Bits of history are often peddled off, but it’s only on rare occasions that you find an item whose claim to fame is legitimate. The Nike Moon Shoe auctioned off by Sotheby’s falls under that category. The shoes were part of Sotheby’s Stadium Goods: the Ultimate Sneaker Collection, which was acquired after a private sale. The Moon Shoe was the last item from the lot to go up for auction, and was sold on July 23, 2019.
With only a few pairs of the Moon Shoe actually remaining, this shoe—sized 12.5—chronicles the company’s early days before it became a multi-billion dollar, international juggernaut.
The story behind the shoe starts with Nike co-founder and University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman. Bowerman came up with an innovative sole traction pattern by experimenting with his wife’s waffle maker. The experiment resulted in a sole that provided better traction and better cushioning. That led to the Moon Shoe, which got its name because of the resemblance between its own track and that of the impression left on the moon by astronauts in 1969.
The pair auctioned off by Sotheby’s was hand-cobbled by Geoff Hollister, one of Nike’s first employees. The shoes show Nike’s innovative endeavours, especially the sole, which had to be done in two pieces because the company hadn’t developed the technology to make one-piece soles yet. Because the shoes were handmade, each shoe is slightly irregular and you can even see the markings of the shears on the rubber where they were cut to shape.
The uppers were made of white nylon and feature a black Swoosh, which were sewn on with fishing line—the only branding present on the shoe. Only 12 pairs of the Moon Shoes were created, each going to runners in the 1972 Olympic Trials. The pair auctioned off were the only pair known to exist in unworn, deadstock condition.
The shoes were estimated to sell for between USD$110,000 and $160,000, however, the winning bid actually came in at an impressive USD$437,500.