Produced by: Dan Hwang
Written by: Jesse Carr
RE-Fresh, a new bi-weekly segment here at Freshness, and it is a bit different than our curated dose of daily news. Just as we pride ourselves on bringing you the newest and latest, we also strive to understand our roots. Just as a James Brown or Roy Ayers sample is flipped and beefed up for a hip-hop track, the multi-billion dollar sneaker industry has original inspirations as well. So while we here at Freshness are committed to the forward-thinking customer, we'd be remiss to not give you a look into the past at some sneakers that have permanently changed the game.
Nike now employs somewhere in the area of 30,000 employees. But 40 years ago, in 1971, Nike had just launched their first full line after selling sneakers out of the trunk of a car. That same year, the swoosh that is one of the most recognizable logos in the world, was designed by Carolyn Davidson, for which she was paid $35 (though she would later receive an undisclosed stockpile of stock from Phil Knight more than a decade later). The first Nike Basketball shoe to utilize Nike's swoosh was the Blazer, which debuted in 1972. The shoe boldly featured a giant swoosh through the upper of the slim and direct silhouette that, when viewed today, look more applicable to today's lifestyle shoes than a sneaker designed for the hardwood. Everyone noticed the swoosh, which began to be worn on the hardwood by the likes of Geoff Petrie, the "Iceman" George Gervin (who later had a limited edition Blazer crafted after his likeness in 2008), World B. Free, Dennis Johnson, and Darrel "Dr. Dunkenstein" Griffith. The Portland Trail Blazers wore the shoe as a team during their 1977 championship, which expanded the exposure of the sneaker as well as the swoosh.
The iconoclastic rancor of the mid to late 60s still resonated in the early 1970s with Anti-Vietnam protests and widespread youth unrest. Stevie Wonder had just released his landmark Innervisions album and there was a major shuffle in power positions in Hollywood with the rise of directors like Scorcese and Coppola, who were making their indelible mark on cinema during those years. In short, the masses were calling for shifts away from antiquated models and ideas. The Blazer was born during this time of flux, and it's aggressive swoosh, tab above the midsole, and heel logo melded for a design that met with success and marked Phil Knight and his upstart company as one that understood the pulse of the people.
During the 70s, the popularity of the shoe grew with clever marketing by Nike, and the 80s still found wearers of the Blazer in the pro ranks. And almost 40 years after the original model released, we still see regular releases under the Nike Sportswear banner. But before Sportswear featured revamped models, a Nike spokesperson named Lance Mountain pitched the idea of a modified version of the Blazer to Nike's Skateboarding line. The SB Blazer added cushioning to the collar and padded the insoles with Zoom Air to aid the rider with stability and cushioning. One Blazer SB that has made sneaker fans drool since it's release is the Supreme SB Blazer, which features a luxe quilted leather (the likes of which would normally be found on a Chanel bag), and a green and red, Gucci-inspired heel tab with a gold embossed loop.
The juxtaposition between Nike SB's collaboration with Supreme to the original predecessor is the perfect illustration of today's theme-and-variation sneaker game. To this day, the longest lineups and biggest hype surrounds retro models--the last two holiday releases of the Air Jordan XI retro in the Space Jam and Cool Grey editions and the Patta x Parra Air Max 1 are two recent examples. So the next time you see that simple silhouette, think about a time when people would have snapped their neck to see that swoosh and remember that even the biggest ideas start small.
Original 1972 deadstock Nike Blazer Hi Leather (Made in Korea) courtesy of Packer Shoes.