Nike

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Contributing with definitive classics like the Air Force 1, Air Max and, of course, the many iterations of the Air Jordan, puts Nike in a league by itself, incomparable to any sneaker producer. A plethora of external collaborators, besides athletes, have also been welcomed to give their take on these classic silhouettes, along with the rest of Nike's impressive catalog. These collaborators include the founder of Off White, Virgil Abloh, Japanese cult brand Undercover, Dutch streetwear label Patta, recording artists like Drake and Travis Scott and many more. This widespanning reach and willingness to collaborate adds to the cultural currency, a pair of Nike shoes represent. Let's dig into the history and see how a curious Stanford graduate created one of the biggest icons known to man.

For his final exam project at university, Phil Knight, wrote a paper titled "Can Japanese Sports Shoes Do to German Sports Shoes What Japanese Cameras Did to German Cameras?". A rather long title, but in short, he wanted to see if it was possible to beat the European sports shoe giants at the time (1962), Puma, Reebok and Adidas, who lacked real North American competition. To do so he started producing running shoes in Kobe, Japan, with a partner named Onitsuka Tiger, under the company name Blue Ribbon Sports. Fun fact, later on the Japanese supplier would turn out to become one of Nike's competitors; Asics.

By 1971, the name Blue Ribbon Sports was swapped for "Nike", the name of the Greek winged goddess of victory. In the same year Knight commissioned graphic design student, Carolyn Davidson, to design a logo for the staggering payment of $35. Thirty. Five. Dollars... The young Davidson came to Knight with a logo resembling a wing, or a checkmark, but mostly a 'swoosh'. His reaction was "I don't love it, but it will grow on me". And if it hasn't grown on him by now, at least he can find comfort in the way it has grown on the rest of the world.

Originally, Nike had a very field/track running sports image, which meant that other athletes were hesitant to partner up with them. However, after long and persuasive negotiations they would manage to land, by far, the most crucial partnership, in both past and present history, with a young and extremely talented basketball player, Michael Jordan. Some would say that this partnership made Nike what it is today, a statement that is very difficult to argue with. "Be like Mike" was something every teenager in 90's America, not only wanted to, but truly dreamt of. He was the role model of a generation, which meant that Nikes shoes, now, was the shoe of a generation.

Defining exactly what it is about Nike that made it such a ubiquitous entity is hard. The swoosh, "just do it", Michael Jordan and Phil Knight are all good bets, but in the end, the meaning, lifestyle and feeling that goes along with Nike shoes, lives among the people who wear them.