RE-Fresh: Nike Air Raid 2 (1993)

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Produced by: Dan Hwang
Written by: Jesse Carr

Nike and Spike Lee have a longstanding partnership that most associate with Lee's portrayal of Mars Blackmon, the loud-mouthed hype-man with fat frames and a Brooklyn-printed biker cap in the Air Jordan commercials. Decades later, Lee continues to be a major player in the Jordan Brand line, as his Spiz'ike model still sees regular releases in multiple colorways and variations. But while Jordan Brand releases models with Lee's iconic Blackmon logo, Lee was also instrumental in the campaign for this RE-Fresh model, the Air Raid 2, paradoxically named the "Peace Raid."

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The early 90s was what many call the best era of Nike Basketball releases with the NBA's finest inking endorsement deals that made the roster a who's who of the hardwood. And while street sales were booming, Nike's image took a hit after Sports Illustrated published a front-page article in May of 1990 called "Your Sneakers or Your Life." A photo of a gun and a crispy pair of white and red Air Jordan Vs splashed across the cover. With a bit of negative publicity, the brand needed a peace movement. Spike Lee, who had already been a regular in Nike's marketing, was named in the SI article, and was later called upon to market the second version of the Air Raid.

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The first Air Raid was designed in 1992 by Tinker Hatfield whose resume includes most of the Air Jordan line and last segment's model, the Air Tech Challenge II. Apparently, Phil Knight left a Post-It note on Tinker's desk asking for a streetball shoe, so Tinker crafted the Air Raid, which had crossed straps that dominated the upper. To get the specifications and materials perfect, Tinker reportedly hit the streets himself, asking New York City ballers what the indoor models lacked for performance on the streets. Many had complained that many current Nike models wouldn't stand up to the grind of the asphalt. Tinker hit the drawing board and crafted a more durable outsole with the phrase "For Outdoor Use Only" etched into the design. Before it was known as the "Air Raid," Tinker had apparently used the working name of the "Air Jack," which was supposed to be short for Air Jackhammer. Tinker had not considered the urban term for "jacking," or robbing, so considering Nike's vulnerability following the article, the shoe was dubbed the Air Raid.

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The X made by the straps on the Air Raid earned the black and silver model the street name of the "Malcom X's," which, according to some, became a lure to attract Spike Lee to craft a colorway for the Air Raid II and act in a TV commercial advertising both the Air Raid II "Peace" edition and a line of apparel to match. The commercial spot took its inspiration from Spike Lee's seminal work, Do the Right Thing. In a famous scene of that film, characters issue long strings of racial epithets while facing the camera - a way of inciting the viewer to consider his or her own prejudices. In the commercial, both white and black ballplayers do the same, spewing G-rated stereotypes. In the TV spot, Lee says: "If we're gonna' live together, we gotta play together." The slogan was "The mo' colors, the mo' better." The colors of the "Peace" edition of the shoe were expressed vividly on the midsole in an African-art inspired mélange of bold colors. The embroidered design on the straps was a multi-colored basketball on one foot and a similarly-colored peace sign on the other. On the heel tabs, the words "Live together" appeared on the left shoe, and on the right it said "Play Together," driving home the peace campaign's slogan.

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The Air Raid saw a few re-releases, including a rare, bold colorway that featured a woodgrain design on the midsole and the words "No Ref" on one shoe and "No Foul" on the other. The Air Raid saw a very limited 2003 retro and three quickstrike models crafted by Japanese boutique Mad Hectic. In 2008, a flipped version of the Peace Raid was released in white with a similar color scheme on the midsole, but with geometric and symbolic designs rather than the 1993 version of the Peace Raid, which was more mottled.

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This sneaker depicts a time when going against an influx of urban violence was a cause not only in sneaker design, but in music as well. Boogie Down Productions cut the hip-hop collaboration song "Self Destruction" in 1989, and many remember the Afro-Centric styling in urban culture that typifies this era in urban fashion. The Air Raid represented a call for peace, and its aesthetic calls to mind African American pride as well. So while this shoe was made for the streets and the rigors of the outdoor courts, this was a rare model that had a secondary purpose - curbing the violence that plagued many of those very streets.

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Original 1993 deadstock Nike Air Raid 2
Thanks to Mike Packer of Packer Shoes.

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