A History of the Most Important Pop Culture Moments of the Nike Cortez

Track coach Bill Bowerman changed the game with a concept so simple that, looking at it through today’s lens, it seems pretty crazy.

As Nike‘s co-founder, Bowerman wanted to create a running shoe that was both comfortable and durable, and eventually the Nike Cortez was introduced to the world in 1972 as the Swoosh’s first running shoe. The sneakers changed the sport of track forever, as athletes started running longer and faster. The sneaker gained immediate success during the height of the 1972 Olympics before being embraced by outsiders for its comfort and versatility. It wasn’t long before the Cortez became a fixture in the West Coast hip-hop scene in the 1980s. Even nowadays, it’s still somewhat of a way of life for West Coast fans of the culture, including some of the game’s biggest rappers. Over the years, the sneaker evolved from making an appearance in the iconic movie Forrest Gump before returning back to flourish with Kendrick Lamar’s infamous “Control” verse.

Between silhouettes like the adidas ZX Flux and Tubular, Jordan Brand‘s new Eclipse, and Nike‘s Roshe Run and Air Max line, there are a number of different options to keep yourself fly this summer. But for anyone on the West Coast, as well as for anyone looking for that look that screams casual and different, today should be full of excitement for you. That’s because at Champs Sports there is a four-colorway restock of the famed Nike Cortez, a sneaker that was a pioneer in track when it first debuted over 40 years ago. The shoe is resurfacing in the basics: White/Blue, White/Red, White/Black, and Black/White.

It is no secret that Nike has a legacy of creating iconic sneakers throughout its history. Plenty of sneakers from the brand have been embraced outside the world of sports and adopted by those in entertainment. You can pick and choose from the sneakers that have made an impact within pop culture, such as the Air Jordan, Nike Air Max, Foamposite, and of course, white-on-white Uptowns. But there will always be one sneaker that paved the way for the sneakers mentioned above. That sneaker is the Nike Cortez running shoe.

This month will include the reappearance of a lot of memorable sneakers. But the Cortez should be at, or near, the top of that list for everyone if you’re trying to find a shoe capable of doing its thing in virtually any situation. This shoe has roots that are deep in this culture, especially on the West Coast. Make moves this summer in one of the most fire kicks you’ll ever see, and in one that owns a unique foundation in the sneaker culture. If you aren’t up on game just yet, this is a History of the Most Important Pop Culture Moments of the Nike Cortez.

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During the ’80s and ’90s, the Nike Cortez was embraced as the unofficial signature sneaker for the streets. Prized because of the colors and its comfort, the sneakers became instantly popular after N.W.A. leader Eazy-E started to wear them.

JANUARY 27, 1991
Whitney Houston in Super Bowl XXV
The Super Bowl is the most watched event in television history. And on the highest platform, Whitney Houston put on one of the greatest pregame performances of all time while rocking the Cortez. Houston performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the heat of the Gulf War. It has become a classic performance and went platinum on the charts. A diva of divas, Houston gets an absurd amount of credit for rocking a pair of the Cortez in one of her greatest moments.

JULY 6, 1994
Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump
The Cortez has not only been in the face of millions at the Super Bowl but also in one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time, Forrest Gump. The movie raked in over $677 million at the box office and won countless of Academy Awards, such as best picture and best actor. Who can forget the iconic scenes of Forrest running across the country.

Nike Cortez original

AUGUST 14, 2009
Young Jeezy
At the America’s Most Wanted Music Festival in California back in 2009, Jeezy rocked the Cortez the night he performed on stage with Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy. The dope boy shoe was the perfect fit for the “Dopeman.”

AUGUST 6, 2012
Stalley is one of the most prominent sneakerheads in hip-hop, so when he rocks a pair of the Nike Cortez, he does it in style. He blends East Coast swag with that “West Coast is the best coast” confidence. It is no surprise that the Cortez has been seen on his feet a number of times in his career.

AUGUST 13, 2013
Besides the Super Bowl and Forrest Gump appearances, Kendrick Lamar’s verse on Big Sean’s “Control” is perhaps the sneaker’s most iconic moment. K. Dot rapped on the song “And I ain’t rockin no more designer sh*t // White Ts and Nike Cortez, this is red Corvettes anonymous.” It was Kendrick’s way of saying he’s not following current trends and will be doing his own thing. He is paying homage to the ones before him in Cali like Eazy-E by rocking the shoe.

MAY 2, 2014
Childish Gambino on stage
Childish Gambino is one of the most talented entertainers today and doesn’t get enough credit for being a jack of all trades. A actor, comedian, singer, and a really good rapper, he has become a cult favorite, especially for doing whatever he wants to do or wearing whatever he wants. If you check out Gambino in performance, he is most likely going to be wearing a pair of the Nike Cortez.

JUNE 29, 2014
YG at the BET Awards
Like Kendrick Lamar and other descendants from the west, YG has been one of the most influential guys rocking the Cortez. When Nike announced back in February that they will be bringing back the iconic colorways of the Cortez, YG was one of the first guys to tweet back, writing, “they Betta send me a pair”.

SEPTEMBER 27, 2014
Lil Wayne on stage
It is hard to describe Lil Wayne’s style because it changes so often. He is a true rebel when it comes to current trends and does his own thing in the sense of fashion. So when it comes to rocking the Nike Cortez on stage, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Follow Jarrel on Twitter at @_JarrelHarris