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The Nike Air Max Plus TN 'Tiger' from 1998: Innovation and Phenomenon

March 25, 2021 9:00 PM
The Nike Air Max Plus TN 'Tiger' from 1998: Innovation and Phenomenon

Some sneakers remain true to their roots of origin and thus are always made as running shoes, for example. Others, on the other hand, establish themselves as a cultural phenomenon. This is also the case with the Nike Air Max Plus or TN, among others in the OG 'Tiger' colourway, which was released in 1998 and which we would now like to present to you again in more detail. In the course of our celebration of the '10 Days of Air Max 2021', we already presented other legendary Air Max models, special collabs or unique OG colourways.

The debut of the Air Max Plus silhouette influenced both the era of its release and the generations that followed. For over two decades, the shoe was sold non-stop around the world in a variety of colourways and constructions. In fact, the sneaker is also called the TN. The abbreviation stands for 'Tuned Air' and comes from the unofficial rebranding of the brand itself.

Sunset is my favorite color

During our illumination of the coolest kicks of the Air Max dynasty, names like Tinker Hatfield and Sergio Lozano were of course not to be missed! However, the innovation of the AM Plus comes from the pen of industry veteran Sean McDowell. In fact, the designer produced his first design of the Air Max Plus even before he started his job at Nike. He was in between jobs and therefore on the beach in Florida with friends:

“I hung out on the Florida beaches and just thought and sketched — it was one of my most creative times. One evening, it was turning to dusk, so the very blue sky was starting to fade to dark blue, and the palm trees were blowing in the wind.”

Sean McDowell Air Max Plus Sunset

Shortly after he started at Nike, his task was to develop a running shoe with new Max Air technology for a project with Foot Locker. The working title Sky Air prompted McDowell to dig out his sketches.

“I did a sunset. I did a blue one. I did a purple one. I tried a couple of different colors and sky versions, some palm trees were a little more tech-y and very geometric, and others were waving.”

Whales, as they iconically emerge from the water, also served as a source of inspiration. A whale fin, for example, represents the upper of the sneakers. McDowell's lack of experience at Nike was also the key to the distinctive Swoosh on the AM Plus. He had never drawn one before and had no template for it.

The designer says that the form is a bit off, and he has also set the edge inwards, although this is actually forbidden by the brand guidelines.

Nike Air Max Plus OG 'Tiger' | BV7426-001

But before the earth-shattering release, a few challenges had to be mastered first. The combination of materials had never been realised before.

"I drew the fade and everyone was like, ‘You'll never be able to do that, you can't find a material like that.’"

Moreover, Foot Locker was not initially enthusiastic about the silhouette. But then a shop window experiment convinced not only them, but also all the executives.


In addition to the revolutionary colourways of the first three Air Max Plus, there were other innovations. As a runner, reflective stripes where you need them were important to McDowell. That is, he put them over the forefoot, the front blade and the tongue.

His attention to detail also influenced the outsole. Accordingly, the rubber reflected the two hemispheres, which at the same time contained a technology that was new at the time. He also created colour dams that drew attention to the Tuned Air logo.

Here's the extra info for you on a sensitive topic: Real sneakerheads might know this, but everyone else should remember. TN collectors call the OG 'Tiger'.

You can still buy the retro release of the OG 'Sunset' from 2018 via resell platforms. Just click on the button, the sneaker is currently priced between €140-400.

Interview with Sean McDowell

Design and innovation come from the composition of many ideas, impressions and memories into one, no, then your very individual idea. Every place, every person and every second can inspire, influence and open our eyes.

Just take your eyes off the screen and look around. Maybe you've got the next idea for a brilliant Air Max and you'll be able to use it someday for your own. Dreaming is always possible!