The Nike TN Air Max Plus is marking its 25th anniversary with a special new tie-dye colourway. To celebrate, we thought we’d go over Sean McDowell’s original design, its origins at Foot Locker, and its journey to becoming an international hit.
Meanwhile, Nike was facing a dilemma. They had been planning an exclusive release with Foot Locker to showcase their new Tuned Air technology. The only problem was that Foot Locker had turned down the first 15 design proposals that Nike had pitched to them. Sean McDowell was new to Nike at the time, so new he didn’t know how to draw the Swoosh to spec, but in the end it was his TN design that won over Foot Locker.
McDowell had been inspired by a trip he had taken to Florida, particularly the colourful sunset skies he had seen. This inspiration gave the TN one of its most unique features, its vibrant gradient colourways.
Production of the TN wasn’t without its problems. The gradient effect had never been done before on a Nike sneaker. There was also trouble placing the black palm tree-inspired overlays on the upper. These hitches were solved by dying the darker tones over a lighter base, and separating the overlays into three segments.
McDowell also brought some fresh approaches to Nike. As a runner he questioned why Nike placed reflective material on the back of their shoes. Instead he placed it along the front of the shoe to catch the light from oncoming traffic. He also didn’t have a brief for drawing the Swoosh, meaning he had to wing it. His take on the Swoosh had a slightly unique shape and was smaller than the branding on other Nike models. The famous TN hexagon emblem wasn’t part of the initial blueprint for the shoe, so McDowell simply settled on placing it on the heel and outsole. Nevertheless, the hexagon went on to help define Tuned Air line for years to come.
When Foot Locker got their hands on the true-to-concept sample, they decided to skip their usual process of focus group testing. Instead they let the shoes speak for themselves, displaying samples in their stores and watching the anticipation build. The original release of the TNs in 1998 was a massive success, even outpacing the mainline Air Max 98.
In the years since 1998, the TN has become a streetwear staple. Of course, you can’t talk about the TN without mentioning Australia. The TN is an outright titan of the Aussie sneaker scene, and an object of obsession for its most avid collectors.
The TN Air Max Plus has already had a handful of solid releases to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Dr Samuel Ross and A-COLD-WALL* added their industrial flavour to three-pack of leather block-coloured leather TNs. Meanwhile Patta covered the traditional mesh upper in a gradient based on FC Barcelona’s team colours.
Foot Locker isn’t missing out either. The outlet previously put together a poll on what colourways the fans would want to see in an exclusive drop. On the 9th of November the winning colourway was released, coming in a bold red-to-blue gradient in a unique tie-dye effect.
If the set of 2023 releases wasn’t enough to celebrate the TN, there’s more coming in 2024. Sean McDowell’s original Florida-inspired colours are set to make a return next year.
For more news on upcoming TN releases and sneaker anniversaries, stay tuned to KLEKTIVE.