A History of Bo Jackson’s Nike Air Trainer Sneakers

  • Nike Air Trainer 1

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    Nike Air Trainer 1

    1987

    The sneaker that unofficially began the Nike Training category was the Air Trainer 1. The sneaker was inspired by a trip to the gym by designer Tinker Hatfield, who noticed that fellow gym-goers arrived at the facilities with just one pair of shoes. Hatfield was immediately compelled to create a hybrid sneaker that offered proper support for racquet sports, basketball, weight-lifting, and one for running (four popular exercises that he observed at the gym), but the identity of the sneaker was none of those things, but rather a greater sum that amounted to Training. Early on, the shoes were worn by the infamous John McEnroe, and it wasn’t until later that Bo Jackson was named the face of the burgeoning category.

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  • Nike Air Trainer SC

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    Nike Air Trainer SC

    1989

    The Air Trainer SC was the next Air Trainer model that was created specifically for Bo Jackson. This 1989 release makes use of a visible Air Unit at the heel and is best recognized in the “Medicine Ball” colorway, which returned to stores on January 3, 2015. This exact silhouette was later re-named as the Air Trainer 3 for reasons unknown (and the source of confusion regarding to the actual nomenclature of these models), but earlier retro releases from 2003 had them properly named as Air Trainer SC and were released exclusively in Europe.

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  • Nike Air Trainer SC II

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    Nike Air Trainer SC II

    1990

    The sequel to the SC line was the Air Trainer SC II – another legendary silhouette designed by Tinker Hatfield. This higher-cut model featured a unique ankle liner that acted as a brace of sorts, while the neon-friendly colorways were a perfect match for early ’90s fashion. The fibrous straps on the upper provided incredible stability and acted as an early precursor to Flywire, which was in high use by Nike since its inception in 2008. The Air Trainer SC II was highly revered by sneaker collectors and the retro release in 2011 was considered one of the best sneaker releases of that year.

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  • Nike Air Trainer SC III

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    Nike Air Trainer SC III

    Perhaps the Air Trainer model we most easily connect with Bo Jackson is the Air Trainer SC III. The original colorway was dubbed the “Auburn” edition for its semblance to the school colors of Bo’s alma mater. The Air Trainer SC III is more commonly known as the Air Trainer SC High, and for this reason many believe that this model precedes the Air Trainer SC II and even the Air Trainer SC detailed in the two earlier pages. To throw you in even more of a loop, the Air Trainer 2, which recently hit stores in recent months, was originally called the Air Trainer TW; it was only changed to “Air Trainer 2” when Nike brought the silhouette back in 2007 as part of its Skateboarding line.

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  • Nike Air Trainer Max

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    Nike Air Trainer Max

    1991

    The fifth and final Air Trainer shoe that was featured as part of official ad campaigns with Bo Jackson is the Air Trainer Max. This popular model released in 1991 and was subject to more confusion regarding its name (officially called a Max shoe despite not having any visible Air). What the shoe did boast was an incredibly lightweight EVA foam sole, a thinner mid-foot strap with a broader support zone, and a cut-out ankles that actually hinted at future Huarache designs.

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  • Nike Air Trainer 1
  • Nike Air Trainer SC
  • Nike Air Trainer SC II
  • Nike Air Trainer SC III
  • Nike Air Trainer Max

Nike‘s storied history of signature athletes includes world champions and all-time record setters in professional sports, but the individual that is considered to be the godfather of the brand’s most explosive category is neither a champion nor a record-holder. His name is Bo Jackson, the two-sport pro athlete that displayed dominance on the baseball diamond and football field and championed Nike Training‘s emphasis on the balance of speed and power. His relentless training regiment and mythical talent made him the perfect face for Nike’s budding Cross Training focus, and with his help, the Training category was pushed to the forefront and became the identity of the Swoosh brand in the early 1990s. The “Bo Knows” campaign became a pop culture phenomenon, with the ads displaying the Auburn alumni taking part in a variety of sports.

Nike Training ascended alongside Bo’s rise to fame and together they formed an everlasting bond, with the iconic Air Trainer shoe line acting as the vessel to deliver the message to its consumers. The shoes were, in fact, created to fit the needs of the everyday athlete that craved individual support for multiple activities at the gym or the outdoors, so who better to embody that than the man who did the same on a professional level? That said, the Air Trainer line was an incredible hit for athletes of all levels as well as those who valued the design aesthetic (aka the early sneakerheads). Following the Air Trainer 1 was a series of models like the Air Trainer SC High and Air Trainer Max, and although these shoes never officially had Bo’s name attached to the shoe, we all credit him and his relentless training regiment for the birth and sustenance of the category. Take a look at this History of Bo Jackson’s Nike Air Trainer Sneakers.

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