A sketch from Beaverton dating 3/20/1991 read “anatomic fit, adequate cushioning for running, lateral stiffener, outrigger system, flexibility, straps, stability perception.” These were sketch notes, and visions from none other than Tinker Hatfield. A year later the basketball sandal…errr, the Air Flight Huarache came to life. It was the end of bulky Forces and hi top Flights and the beginning of neoprene booties and lightweight Nikes. It was released to the masses after the Flight Lite, the Command Force, after Mike won his first chip in the AJ VI but released before the VII’s, Sonic Flights, and Air Checks. The downfall for chunky basketball kicks was set to begin. What did this minimalistic shoe mean for hoops? Obviously a new lightweight performance shoe for players but whom?
Five freshmen entered the University of Michigan C Webb, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson. It was like the stars finally aligned and blessed these guys with a shoe that would shift the basketball structure forever. They did things so differently, so urban, and soooo Hip Hop. The shaved heads, the baggy shorts, black socks this Hip Hop mentality older fans and alumni’s weren’t hip to, but the younger crowd embraced it and that’s all that mattered.
Via Nice Kicks
A young Kobe Bryant scooped up by adidas had became a sneaker free agent sporting not only PE Jordan’s but Home and Away Laker colors of the Air Flight Huarache. Legal issues kept Nike from giving him his own signature model but that didn’t stop him from being influenced by the Flight Huarache and endorsing a new modern version called the Huarache 2K4. It was the end of the Shaq/Kobe Laker era, and the unsuccessful attempt to four-peat. Kobe coming to Nike and building his footwear brand was based off the Air Flight Huarache. From his Laker PE’s, the birth of the 2K4, more player exclusives of the 2K5, to his first signature model the Nike Zoom Kobe I which had some characteristics of the Flight Huarache. Nike even released a takedown version calling it the “Zoom Legend”.
Tinker’s water ski trips influenced the Huarache system. Yea a water skiing boot with neoprene bootie that conformed to the foot while also offering support gave Tinker and Eric Avar conceptual ideas to bring us this classic to life. The approach was “No Swoosh”, cut-out ankle padding, a Huarache runner stretched taller. Nike’s advertisement was perfect “Many of us have dreams where we can fly. This is the shoe you are probably wearing in those dreams”. So many great possibilities and renditions in Eric Avar’s sketches; from the non cut-out ankle version, to the “Flight” logo placement on the crystallized rubber drawn on the heel. The Air Flight Huarache was meant to be a minimalistic basketball shoe in a time where hi tops were high and soles were on the hefty side. The Huarache was stripped from all that and instead embraced a less is more attitude.
You can pick up the Nike Air Flight Huarache at FinishLine.com
Written by Chris Rosario, you can follow him at @kixRrus.