The 50 biggest sneaker collaborations in Nike history

Nike x ESPO Air Force II Low

2004

It took a lot of convincing for Nike to let Stephen “ESPO” Powers create the company’s first ever transparent shoe. “Nike’s in the business of performance,” says the street artist, and his concept of an invisible all-plastic sneaker didn’t quite fit with that. “I steered it back into their comfort zone by saying it would be a performance shoe, but it would perform as Art.” Even then, Powers recalls, Nike’s first draft was only partially plastic. “I said, ‘Come on. If Jellies can do it, why can’t Nike?'” Eventually, Powers and Nike landed on a design that balanced large transparent panels with original ESPO artwork and came with a pair of special socks to boot. As proud as he is of the finished product, Powers admits that Nike may have had a point with the performance. “Within two blocks, the plastic was cutting my feet ,” he says. “Those shoes went back in the box and I never wore them again.”

Nike x Union Air Force 180

2005

Union’s take on the Air Force 180—designed by the influential LA store’s then-manager (and current owner) Chris Gibbs—sounds like a time capsule of streetwear’s heyday. “I was fresh off the boat from NYC and heavy on ’90s basketball silhouettes, so I reached for the 180 because it was a great representation of the era I loved so much,” says Gibbs. “Streetwear was a rebellion against the fashion industry as a whole, which typically only played in black and navy, so I wanted the colors to contrast with that. I took the camo from my favorite jacket and changed the colors around to be more playful. It was probably inspired by Bape, who was doing a lot of it at the time.”

Nike SB x Staple NYC Dunk Low Pro “Pigeon”

2005

When Nike SB tapped Jeff Staple to design a New York-inspired Dunk, he cycled through all the obvious references. “We thought about a Statue of Liberty Dunk,” says Staple. “A subway Dunk. A taxi Dunk. In the end, we decided that the pigeon was the unofficial mascot of New York City. Not everyone would get it, but the people who lived and breathed here would.” Not only did they get it—they wanted it ravenously. The release of Staple’s Dunks, slathered in feather gray suede with an embroidered dove along the heel, caused a commotion outside his Reed Space store on the Lower East Side. For much of mainstream America served the shoe as their introduction to the rising hysteria of sneaker culture. “SNEAKER FRENZY,” famously read the front page of the New York Post the next morning. “HOT SHO SPARKS RUCKUS.”

Nike SB Zoom Air Paul Rodriguez 1

2005

Paul Rodriguez Jr. grew up obsessed with Nike, but when the Swoosh first approached the budding skateboarder about a potential sponsorship, he balked. “Initially, Nike didn’t plan to make a signature shoe for skate, and that was a dealbreaker for me,” says Rodriguez. Eventually, the brand changed its tune and gave P-Rod the first SB pro model—a retro-bent low top with a quilted leather heel and full Zoom Air cushioning. “I’m just glad my teenage self stood firm and held on to his dream.”

Nike x Stash Air Max 95

2006

Graffiti legend Stash was one of Nike’s first and most important non-athlete collaborators, paving the way for colleagues like Futura to become involved with the Swoosh soon after. He introduced his trademark tonal blue palette on an Air Classic BW in 2003, but the colorway hit its high-water mark three years later when Stash used it as a gradient for the cascading stripes on the Air Max 95. The 95 is one of his favorites, Stash says, “because look how damn good it came out. One of the best shoes ever made to this day. You don’t have to touch it. It’s one of those “If it ain’t broke, so don’t fix it” models.”

Nike x CLOT Air Max 1 Kiss of Death

2006

Hong Kong streetwear stalwart CLOT’s mission is to bridge the gap between East and West through thoughtfully designed goods. And its Kiss of Death Air Max 1 – the first in a long line of Nike collaborations – succeeds. Inspired by traditional Chinese medicine, the clear toe box (as in you can see the tops of your toes while wearing them) reveals an acupuncture diagram on the insole, while the outsole is printed with a diagram outlining the foot’s pressure points.

Nike x Bobbito Garcia Air Force 1 Low Premium ’07

2007

Few Nike collaborators earned their own shoe more than Bobbito Garcia, New York’s streetball folk hero, DJ, documentarian, author and OG steward of sneakerhead culture. His Air Force 1 is blessed with a beautiful mix of suede, leather and mesh along with nods to Garcia’s passion for vinyl records and basketball.

Nike SB x Dinosaur Jr. Dunk High Pro

2007

Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis’s Dunk High Pro is the epitome of a simple idea executed flawlessly. “I wanted it to look like Ace Frehley’s silver platform space boots from Kiss,” he says. Mission accomplished. Coated in shiny metallic silver with bright violet accents and the band’s logo and mascot stamped on the sides, the shoe was an instant grail, serving Mascis fans far beyond his regular listeners. “People will come up and talk to me about sneakers and have no idea I’m in a band,” he says.

Nike Air Max LeBron VII

2009

“You never really know when it’s ready until you do the lab test yourself,” LeBron James says of his signature sneakers. Which makes sense when you consider all that is required of them to keep up with the best player of their generation. “The hard thing about LeBron is that he’s superhuman,” says Nike’s Tony Bignell. “He’s so strong that everything is stiffer, tighter, harder, firmer. How do you make something work well for him—and also work for the kids playing in the shoes?”

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