Released by Nike in 1992, Tinker Hatfield’s Air Raid helped transform sneaker marketing. The Air Raid’s big “thing” was their ‘Outdoor Use Only’ construction, meaning, these kicks could withstand battles on the blacktop. When you think about it though… pre-1992 basketball shoes were totally capable of handling outdoor play. Most basketball games growing up take place at parks, schoolyards, and backyards. So do you think the Air Force 1 or Delta Force couldn’t handle some asphalt? No way, those kicks are tanks! But that’s the genius of the Air Raid’s marketing – Nike successfully sold ice to Eskimos. By telling every 10-40-year-old that the Air Raid was specifically designed for where they played, Nike effectively created a personalized connection between the shoes and consumers. Representation matters (it’s 2020, that shouldn’t be news); and the Air Raid represented the everyday hooper.
Fast forward almost thirty years and the Air Raid is poised to return yet again. Lucky for Air Raid stans, the shoe retros with moderate frequency, and 2020 will be another great year for this fan favorite. We breakdown the cultural and technological impacts of the Air Raid below. Educate yourself and find out why the Air Raid gets so much love!
For The Culture
Spike Lee shouldn’t need a grand introduction but for those in the dark, Spike is an Academy Award-winning director and Jumpman hypeman (and so much more). Lee’s presence in Nike commercials throughout the ’80s and ’90s are things of legend. Here’s a hot take – without Spike Nike wouldn’t have their cultural ‘cool factor’. Spike’s partnership with Nike elevated the social profile of countless shoes including the Jordan line and the Air Raid. We cannot stress enough how vital Spike Lee was in Nike’s transition from a sneaker brand to a lifestyle brand.
Lee stared in Nike’s 1992 “Urban Jungle Gym” campaign alongside Tim Hardaway. The colorful commercials ran for a few years, included the Air Raid 1 & 2, and carried a deep message of living and playing together. In the Air Raid bit from ’92, we get a display of Hardaway’s “skeeels” as Spike breaks down the NBA star’s unorthodox shot alongside heckling onlookers.
Hardaway’s cameo in these commercials led to him becoming the de facto spokesman of the Nike Air Raid. At the time, Tim was an elite scoring guard for the Golden State Warriors averaging 20ppg throughout the early 1990s. Known for his UTEP Two-Step crossover, Hardaway terrorized defenders with an elite offensive game while wearing Nikes. In 1997 Hardaway received his own signature shoe dubbed the Air Bakin’, but that’s a story for another day.
That strap – unmistakable. It’s so ironic that it deserves its own section. From a practical standpoint, the X-Strap locks-down athletes. Composed of velcro fasteners, webbed nylon straps, and a rubber wrap (foundation), the X-Strap added more support & stability than a traditional forefoot strap.
Branding the Air Raid for ‘Outdoor Use Only’ didn’t limit the shoe’s technology loadout. Heavy-duty tooling was expected, but Tinker masterfully reinforced the Air Raid’s high impact regions without adding needless bulk. Sure, durable outdoor driven rubber was used, but the genius lied within the high rising medial and lateral stabilization outriggers. Any surface will deteriorate a basketball shoe’s outsole/midsole (tooling), but hot blacktop will do so twofold. Tinker accounted for this without designing the Air Raid like a brick. The added lateral protection paired with the internal heel Air unit allows the Raid to live up to its outdoor-ready tagline.
But wait, there’s more! The Air Raid utilized an era-appropriate Dynamic-Fit sleeve across the inner midfoot. Like many of its peers, the Air Raid doesn’t have a traditional tongue. The Dynamic-Fit sleeve acts like a bootie, and when laced with the X-Strap it completes the shoe’s security system. An OG tongue would’ve buckled and shifted under the X-Strap’s pressure.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. – Someone
Air Jordan 8
Kinda obvious, right? Jordan’s eighth signature shoe was designed by Tinker Hatfield in 1993 – a year after the Air Raid. Tinker changed up the proportions a bit, but the X-Strap’s impression on the AJ8 is undeniable.
Air Force High ’93
Seen on-court by some of the league’s greatest centers ever, the Air Force High again used an X-Strap design to protect hoopers. David Robinson and Alonzo Morning patrolled the paint with force wearing these clunky beauties. Charles Barkley’s Air Force Max CB featured the same strap setup as the Air Force Max High ’93 (and by proxy, the Air Raid) too.
Air Fear Of God Raid
Jerry Lorenzo gravitated towards the Air Raid in 2019 because of the shoe’s mix of sport, culture, and fashion. According to Nike, “Lorenzo wanted to tap into a certain element of nostalgia. Not so much about what was worn, but how it was worn. He wanted to awaken a spirit he deems dormant, to remind of the power sport once had in defining style.”
“In my youth…growing up in the ’80s and finishing high school in the ’90s, contrary to what’s happening now, it was our superstar athletes and our pro athletes that were informing the way that we wore our street clothes,” he says. “These athletes, like Agassi and Jordan, were at the top of their game and what they wore didn’t compromise on design or beauty.” – Jerry Lorenzo
The Air Fear Of God Raid flawlessly blended the OG Raid’s early-90s raw aesthetic with Fear Of God’s sport-inspired modern minimalist design.
We hope you enjoyed this lesson. Be on the lookout for Nike Air Raid retros to drop soon!
Las Vegas native living in Portland, OR. Interests include: shoes, sports, music, video games and food. Extremely passionate about Nike and the Lakers. I’ve been collecting shoes for over 15 years! Follow me on IG & Twitter to see my personal collection and if you have questions. #rahbeekicksit
I had the Air Raids in 1993-94. Two issues with the article. First, in the early 90s, Nike was making the shoes lighter and less for outdoors. The Air Jordan would not last long on outside courts. Second Reebok came out with the Blacktop shoe made for outdoor. This was the shoe that started outdoor vs indoor. I was a Nike guy and I was so happy when the Air Raid came out to compete with the Blacktop, Before this I was destroying $100 shoes monthly on outdoor courts,
Great walk down memory lane.. Thank you.