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Sneaker FAQ

The Ultimate Nike Cortez FAQ

March 12, 2023 8:46 PM
The Ultimate Nike Cortez FAQ

When we talk about classic silhouettes, the Nike Cortez is obviously not to be missed! It is a Nike classic that has been popular among sneaker lovers for over 50 years. So reason to dive into the history and answer your most frequently asked questions!

The History of the Nike Cortez


For Nike's first released running shoe, we travel back to the year 1972. And specifically, the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Indeed, during the climax of these Games, the first Nike Cortez was released!

Although we now know the sneaker mainly as a fashion item, the shoe was originally designed as a running shoe. Bill Bowerman, co-founder of Nike, aimed to design a comfortable and durable running shoe for distance training and running.

But the Cortez was not only popular among athletes. After the Olympics, the sneaker also quickly gained interest from the general public.

The name 'Cortez'

Did you know that the original name for the shoe was 'Mexico'? This was based on the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. During the tournament, Bill Bowerman completed his years of designing and experimenting with a definitive image of the Nike Cortez.

Only when the Games ended, it was also time for a new name on the shoe. Nike chose the name 'Aztec'. But Nike also had to part with this name quickly, as competitor adidas threatened legal action because it was too similar to their own 'Azteca Gold' track shoe.

Not much later, Nike named their running shoe Cortez. This was a tribute to Hernan Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who led a mission that meant the fall of the Aztec Empire.

Eerste ontwerp Nike Cortez

The battle between Blue Ribbon Sports and Onitsuka Tiger

Prior to the popularity of Nike and ASICS today, both companies were known by two other names. Namely 'Blue Ribbon Sports' for Nike and 'Onitsuka Tiger' for ASICS. Moreover, the Cortez was born out of a collaboration between Bill Bowerman and the Japanese footwear company.

In 1971, Blue Ribbon Sports changed to Nike Inc, which Bowerman did together with Phil Knight. The introduction of their own shoe line was with the Nike Cortez, on which the iconic Swoosh was visible from then on.

Although this was the start of a new era, it was also the start of a battle that went on for years. For both Nike and Onitsuka Tiger continued to sell the shoe under the name Cortez. This then led to a lawsuit over who would get the right to the name.

In 1974, a court decision was handed down in Nike's favour. Onitsuka was forced to rebrand the shoe under the name Tiger Corsair. Since then, this sneaker has remained very popular.

De Nike Cortez van Blue Ribbon Sports en Onitsuka Tiger

Farrah Fawcett & Forrest Gump

Two iconic moments in history caused a major breakthrough in the sneaker's fame.

First, the outbreak of the fashion image of the seventies. In this famous photo, we see seventies style icon Farrah Fawcett wearing a pair of Nike Cortez on a skateboard with flared jeans and blonde hair blowing in the wind. By the way, this was a woman's version of the shoe, namely the Señorita Cortez!

Second, the moment we see the Nike Cortez in the film Forrest Gump. This 1994 film tells the story of a man with a low IQ and is partly set in the 1970s. Here, of course, the shoe cannot be missed. Forrest therefore received the sneakers as a gift, describing them as, "The best gift anyone could ever give me!"

Farrah Fawcett op Nike Cortez schoenen
Nike Campagne
Nike Cortez in film Forrest Gump
Forrest Gump de film

Ban on the Nike Cortez

The shoe's enormously wide audience included gangsters in Los Angeles. Its popularity arose at the same time as the rise of gangster rap in LA. The shoe became known as "Dopeman's Nike" because of the NWA song Dopeman: "To be a dopeman boy, you must qualify. Don't get high off your own supply."

If you wore a Cortez around 1980, everyone knew you belonged to a gang. The police in Los Angeles could even identify gang members very easily because of the sneakers. Two colorways were the most popular with gangs. The shoe in white with a blue Swoosh was worn by the Cripps and the shoe in black with a white Swoosh was worn by the Bloods.

Because of the many incidents surrounding the sneakers, they were even banned from schools in the early 1990s. This was because the shoes were considered 'gang-related'.

The Ultimate Nike Cortez FAQ

How does the Nike Cortez fit?

The Nike Cortez fits true to size. So you can stick to your real size. However, they are a bit narrower at the toes. We therefore recommend half a size up if you have wide feet.

Where does the name Cortez come from?

The original name for the Nike Cortez was 'Mexico', based on the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico. The name was later changed to 'Aztec', but Nike had to quickly change it due to legal threats from adidas. The final name became Cortez, in honour of Hernan Cortés, the Spanish conquistador responsible for the fall of the Aztec Empire.

Where can I buy the Nike Cortez?

You can buy the Nike Cortez at Nike or sneaker retailers. You can easily find all colorways, sneaker shops and available sizes via our sneaker search engine!

Plus, you can easily stay up to date on all upcoming Nike Cortez releases via our Sneakerjagers app!

How do you style the Nike Cortez?

The sleek design and colour blocking of the Nike Cortez make them go well with most outfits. So you can wear multiple clothing styles with this shoe. However, we do have a slight preference for jeans and joggers.

Is the Cortez good for skating?

You can definitely use the Nike Cortez for skating as well. This is because with the Cortez, you have a good board feel and cushioning and have a no to very short break-in period.

Which film made the Cortez famous?

The film Forrest Gump made the Nike Cortez so famous. In this film, Forrest was constantly bullied because of his low IQ and leg braces. One day, he is chased by a group of boys on bicycles, but manages to escape with the words "Run, Forrest, run!" from Jenny. Moreover, the film is partly set in the 1970s. In this, the Nike Cortez is an iconic shoe not to be missed.

Is the Nike Cortez comfortable?

The Nike Cortez is considered very comfortable. This is because of its sufficient stretch and support. In addition, comfort is increased by the collar of the shoe. Finally, the padding along the collar and tongue provide firm cushioning around your ankles.

Is the Nike Cortez good for training?

Although the Nike Cortez performs well in comfort, it is not the ideal shoe for training performance. It is a fine shoe for stationary (upper body) exercises and walking, but not for intense and heavy weightlifting.

With this, we hope to have given you new insights on one of Nike's most iconic silhouettes. Are you convinced that a Nike Cortez should no longer be missing from your wardrobe? Then use our search engine for an overview of all colorways! Or keep an eye on our release calendar for all upcoming Cortez releases!