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Nike Air Max Happy, er, 27th birthday

26 March won’t be a remarkable date in the diary for most. But trainer aficionados may have it pencilled in. Because it isn’t just any old day in late spring – it’s officially Air Max Day. Nike has declared it so. While most brands have to wait for a “big” landmark birthday for a marketing event – you know, 10 years or even 25 – this is to celebrate the Air Max 1s turning, erm, 27.

Lily Allen
Lily Allen, a big fan of the Nike Air Max Photograph: Guardian

Nike’s new use of the 27th anniversary to celebrate a shoe might be spurious – and oddly recalls the so-called “27 club” – but the brand is riding the wave. The Air Max, in its various guises, has long had a cult following – and it has blipped back into the mainstream in the past year or so. Fashion editors began wearing the Air Max 90 – as opposed to their trademark stilettos – on the front row, and even Samantha Cameron was spotted in a pair of Air Max Theas last year.

Air Max 3.26.
Nike Air Max 3.26

For this campaign, though, Nike has gone back to basics. It hasn’t targeted these interlopers at all. Instead, a limited-edition pair with a new red-and-highlighter-yellow colourway – and the date 3.26 embroidered on the shoe’s tongue – provides exactly the kind of detail that will be lapped up by the trainer community. You know the type – they keep their shoes in boxes, and clean them with a toothbrush.

Dizzee Rasccal in 2009
Dizzee Rascal wears Nike Air Max in 2009

The Air Max’s cult status is deserved – it could be called a design classic, in fact. While the 1978 shoe, Air Tailwind, was the first to use Nike’s now signature air bubble, the Air Max 1 was the first time the bubble was exposed, turning it into a feature. The result of a collaboration between aerospace engineer Frank Rudy and Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, it spawned – at last official count – nine variations of the Air Max formula since its release in 1987. Let the 27th birthday celebrations commence.

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