Ben McKimm

25 Best Nike Air Max 90s of All Time | Man of Many

Designed by legend Tinker Hatfield, the sneaker was a follow up to the widely successful Air Max 1 – a shoe that cemented the Air Max line as both a performance-orientated line and a stylish cultural icon thanks to its iconic air bubble. In much the same way as the Jordan III is to the Jordan I, the AM 90 was a celebration of the success of its less gaudy predecessor. Showcasing audacious detailing that did everything it could to highlight the legendary air bubble on the heel of the shoe.

A Brief History of the Air Max 90

Outside of the USA, UK, and Japan, the Air Max 90 made waves down under thanks to Australia’s love for anything Nike Air. We spoke to Riyadh Alfata & Jerry Su from Underground, Australia’s leading Facebook marketplace for high-end clothing and footwear to explore the influence ‘Maxies’ played in the Aussie sneaker scene.

The Air Max 90s Influence Down Under

The perception of the Air Max 90 has changed over the years. What was once a bonafide ‘do it all’ sports shoe with casual appeal, is now seen as a retro throwback steeped in nostalgia. But the sneaker still epitomises an era where Tinker Hatfield changed the game forever. So for many sneakerheads, a true collector should never be without at least a few AM90s.

Nike Air Max 90s Today

When putting together a list of the Best Air Max 90s of All Time, you realise the importance Nike placed over the model. Sometimes a silhouette gets tired after a brand runs it into the ground with collaboration after collaboration. But not with the AM90. Everyone wanted to collaborate with the silhouette but only a select few were chosen. What we are left with is a time capsule that represents some of the biggest moments in sneaker history. Check out our list of the 25 Best Nike Air Max 90s of All Time.

25 Best Nike Air Max 90s of All Time

1. Infrared Air Max 90

As the Black/ Red ‘Bred’ colourway is to Jordan, the ‘Infrared’ Air Max 90 might be the most important in Nike’s history. When released the Air Max 90 in 1987, Tinker added another classic to his resume and secured the long-term success of the Air Max line. When he increased the size of the air bubble he utilised the reddish-pink neon colour to immediately draw the eye to the new Air unit. There have been a number of amazing colourways since, but none have matched the original.

2. Dave’s Quality Meats ‘Bacon’

Sometimes colourways and the stories behind them fuse to create a perfect shoe. A collaboration with what many conceptually believe to be the first sneaker store in the world. Dave’s Quality Meats (DQM) owner David Ortiz tells the story of how a short time-frame from Nike meant he had a couple of days to send the concept back. Struck for time, he walked into the supermarket, saw bacon sitting there, and boom we have one of the greatest AM90’s of all time.
Put simply, Atmos has never missed on a Nike collaboration. When they got handed the keys to the famous silhouette, we were gifted the “most urban celebration of the Infrared colourway we’d ever seen” as Karim Wazani says. The shoe symbolised Tokyo street culture, yet combines elements seen around the world. A blend of the popular camo scheme, popularised by BAPE in Japan, blends with the traditional US-style OG Infrared hits in the normal locations.

3. Nike x Atmos ‘Duck Hunter Camo’

As we said in the beginning, only a select few have ever had the chance to collaborate on this silhouette. Reserved for pioneers of the culture, it goes without saying that one of them had to be legendary Londoner and Grime pioneer Dizzie Rascal. One of the cleanest executions of an AM90 we’ve ever seen, the sneaker resembled human qualities with its pink ‘tongue’ and chalk upper. This was a super limited shoe, only 200 units were ever made and they were sold through extremely select retailers. If you can even find a pair, expect to pay upwards of $3000.

4. Dizzee Rascal ‘Tongue N Cheek’

One of the most unique ‘maxies’ ever made, the Warhawk is inspired by a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The fighter aircraft used by the US Air Force across multiple fighting fields in the Second World War.

5. Warhawk Air Max 90

Kaws has a resume that features some of the most valuable kicks in history. Also appearing in black with a free inspired sole, both models feature contrasting pops of Volt that appear on the laces and signature ‘XX’ mark adorning the lateral forefoot, tongue tag and lace jewels.

6. Kaws White Volt

Dutch streetwear retailer Patta and Nike have a long history together. This Air Max 90 features some of the best colourway names ever featured on a shoe. Enter the Grass colourway featuring an upper of premium suede and leaf-textured leather that gives a nod to Amsterdam’s famous cannabis culture. Orange Blaze hits creep through on the lining and inside the Air unit.

7. Nike x Patta ‘Homegrown Grass’

2003 was one of the strongest years for the Air Max 90s. Notable releases include the Escape 2 which was arguably better than the original, and the ‘Silver Surfer’ with neutral whites, greys, and leather that allowed for the cascade-red and midnight-blue hits to pop.

8. Silver Surfer Air Max 90

As you can see, our list of the best Air Max 90s of all time is littered with famous collaborations. The ‘Hufquake’ launched in 2006 as part of a sneaker pack developed in collaboration with San Francisco store HUF. The collaboration recognises the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as you can see from the sneakers grey crackle-print overlays.

9. Hufquake by HUF

Carrying on the legacy is Virgil Ablohs Off-White iteration. An Ice white upper combines leather, blue foam and signature orange tag to complete one of the most valuable sneakers of the collection. Released in September 2017, this was a member of the initial five-pair “REVEALING” group of the collection.

10. Off-White ‘The Ten’

Another infamous AM90 collaboration with UK’s size? The sneaker dropped back in 2006 as a nod to Brighton Beach. Becoming one of the most sought after models of the era thanks to the shoe’s premium construction and sought after Bone/Teal/Baroque Brown colourway with pink hits.

11. Clerks Pack by Size?

Featuring the unmistakable ‘Mowabb’ colourway that harks back to the original silhouette of ’91. The sneaker features black snakeskin mudguards, pink premium accents, and orange and blue hits throughout.

12. King of the Mountain ‘Mowabb’

One of the most recognisable sneakers of all time, many sneakerheads are instantly reminded where they were when the ‘Moon Landing’ first released. That includes Undergrounds, Jerry Su;

13. Lunar90 SP Moon Landing

One of the most underrated Air Max 90s of the last decade, the B-Side explores the sneakers long-standing connection to music. Hitting the scene in June 2019, the shoe incorporates nine elements extracted from past versions of the AM90. This includes the mesh toe box, ‘Untold Truth’ stitching on the heel and laces that mimic cartridge tape. A track list of some of the details is revealed through the translucent outsole. Details people, details!

14. Mixtape B-Side

Widely referred to as the ‘Crepe’ this AM90 really had nothing Frech about it. Correctly referred to as the mushroom and birch colour this shoe featured a premium hemp-construction capped off by hits of blue that popped on the rather plain overlay.

15. Crepe Air Max 90

16. Red Velvet – Check it out
17. Black Infrared – Check it out
18. NIC – Check it out
19. New York Strawberry Cheesecake – Check it out
20. London Underground “Roundel” – Check it out
21. Campfire Pack – Check it out
22. Desert Ochre – Check it out
23. Hyperfuse Independence – Check it out
24. Chutney – Check it out
25. Cork – Check it out

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