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The Untold Story - Tinker Hatfield

March 22, 2023 8:00 PM
The Untold Story - Tinker Hatfield

It's March 26, 2023, Air Max Day and this is being celebrated in a big way. In the Sneakerjagers The Untold Story community challenge, we tell the untold stories behind Nike's successful works and collaborations. We kick off with the story of Tinker Hatfield, the designer of the Air Max 1. Told by Sneakerjagers, here you'll learn more about Nike's most famous designer.

Tinker Hatfield

A well-known name among sneaker lovers; Tinker Hatfield, Nike's current Vice President for Design and Special Projects. The Oregon-based designer joined the Nike team in 1981 after completing his studies at the University of Oregon School of Architecture.

Before starting at Nike, Hatfield could be found on the track and was the record-holder pole vaulter at the University of Oregon. In 1976, he placed sixth at the Olympic Trials, but after a serious injury, Hatfield had to cancel his athletic career, which brought him to Nike. Soon after joining Nike, Hatfield came up with designs that mark Nike's history to this day.

Tinker Hatfield
Image Getty Images

In particular, 1987 was an important year for the designer. This year saw the release of the Air Trainer 1 and Air Max 1, and that second silhouette in particular is a significant one. The Air Max 1 was groundbreaking in its kind and was the first Nike sneaker where the air unit was visible.

Inspired by the Centre Georges Pompidou building in Paris, Hatfield wanted to make the air unit visible. As with the building, in which all the functional and structural elements were brought out, Hatfield wanted to achieve the same with the Air Max 1. The air unit at the heel was exposed and gave the sneaker a modern look.

Nike Air Max 1

The design process of the Air Max 1 was not without some setbacks. The sneaker first appeared on Nike shelves in 1987 but had a different look in the months leading up to its release. The original model that was designed in 1986 had a larger air unit. This element was so large that it could crack in cold temperatures.

Nike Air Max 1
Image Nike

Shortly before the scheduled release, the Nike team was called together. With the help of engineers, the air unit was reduced in size to prevent the element from cracking in cold temperatures. On March 26, 1987, the Nike Air Max 1 'Big Bubble' was released. This variant still had the enlarged air unit and did not have problems like the previous designs did. This was most likely due to the spring-like temperatures at the time of the release.


After the release of the 'Big Bubble', the original '86 Air Max 1 model remained under the radar. Each of the Air Max 1 sneakers received a more compact air unit. The design we know to this day has become a classic and continues to have a special story. During Air Max Day, Nike is bringing back the Air Max 1 '86 'Big Bubble' for the first time. A favourite with OG sneakerheads.

'Big Bubble'

The Nike Air Max 1 '86 'Big Bubble' returns after 37 years of waiting. Dressed in the OG 'University Red' colorway, the sneaker combines the colours 'White', 'Sail' and 'University Red'. The sneaker is constructed of mesh and leather. The center panel features the Swoosh and the Nike logo also appears on the tongue.

Nike Air Max 1 '86 Big Bubble
Images Nike

The air unit has a significantly larger size. The midsole has a white color and is supported by a red and black checkered outsole. On the heel, the Nike Air logo is stitched in red. We also see Nike Air branding on the insole and outsole.

Nike Air Max 1 '86 Big Bubble

The Nike Air Max 1 '86 'Big Bubble' comes with a custom shoe box. The box has an aged look and features a cut-out Swoosh on the lid. The Air Max 1 '86 'Big Bubble' will be released on Air Max Day, March 26, 2023. Check out the retailers where you can score the sneaker via the button below.

The Untold Story

Especially for Air Max Day, Sneakerjagers is coming up with 'The Untold Story'. The Untold Story, a community challenge in partnership with Nike, tells the story of the 'Big Bubble'. Under the motto “failures that lead to success,” we tell stories behind Nike's most successful works and collaborations. It is often the untold stories that can actually inspire one.

As with the Nike Air Max 1, a sneaker that was one of Nike's biggest successes after its "failure," the power lies in learning from your mistakes. From March 21 through March 26, 2023, you can learn more about the Air Max 1 model and read more untold stories via the Sneakerjagers app.

In partnership with Nike, we are giving away 3x the Nike Air Max 1 '86 'Big Bubble'. Read the terms and conditions of this challenge here. Keep an eye on our Instagram to learn more about the story behind the Air Max 1 and other untold stories.

Also, don't forget to download the Sneakerjagers app and stay up to date on The Untold Story community challenge.