The Nike Air 180 came out in 1991 as a running shoe. The name comes from the visible Air Bubble which is distributed 180 degrees over the sole. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the shoe. For this occasion, we take you through the history of the Nike Air 180 and show you some of the most impactful designs.

Air 180: How it started

In 1987, the Air Max 1 was released, designed by Tinker Hatfield. This was the first Nike shoe where the Air Technology was visible. This was followed by the Air Max 2, better known as the Air Max Light. Nike continued with the Air Max 90 in 1990, where the visible Air became even bigger. The Air Max 4 also followed quickly. But in 1991, the Air 180 saw the light of day.

Tinker Hatfield designed it together with Air Force 1 designer Bruce Kilgore. The collaboration of these two Nike legends made the Air in the sole even more visible. They made the Air Bubble twice as big and it was spread 180 degrees across the sole. It was also the first sneaker where the Air Bubble directly hit the ground: there was no layer in between.

Nike Air 180
Nike Air Max 180
Images by Nike

Unfortunately, when the Air 180 was released, the pair was not received with open arms. Although the Air Technology made a big step, the shoe did not become very popular. Perhaps because the upper of the shoe was not seen as revolutionary. In addition, people thought that the advertising for the shoe was "unlike Nike". Nike chose a more artistic approach for this advertisement, unfortunately this was not seen as appropriate by the public.

As a second advertising stunt, the Air 180 was promoted by Michael Jordan during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. MJ wore the Air 180 'Concord', a special colorway that was developed. Most notable were the gold swoosh and the purple accents on the shoe. This purple 'Concord' colour was later often put on Jordans.

Nike Air 180 Michael Jordan

Air 180: Artistic vision was seen

After the popularity of the Air 180 did not really rise, Nike did not give up hope. Nike continued with the artistic vision they initially had for the Air 180. In 2004, Kanye West was spotted wearing a unique design. Especially for his debut album 'College Dropout', he received a specially designed pair. A striking detail is that the bear, which appears on the album cover, can also be seen on the tongue of the Air 180s.

College Dropout Kanye West
Image by Sole Collector

Besides Kanye West, special designs were also created with Eminem and Dizzee Rascal, among others. All these collabs were extremely exclusive, the edition was very limited.

Image by Stadium Goods

Air 180 x CDG

The Air 180 really got a popularity boost when the creative brand Comme des Garçons had a collaboration with Nike in 2018. The collab featured no less than three different colorways that each featured a striking neon pink. The 'Laser Pink' pack was well received in the sneaker scene.

Nike x Comme des Garcons
Image via Instagram @damiensneaker

OG Colorway returned

2018 also saw the re-release of the OG pair of the 1991 Air 180. The Air 180 'Ultramarine' re-released in the original colorway, the white base made a return with the Solar Red and blue accents. This colorway perfectly captures the 90s vibes and provides a lot of nostalgia for sneakerheads.

Nike Air 180
Nike Air 180
Images by Nike

You can think what you want about the Air 180 design, but the revolutionary visible Air has inspired many later models from Nike. Think of the Air Max 95 or 97 which came after it. Or the VaporMax where even the entire sole consists of an Air Bubble which hits the ground directly. The Nike Air 180 has created an "Air-volution" and we are happy to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Do you like to read about throwbacks? Then we have good news: this week is 90s Week at Sneakerjagers! Keep an eye on our blog for all the fun stuff from the 90s and check our Instagram account for a chance to win the Air Jordan 6 'Carmine'!