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Tinker Hatfield: the mastermind behind the iconic Nike designs

April 30, 2024 4:27 PM
Tinker Hatfield: the mastermind behind the iconic Nike designs

Nike designer Tinker Hatfield celebrates his 72nd birthday today (April 30, 2024). Hatfield has meant a lot to the sneaker community with his work for Nike. The designer is responsible for iconic models such as the Air Max 1, Air Jordan 3, Air Trainer, and more.

Read the story of Tinker Hatfield and his best sneaker designs at Nike here.

Tinker Hatfield

Tinker Linn Hatfield Jr. born and raised in Oregon (1952), America, celebrates his birthday today. Hatfield was very athletic from a young age. He attended Central Linn High School in Oregon where he excelled in sports such as basketball, running, hurdling, and pole-vaulting. At age 18, he was crowned as the best high school athlete in the state of Oregon.

Tinker Hatfield Bill Bowerman
Hatfield under training from Bowerman l Image Decostore

He continued his athletics career at the University of Oregon, where Hatfield went on to study architecture. Here, he trained with Bill Bowerman, the co-founder of Nike.

Also in college, Hatfield broke record after record and even placed sixth at the 1976 Olympic trials. After a serious injury to his ankle, Hatfield was unable to continue his athletic career and quit Bowerman's team.

In 1977, Hatfield earned his bachelor's degree in architecture and began working as an architect. In 1981, he joined the team at Nike, where in no time he was designing the most iconic sneaker designs.

Nike Air Max 1

In 1987, Hatfield launched two iconic silhouettes: the Air Trainer and the Air Max 1. The second silhouette in particular, the Air Max 1, was a groundbreaking design at the time. The Air Max 1 was Nike's first sneaker to feature a visible Air unit.

Nike Air Max 1 Tinker Hatfield
Image Nike

Inspired by Centre Georges Pompidou, a building in the heart of Paris, Hatfield wanted to create a sneaker where the technology used could be seen from the outside. As with the building, whose functional and structural elements can be observed from the outside, Hatfield wanted to achieve the same with the Air Max 1.

Designing the Nike Air Max 1 was not without struggle. In 1986, Nike released the first Air Max 1 design, but was soon recalled due to problems with the Air unit that could crack in low temperatures. In 1987, the Nike Air Max 1 reappeared on the shelves, this time with a smaller 'bubble'.

The '86 design made its return in 2023 and was nicknamed 'Big Bubble'.

Iconic designs

After the success of the Air Max 1, Hatfield was asked to help design the next Air Jordan silhouette. In 1984, Nike first teamed up with Chicago Bulls NBA player Michael Jordan and introduced the Air Jordan line - a line that would later grow into one of the most successful collaborations in the world of sneakers.

Michael Jordan Nike
Image New York Times

After the release of the Air Jordan 1 and Air Jordan 2, designed by Bruce Kilgore and Peter Moore, it seemed that the basketball player wanted to switch to adidas. Jordan's desires did not match what Nike had to offer, so it took a very special design to keep him with Nike. This is where Hatfield came to the rescue.

Tinker Hatfield Air Jordan 3
Image Nike

The designer sat down around the table with Jordan and went through all his wishes and requirements step by step. Jordan asked for a comfortable basketball shoe with a chic look. Shortly after the first meeting, Hatfield returned with the prototype of the Air Jordan 3. The design was a great success. Jordan was thrilled by the Air Jordan 3, and Hatfield was given responsibility for the Air Jordan line.

In his career at Nike, Hatfield has designed Jordans from the Air Jordan 3 to the Air Jordan 15.

Comeback of the Nike Air Max 180

From the Air Max 1 to the Nike Mag (the self-tie sneaker from the movie Back To The Future) - Hatfield is the mastermind behind a lot of unique designs. One of them is making its comeback this year: the Nike Air Max 180. The Nike Air Max 180 was introduced in 1991 in the 'Ultramarine' colorway. For this sneaker, Hatfield collaborated with Bruce Kilgore, the designer of the Nike Air Force 1, among others.

Nike Air Max 180
Image Nike

The Nike Air Max 180 was the first sneaker with 180-degree visible Air cushioning. According to Nike, the sneaker's sole is inspired by the shape of a horseshoe. The model gained worldwide fame when Michael Jordan wore the 'Concord' colorway during a photo shoot as a member of the Dream Team for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

Nike Air Max 180
Nike Air Max 180

After a few colorways and collabs - with Comme des Garçons and AMBUSH, among others - the sneaker disappeared from the shelves. Now, in 2024, the Nike Air Max 180 is making its comeback in the OG 'Ultramarine' and 'Concord' colorways.

Keep an eye on the Sneakerjagers release calendar for updates surrounding these releases.