The history & design of the Nike Tn / Air Max Plus

The history and design of the Nike Tn / Air Max Plus

In the ever-progressive world of sneaker culture, only a handful of silhouettes have achieved the status of a true classic and icon. The Nike Air Max Plus, also commonly referred to as the Nike TN or even the Tn1/Tuned 1 is a legendary shoe that boasts a rich history and a design that is instantly recognizable from afar. Since its inception back in 1998, the Nike Air Max Plus is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2023. The Air Max Plus not only captured the hearts of sneakerheads but also serve as a symbol of street style and urban culture. In this article, we’ll be diving deep into the origins and the distinctive design elements that have made the Nike Air Max plus a timeless classic.

The Origin of the Air Max Plus / Nike Tn

The Nike Air Max Plus was conceived in 1998, a pivotal moment when the sneaker culture was in the throes of a significant transformation. The idea of the silhouette was from the great mind of Sean McDowell. The Air Max Plus paid tribute to the ‘90s, paying homage to the uprising subcultures of streetwear and music. The inspiration hit McDowell when he was on avacation along the sun-drenched coast of Florida, where palm trees would sway gently in the breeze. He sought to create a shoe that would resonate with the pulsating energy of mother nature, namely the vibrant colours of the sea and sky. The unique and eye-catching design was mostly due to the fact that McDowell was still learning the Nike aesthetic and freestyled the initial designs as no one has yet to told him exactly how to draw it.

Nike Tn Aqua Gradient - History of the Nike Tn
From Soleseason

Design Elements That Define the Air Max Plus / Nike tn

1. The Exoskeleton Upper: Arguably the most striking and immediately recognizable feature of the Air Max Plus is its upper, adorned with a unique exoskeleton. This TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) cage, inspired by the graceful swaying of palm trees, serves the dual purpose of standing out from the Air Max predecessors and to provide stability to the wearer. It is offered in various colour combinations, allowing fans to make a personal style statement while paying homage to the shoe’s origins. 

2. Mesmerizing Gradient Colourways: A signature feature synonymous with the Air Max Plus is its mesmerising gradient colourways. These innovative gradual transition from one colour to another are sure to captivate the eyes and imagination. McDowell visualized in telling a “night-to-day” story and decided to stray away from traditional solid colourways. The “Sunset” colourway, whichsmoothly transitions from light yellow to fiery orange, is perhaps the most celebrated example. The colour fade turns each pair of Air Max Plus shoes into a wearable work of art. 

3. Tuned Air Technology: The Air Max Plus boasts the innovative Tuned Air technology which was revolutionary when it was first introduced. While other sneaker brands were still dwelling on the traditional rubber or foam outsole, Nike was working hard to bring the concept of “walking-on-air” to life. The individual pods in the sole are filled with pressurized gas, offering targeted cushioning and support for different pressure points on the foot. McDowell emphasized the different hemispheres on the rubber and even included coloured dams to indirectly draw more attention to the Tuned Air that was inside. The result is not just a showcase of new technology but also improved comfort and performance, a hallmark in the Air Max series. 

4. Branding and Swoosh: Of course, no Nike shoe would ever be complete without their trademark Swoosh. However, one can quickly point out that the Swoosh featured on the Air Max Plus is a little slimmer and longer than a typical Nike swoosh. McDowell was bold enough to take the creation of the Air Max Plus silhouette as a chance to challenge the Nike lore. Initially, he had forgone the yellow and black hexagonal “Tn AIR” despite being a week into the initial sketches. He was told that it was a really big deal, and the logo should be featured prominently. Thus, out of obligation, the iconic “Tn AIR” logo was placed on the back of the heel, anchoring the shoe’s design and reminding wearers of the brand’s heritage.

Nike Tn  - History of the Nike Tn
From Soleseason

Cultural impact of the Air Max Plus / Nike Tn

The Air Max Plus rapidly gained popularity and a devoted following in urban communities, particularly in Europe. It became the epitome of streetwear and an emblem of underground culture, frequently worn by those immersed in the music and fashion scenes. 

The sneaker has been embraced by different parts of the world in different ways. In New York, it fades in and out of trend but in London, Paris and Australia, it’s a staple trainer. Australia often gets regional exclusive colourways because of the overwhelming love from Down Under. 

The Air Max Plus also made notable appearances in popular culture, from music videos to movies, it has cemented its status as a bona fide icon and is here to stay. It became a symbol of self-expression and style in the late ‘90s and continues to maintain that status ‘til this day. The shoe’s bold design and wide array of colour options made it a favourite among those who wish to make a striking style statement with their footwear.

Evolution of the Air Max Plus / Nike Tn

Over the years, Nike has unveiled various takes and iterations of the Air Max Plus. Incorporating various new and updated materials along with fresh colourways to stay in tune with contemporary trends. Collaborations with other brands such as A-COLD-WALL, Patta & SUPREME has also given the silhouette a breath of fresh air while keeping intact the core design elements and the spirit of the Air Max Plus. The Air Max Plus has endured the waves of hype and remains as a sought-after sneaker for those with a keen eye for fashion and collectors alike.

History of the nike tn - nike tn print
From Soleseason

The Nike Air Max Plus is not merely a sneaker; it’s a cultural phenomenon. Its distinctive design, groundbreaking technology and cultural impact have collectively secured its place in the sneaker hall of fame. From its origin as a tribute to the Florida coastline to its boldness to feature many “first-time” designs, the Air Max Plus stands iconic as a testament to the enduring power of innovative design in the world of sneakers. Its timeless allure and lasting influence will only have one meaning to Air Max fans, a classic.

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