a go-to space for streetwear lovers and sneakerheads to discuss the topics they love most. Growing its cultural roots over the past decade, the publication initially teamed up with Nike in 2017 to debut its first collaboration on the SB Dunk Low before releasing an Air Max 90 “City Series” two years later, celebrating Glasgow, Manchester, and London – with the three-part instalment quickly becoming one of the most coveted releases of the year.
The London-based collective took a trip across the country and pulled inspiration from the three major cities. Mirroring Scotland’s street-wide traditions, its pair came outfitted in a “Deep Grey” and “Safety Orange” palette that showcased the habit of placing a traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington statue in Glasgow’s city centre.
The Air Max 90 landed in an all-over black build for the duo’s Manchester-inspired design, featuring neon jewel Swooshes and reflective accents. Finally, the highly-acclaimed London pair saw The Basement look to its home turf while celebrating the diversity found around the city. Crafted in an array of grey tones, the design paid homage to the capital’s vibrant nightclub scene and was delivered with four detachable Swoosh options. – Andrea Sacal
Skepta Air Max 97 (2017)
Boy Better Know general Skepta has been a key figure in representing footwear in the UK for some time now. While his newly-found association with PUMA and his Big Smoke Corporation has been a head-turner throughout the world of fashion as of late, this partnership would have never been possible without the various sneaker and apparel collections he presented with the Swoosh.
Skepta’s first sneaker with Nike came in the form of the Air Max 97 SK in 2017 – and his OG Swoosh silhouette remains his most iconic. The pair is inspired by Skepta’s travels throughout Morocco, as well as the 1999-released Air Tuned Max. Upon the release, Skepta said that “[the Air Tuned Max] was the first shoe I ever saved up to buy, so I wanted to bring its magic to the 97 – the magic that made me first love Air Max when I saw it as a child.”
Designed with a slew of braided embroidery along the tongue and heel counter, the shoe also features an insole print inspired by traditional Moroccan patterns. Meanwhile, an original SK logo – a reference to the Air Max TN logo – takes the form of a UK electric plug. Rounding off the design, Skepta also opted to include an updated welded Swoosh logo that replaced the usually embroidered insignia. – Jack Lynch
Martine Rose x Nike Shox MR4 (2022)
As one of Britain’s most exciting designers, Martine Rose has repeatedly stolen our hearts with enchanting co-ed collections that garner a second look. The British-Jamaican designer stepped forward into the Nike footwear realm in 2018, vigorously distorting pairs of Air Monarch IVs to eye-popping proportions. Released in white, black, and pink, the chunky sneaker arrived with protruding structures that mimicked misplaced footbones – but it was anything but a misstep. The model cemented her standing in the ever-expanding sneaker world with designs that challenged and subverted expectations and norms.
In 2022, Martine Rose reunited with Nike to debut two reimagined Shox MR4s, which arrived backless in mule formation. The 2000s model was reworked with pointed toe boxes, sleek lines, and reflective accents. Simultaneously, Rose recently expanded the offering with an all-new gradient design presented during her Pitti Uomo 103 Guest Designer runway show. – Andrea Sacal
Corteiz Air Max 95 (2023)
Even though Clint419’s Corteiz label has had the UK in a streetwear-frenzied chokehold for the past couple of years with its off-the-cuff releases and unique guerilla marketing tactics, a collaboration with Nike took much of the world by surprise – but it was also something of an inevitability.
In 2021, Clint419 was subject to legal action due to Cortiez’s uncanny resemblance to one of Nike’s most famous product lines: the Cortez sneaker. Fortunately, the lawsuit was quickly nipped in the bud – with a minimal fine – and now, the Swoosh and Corteiz have come together, two years later, to deliver one of the most sought-after collaborations to ever hit the streets of London and beyond.
The link-up unveiled two collaborative Air Max 95 sneakers, with the leading design – that dropped only days ago – opting toward a more militarian aesthetic. With this in mind, the sneaker features side overlays that are coated in various shades of green, while the upper layers show similarities to classic army netting. Additionally, the tiny lateral side Swooshes have been swapped for a Corteiz spell-out, while the classic CRTZ Alcatraz logo is applied to the tongue. And rounding off the design, the insoles have also been complemented with an all-over camo print. – Jack Lynch
In case you missed it, take a first look at the Wales Bonner x adidas FW23 footwear.
Click here to view full gallery at Hypebeast
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