NSW Spring 19 :
The Story of the Nike Air Tailwind 79
Often overlooked by other models within the famous Nike Air Max family, the Tailwind 79 was the first style to carry the brand’s innovative Air technology and has made a strong comeback into the modern footwear market since being reintroduced in late 2018. Originally built with a mesh upper, soft ankle collar, exposed foam tongue, a waffle outsole and the all-important full-length Air unit, the contemporary versions differ very little from the now-vintage model in respect to the Tailwind 79’s timeless, functional and performance driven design.
Newer releases favour smooth nylon material in place of mesh as a possible nod to the design’s predecessor, the Nike Waffle Racer Shoes, suede remains around the front of the toe vamp, laces border and back of the heel. The star of the show remains to be the sole which has remained as lightweight foam with the original air unit design whilst the classic swoosh is adorned in leather and runs up to the heel tab where further Nike branding is printed over a suede heel counter. A variety of bold and low-key options demonstrate the silhouettes versatility whether you are a fan of brighter, vintage inspired colour tones such as university gold, team red, starfish and pacific blue which encourage the silhouette to boldly stand out or are looking for adaptability for everyday wear with more subdued shades of baroque brown, pumice and midnight navy. Like any Nike shoe design there are endless possibilities that ensure everyone can find their perfect fit.
Known as ‘the shoe with air’, the story of the Nike Tailwind 79 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, with the promise of it never going flat by using air molecules that couldn’t escape. His prototype was rejected by the biggest footwear companies of the time - all apart from Nike. Trialled by the company’s co-founder and CEO of the time Phil Knight, who took the shoe on a fifteen mile test run, he was immediately impressed by the performance of the air pocket which was noticeable in every step. Following the presentation by Rudy, the development of the Tailwind 79 began shortly afterwards and prioritised lightweight, durable comfort for runners to improve stamina.
Although the name may suggest the designs debut in 79, it was actually first trialled at the 1978 Honolulu Marathon as part of a limited release which resulted in a number of impressed runners refusing to give the samples back after the event. A clear sign that a legend was born, a year later the first general release was followed by sellout rates and a noticeable buzz within the running world led to the Tailwind 79 being named as the shoe for unrivalled performance. Additionally, in 1980 just a year after it’s official 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 as taste shifted and Nike Air technology became more a trademark of the street than the track, sales of the Tailwind 79 dwindled 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 and navy.
Since this release in October of 2019, considered colourways continue to be introduced without overwhelming the market to ensure the design maintains its iconic, timeless reputation. Staying true to the Nike Tailwind 79’s heritage as a retro sneaker, for an old school look we suggest pairing the shoe with some jeans or shorts and white ankle socks to enhance brighter colour shades, or when worn with darker trousers the more subdued tones are amplified. Looking ahead to the rest of the year, we expect more releases that show that the Tailwind’s story isn't over just yet.
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