Just to complete a trilogy, and because I never mentioned it a week ago, there’s one other Air Max story that’s rarely discussed — the 2001 City Tour collection. Easily some of the greatest shoes of the time, I waited and waited for something similar to happen in the UK and it never did. Considering that 2001 was the transitional year from garage into grime, and the Air Max figured heavily (as showcased in my friend Grace Ladoja’s film that went live on YouTube on Friday, but seems to have been put on private right now), the City Tour line could have been big over here. But I never saw them go on sale in London. The closest I ever got was seeing them being discussed on NikeTalk, because they were a Footaction exclusive.
The Air Max Tailwind series is notable for being named after the late 1978 shoe that debuted Nike Air and debuted as a slightly cheaper Air Max spinoff in 1992 called the Air Tailwind (though I was too smitten with the ST that year to even know this model existed) before the line seemed to restart in 1996 with the Air Max Tailwind, as worn by Biggie Smalls (I sometimes feel that this was a better shoe than the Air Max 96, even of it lacked the forefoot visibility), a dull looking II and III in 1997 and 1998 respectively, then the brilliant Air Max Tailwind IV in 1999, which was a takedown of the new TN technology from the Air Max Plus, with a similar sole. The IV is a well-loved shoe — so well-loved that it hit NIKEiD around 2008 and got reworked with Nike+ technology for real runners on its tenth anniversary. I never had much time for 2000’s fifth instalment because it looked too cheap. There was a 2001 Tailwind too, but it looked so much like the 2000 edition that I can barely tell the difference.
As per usual, I’m open to correction here, but I never quite knew what the Air Max City Tour shoe really was. I know it was a Tailwind, but it felt more like a derivation of the Tailwind IV created especially for this project — with its tiny forefoot Swoosh and appealing looks, it’s the last great Air Max before the 2009 dropped, almost a decade later. As I recall, each pair of City Tour Tailwinds was limited to the city whose map was screen printed on its upper. Nike had brought the “city attack” concept to AF1 in the mid 2000s and this seemed like an even cooler proposition. In March 2001, the New Yorks dropped, followed by the Chicago in April, Carolina* and Detroit in May, Miami in June, Los Angeles in July and New Orleans in August. I’ve never seen a couple of those colourways, but thankfully Doyle Calvert, Flash developer for the Footaction site back then has saved a copy of the promo materials (sadly sans Miami, LA and New Orleans).
This was a time just before every shoe got an irritating nickname and people got excited by unremarkable releases — theme packs weren’t as ubiquitous (now, city themed versions of Air Max seem like an obvious part of a marketing plan) and the City Tour had me wanting to become a tourist too, but these things never made it overseas. It’s one of the best Air Max drops ever because it still maintains a little mystique. Imagine if there’d been a London borough City Tour collection? People would have lost their minds. Instead it was more TNs, 95s, a 90 resurgence and an onslaught of the dreaded LTD instead.
*Kish made a good point about this: it’s a state and not a city. That might explain the added S on the heel.