Image Via: Jennizerr
Written by John Gotty
In a matter of days, the wavy goodness that is the Air Max 97 in the metallic silver and gold colorways will return to store shelves and online. Even though they’ve both seen several reissues over the years, they’ll always find buyers who welcome them due to the steeped history of model for anyone coming of age the time and finds themselves under the influence of that power drug of nostalgia as soon as they gaze at the iconic model.
As the narrative goes, Nike designer Christian Tresser was said to have adopted the model’s sleek look from the Japanese bullet train, hence the ‘Silver Bullet’ nickname, and it’s one that’s withstood the test of time. When it first released, the Air Max 97 featured so many attention-grabbing elements: the layered leather and mesh combo; the distinctive wave pattern wrapped around the shoe; the first appearance of a full-length Air unit; the traces of red, which stood out just as much as the reflective 3M that covered parts of the upper. Much like the Foamposite model released in the same year, the AM97 was unlike anything seen before and nothing comparable has come in the time since.
Image Via: Complex
One of the main reasons why Silver Bullet 97s have stood the test of time is because they represent a key moment in the history of Nike Air. By 1997, we were a decade removed from the Air Max 1, the first sighting of visible Air and five years had passed since the iconic Air Max 95. At this 10-year point, Nike raised the bar one more time in dazzling fashion, cementing their flag as innovators who worked with athletes in mind but also understood how to tap into what the general consumer wanted as well. Honestly, customers didn’t really know what they wanted. Nike just had a way of guiding them to the next thing by crafting products that look like advances towards the future, breaking mold in terms of what shoes could look like and what materials composed them.
The Air Max 97 was one of the three key runners from the same year: the Zoom Spiridon and the Zoom Talaria, both of which made their way back to retail recently in OG form as well. They all date back to a time when the Swoosh was conjuring up magic through advertising and athletes. The starting point for the shiny shoes could be traced back to the 1996 Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, GA. At the time, Michael Johnson was the fastest man on the planet when it came to track and field and, with the world watching the Games, he shattered records while wearing a specially designed gold-colored spike designed by Tobie Hatfield after originally turning down a silver colorway of the same model. Nevertheless, the seed was planted for anyone tuned in to the Olympics and relentless marketing by the Swoosh. Just like Michael Jordan once inspired kids to believe they could fly, Johnson and Nike led us to believe the fast path to the future was layered in gold and silver footwear. And when the shoes arrived at retail, people wanted to buy into the idea via the kicks.
Image Via: Nike/Complex
The cool thing about the Silver Bullets wasn’t just the bells and whistles attached to the design and marketing. Off pure aesthetics, they were as eye-catching as could be with the allure of the base color accented by reflective 3M that glimmered in the light. At the time, I was in college at a HBCU and, for those unfamiliar, you could get an unofficial minor degree in style in that setting. We spent a lot of time on outfit architecture because the flyest guys linked up with the flyest girls. The kids who didn’t? Well, I really don’t know what they did besides hang out in their dorms while the rest of us were out living rap videos on Ramen noodle budgets. Heather grey Polo sweats were part of the dress code for the classroom, campus and the club, so you can visualize how the lower half of an outfit flowed together between the pants and the shimmery kicks.
But, not everyone wore them with the goal of color coordination in mind. It was actually quite the opposite. The thing is, if you were wearing a $150+ sneaker, it “goes with everything” became the mantra, one that carried over from finding ways to rock the model’s predecessor in this regard, the Neon 95s. Screw color schemes as long as the fit was fresh. You were good. The shoes became statement pieces by themselves. Not to mention this was all transpiring during the rise of Diddy and Ma$e’s shiny suit era during Bad Boy’s heyday. Everybody wanted to glow and, while not too many could afford platinum chains or Rolexes, finding a way to scrap together the change for the right kicks was more attainable.
The Air Max line had attained that kind of stature around the time, a level usually reserved for Jordans and a few other high priced basketball models. People would be excited about getting “the new Air Max” when they released. And those silver and gold AM97s helped establish the legacy, two colorways of the model that stand as figurative trophy pieces that certified the moment. The nostalgia attached to the two colorways is the reason why Nike brings them back every few years and heads will indulge their sentimental side by buying.
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