The month of March marks the once-a-year worldwide celebration of the Nike Air Max that is Air Max Day. 2016 in particular commemorates the 25th birthday of the Nike Air Max BW — also known as the Air Max Classic or Air Max IV — and the ”Big Window” has never been better poised to make a comeback than during this year. In comparison to its iconic cousins, the Air Max 1, Air Max 90 and Air Max 95, the Air Max BW garners comparatively little attention. As father of the Air Max line, Tinker Hatfield, once said that the design of every new Air Max is an attempt at surpassing the success of its predecessors. However, to be quite frank, the Air Max BW has yet to fulfill this requirement. So, was the “Big Window” relegated to this sad fate from the moment it was born, or will history allow it a second chance to realize its full potential?
Firstly, let’s travel back in time to the year that the Nike Air Max BW was born, in 1991. As you might know, 1991 was a fundamental year to the current cultural trajectory we find ourselves on — it was then that the World Wide Web became public; Nirvana released their influential and bestselling album, Nevermind; Terminator 2: Judgement Day rocked the box office; and the year that Michael Jordan won his first NBA championship with the Chicago Bulls. You might ascribe the obscurity of the BW to these concurrent, world-changing events that overshadowed its release, but then you would be kidding yourself. The previous year saw worldwide sneaker circles captivated under the spell of the Air Max 90′s Infrared accents and heart-shaped sole element, and the launch of the Air Max 180 shortly after that of the BW quickly stole the spotlight from the latter, what with the higher volume Air unit of the 180. Sandwiched in between these two big releases, the BW was effectively cannibalized by its own siblings.
Of course, to blame the BW’s misfortune on bad timing would be too simplistic. For a fuller picture, we must also examine the BW itself. That year, Nike chose to put the Air Max BW up for sale internationally, a move which should have been followed by a massive marketing push but ultimately fizzled out. This is in stark contrast to the innovative Wieden+Kennedy promotional campaign for its successor, the Air Max 180, where illustrators such as Ralph Steadman, Charles Anderson, Andre Francois, Takenobu Igarashi and Alfonse Holtgreve were commissioned to create eye-catching print and TV advertisements alongside Industrial Light & Magic and acclaimed director David Cronenberg. Seeing as how most of the Swoosh’s marketing dollars had been dedicated to the 180, it’s easy to see why the Air Max BW had been snubbed. Similarly in 2005, when Nike launched its large-scale “Powerwall” series celebrating three decades of the Air Max, the BW was nowhere to be found.