NSW Spring 19 :
The Story of the Nike Air Tailwind 79
There is one simple way to describe the Nike Tailwind 79; the godfather of modern sneakers. Although vastly overlooked in the forty years since its original release, it paved the way in sneaker technology after only nine months in R&D in a secret Nike facility in New Hampshire.
It all began in 1977; when aerospace engineer Marion ‘Frank’ Rudy had the unprecedented idea of filling the sole of a sneaker with an air pocket to provide extra cushioning, the pocket promised to never go flat by using air molecules that couldn’t escape. He created a crude prototype and went about presenting it to the biggest footwear companies of the time, all of them rejected his idea apart from Nike whose CEO took the shoes out on a fifteen mile test run and expressed avid interest as soon as he was back. The shoes prioritised lightweight but durable comfort for runners - it is estimated that when running, your feet hit the floor 1500 times a mile with the power of four times the person's body weight. The idea behind the Tailwind was to ensure comfort to improve stamina.
The shoes were given to a limited selection of runners in time for the 1978 Honolulu Marathon with immediate success, so much so that many of the runners refused to return even their most preliminary of samples. This had created such a buzz in the running world that it was clear a true legend had been born; the following year saw the first general release and the shoe took off with immediate sellout rates. And if the Tailwind hadn’t secured its place in history enough, in 1980 (only a mere year after it’s release) it became the first Nike shoe worn by an athlete to win a gold medal at an Olympic event - in this case it was British runner Steve Ovett in the 800m sprint.
This incredible success had earned the Tailwind its own legacy, between 1992 and 2013 eleven updated renditions were released which all stayed true to the original Nike Air design. But the Tailwind 79’s sales slowed as taste shifted and Nike Air technology became more a trademark of the street than the track, and its production slumbered. However, forty years following its original announcement, Nike revealed its intentions to re-release the heavy hitting original colourway of vast grey, photo blue & navy.
It is a rare occasion that Nike Sportswear designers have the chance to dissect such a legendary shoe, but using pairs that collectors offered up and an original Nike catalogue from the 70’s they were able to create a 1:1 copy of the pair that cemented Nike’s name in streetwear history. The same structure of a lightweight and breathable mesh body has been used, layered with suede on the toe cap which matches the strip of suede surrounding the lacing unit. The classic swoosh is adorned in leather and runs up to the heel tab with further Nike branding printed over a suede heel counter. The star of the show is the sole, which has remained as lightweight foam with the original air unit design. The outer sole has the same waffle tread pattern that gave traction to millions of runners four decades ago.
Since this release in October of last year, there have been four more colourways since, all of which can be found at Always in Colour; be it indigo blue, black, white or the new gym red colourway releasing today. All stay true to their heritage as a retro sneaker, perfectly paired with some jeans or shorts with ankle socks - these are completely down to your own interpretation which is what makes them so perfect. With many more releases due this year, the Tailwind’s story isn't over just yet.
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