A Look Back: Back to school in the late ‘90s
Take a look back with Drew Hammell of Nike Stories and check out some of the freshest back to school kicks of the '90s.
Summertime is almost here, which means shorts, sun, a little sand, and, of course, the hottest kicks. Back in 2001, I remember flipping through the May Eastbay catalog planning out which Nikes I wanted to cop. Eastbay didn’t make it easy, as there were way too many styles to choose from. I decided to pick out a few of my favorites from back in the day, along with a little commentary about each one. Without further ado, here’s a look back at the hottest styles from summer of 2001.
Air Jordan XI Snake Low
Look familiar? That’s because both these colorways are back after their initial release on May 23, 2001. With the all the success of the Air Jordan XI back in ’95-’96, Nike and Jordan Brand continued to experiment with new colors and materials. The snakeskin print replaced the classic patent leather, and Jordan heads everywhere loved them.
The Presto sock/sneaker movement brought about many offshoots, including the Presto Cage for basketball. This affordable sneaker had a sock-like upper just like the Presto runner, along with a plastic cage for more stability. It was completely laceless, which made it easy to slip on and off for those summertime pickup games.
Air Jet Flight
Worn by stars like Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, people who owned the Jet Flight swear it was one of the best performance basketball sneakers ever. Featuring a heel Air Sole unit and forefoot Zoom Air, the Jet Flight was light, sturdy, and responsive on the court. Please retro ASAP, Nike.
Air Zoom GP III
It seemed like Gary Payton’s models got crazier every year back then. The GP III was jam-packed with technology top to bottom, and even featured a completely removable skin that players could switch out to change the color. The GP III is not one of Payton’s most popular models, but it sure was one of the most forward-thinking.
Air Trainerposite Max
A cousin to the original Foamposite – the Trainerposite featured a Foamposite shell upper with spandex mesh. It also had a heel Air Max unit and forefoot Zoom Air. Check out that O-ring zipper as well – that was a feature on a lot of DRI-FIT tops and jackets. The Trainerposite was way ahead of its time in terms of technology.
Air Trainer Escape
Another byproduct of the Presto revolution, the Air Trainer Escape was a training model inspired by the sock-like runner. Like the Presto Cage basketball shoe, the Trainer Escape also had a cage for added support.
Air Visi Havoc
This trainer absolutely must be mentioned because of how wild it was. The Visi Havoc not only featured a translucent outsole, it also showcased a TPU strap and toggle fit system. A weird and wild design that nobody is asking to come back (yet).
Air Soc Moc Leather
Looking back, I have to credit models like the Soc Moc for the success of brands like Birkenstock, who made high quality slides and sandals. The Soc Moc was a sporty take on the Birkenstock trend, featuring leather and even an Air Sole unit in the heel.
The Deschutz had success in the ’90s, and Nike continued to capitalize on it with other similar slide models. Everyone had a pair of slide sandals back then, and it’s a trend that still continues today.
Runamok Pic, Slip, 4N1 & String
What is a Runamok? OK, maybe this wasn’t one of the hottest shoes in ’01, but we need to talk about these. From the looks of them, they were meant to be casual sport sandals/mocs/running shoes – shoes that were versatile enough to be worn at the beach or in the mountains. Unfortunately, Nike went a bit overboard with these. Check out model B – you could slip a photo into the front sleeve.
Dunk Hi LE
This obsidian/white Dunk High was tucked away in the bottom corner of the page but make no mistake – this was a beauty. Dunks have always ridden the wave of successful Nike sneakers. In fact, they are in the midst of a comeback. This one was a great choice for summer back in 2001.
Air Max Plus III
Rumor has it that the Air Max Plus III will be returning sometime soon. This model featured Tuned Air cushioning in the heel, and visible Air-Sole cushioning in the forefoot. A solid model that is definitely due for a retro.
Air Max Tailwind
The Tailwind always had a loyal following – for those who didn’t want the full cushioning of the Air Max runners, but more cushioning than lower-tiered silhouettes. This model definitely had a flashy design with some nice color options. It’s worth noting that this Tailwind also swapped out the typical visible Air Max heel cushioning for Tuned Air.
Last, but certainly not least, the Air Presto continued its dominance a year after it first released with plenty of cool, new colorways. The perfect summer running sneaker came in sizes XS-XL, as it was inspired by the fit of a t-shirt. Prestos and their offshoots are still popular to this day, and it’s great to look back and see how revolutionary this sneaker really was in terms of fit and style.
To give you a head start on planning your fall look, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite casual sneakers. Here are our top 10 back-to-school shoes:
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