For most students, the month of August is a mix of emotions. The warm summer days are still going strong, but the impending return to school is creeping closer and closer. Those first few days of the school year are always crucial footwear-wise. Each student only gets one chance to make a good first impression. Wear the wrong shoe the first day, and it could mean trouble amongst peers and upperclassmen. Choose the right sneaker, and it could mean fame and glory for months to come.
Eastbay has always had students covered from head to toe. Back in the day, there were hundreds of footwear options, but most students were only able to pick up one pair for the start of the school year (maybe two if they were lucky). Here’s a look back at what was hot in some of the August back to school Eastbay catalogs from the late ‘90s – and some of the sneakers that are still revered today.
In 1996, Nike featured some great running and training options, including the Air Max 96 and Air Max Tailwind. The Triax series was also very popular amongst middle school and high school kids, with most opting for the versatile Air Max Triax shoe. Though these models are not recognized as the most memorable Nike runners, they were definitely solid designs with breakthrough Air Max technology. A lot of these sneakers would be considered “dad shoes” by today’s teens, because, for the most part, those were the shoes their dads were wearing 22 years ago.
The August ’97 catalog showcased some models that are still extremely popular today, including the Air Max 97 and Air Zoom Spiridon. Nike continues to retro the AM97 and Spiridon in both OG and new colorways. New variations have also released, including a modernized Air Max 97 and Spiridon “Ultra” version with an upgraded sole. One model that has yet to retro is the Air Max Light, which was designed by the same man who created the Air Max 97 – Christian Tresser. There has been plenty of chatter for this model to make a comeback, but so far there is no timetable for its return.
For students who weren’t looking for the most technologically advanced shoes, there were also plenty of casual sneakers available as well. Nike brought back the classic Cortez from the ’70s and the Air Force 1 from the ’80s. They also came out with a plethora of casual tennis sneakers called the GTS, which rumor has it stands for “Great Tennis Shoe.” The GTS was made popular by Matthew Perry, aka Chandler Bing on “Friends”. There was also a PE version made for Jerry Seinfeld, with AIR SEINFELD stitched on the heel.
In 1998, Nike released the Air Max 98 TL for the second half of the year, along with the Air Max Tailwind 3. The AM98 TL featured a full-length Air Sole unit that was not as stable as the Air Max 97 or Air Max 98 (which released the first half of the year). As a result, we have yet to see a retro of the Air Max 98 TL. The Air Max 95 also made its return in retro form, in a white/red/black colorway. The AM95 is one of the rare Nike running shoes that hasn’t really seen a dip in popularity since its inception back in 1995.
As for casual wear, the Air Force 1 was gaining even more popularity, with 18 different colors to choose from in August. The Cortez was still going strong as well, with 8 colorways for the month. Both also featured a mini jewel Swoosh option. The classic ’70s Nike Bruin silhouette, which had a design similar to the Nike Blazer, also made a comeback.
In ’99, Tuned Air was all the rage It was featured in the Air Max Plus, Air Tuned Max (men’s), Air Tuned Precision (women’s), Air Tuned Sovereign (men’s), and Air Tuned Sirocco (women’s). Though only the Air Max Plus has become a classic over the last 20 years, there is still a desire from sneakerheads to see more Tuned Air shoes return, especially the Air Tuned Max. The design was ahead of its time, and was probably a bit too futuristic even for the edgiest kids back in 1999. A lot of those kids wish they had a pair now, though.
The Air Force 1 and Cortez were still going strong in 1999, though with fewer color options. There were also some GTS-inspired casual tennis sneakers to choose from, though none caught on quite like the original. Note that the Nike Air Moc was a staple every year from ’97 through ’99. Few students messed with the Moc, but it was inspired by footwear from past generations, and inspired future footwear brands like Visvim.
Just like the late ’90s, choosing the right back to school shoe is still a top priority for students. Fortunately, Eastbay is still the source for making the right decision, both via the catalog and website. Incredibly, almost half the models that were popular 20 years ago are still trendy today. To pick up the latest Air Max, Air Force 1, and Cortez models, check out eastbay.com today.