Today is Air Max Day. Did you know that? 33 years ago, Nike created a shoe so great they actually decided to forever cement 26 March as the day their most iconic sneaker was created. It was the first ever shoe to feature the brand’s popular Air Max cushioning technology and three decades later, it still remains one of Nike’s most worn styles. So when Nike hit me up asking if I wanted to try out a pair, I thought, why not? Let’s try on the shoes that launched a thousand hype beasts.
Now I would preface this by declaring that the only pair of Nikes I currently own are a pair solely used for exercise. I am far from a hype beast and wouldn’t consider myself a streetwear enthusiast. It was just one of those movements that I never felt cool enough for. In fact, the one time I attended Culture Cartel, I felt super uncomfortable being surrounded by hordes of people flexing their too cool for school streetwear. I didn’t even dare to wear sneakers to the event and wore a pair of heeled boots instead. I was excited to attend the event just to see what it was like, but I guess I felt too horribly intimidated by the crowd. I breezed through the entire exhibition as fast as I could and vowed to skip it next time (or send an intern or fashion assistant in my place instead). I guess I just felt like I didn’t belong.
Just to add, no one was mean to me or anything. In fact, people were generally friendly. This was definitely a scenario I had created in my head fuelled by anxiety and insecurity. In fact, I surprisingly even got snapped by a roving streetstyle photographer. While I was mortified on the outside to be seen preening in front of the camera by people I deemed the coolest of cool, I was also secretly very pleased that among the streetwear wearing crowd, senpai noticed me instead.
So when the Nike Air Max 90s finally arrived, I looked at them with the same confusion and doubt I did when the Hello Kitty McDonald’s carrier landed on my desk. (You can read how I carried it for a week as part of another story here.) I mean, I had always thought they were cool, just, you know, not actually *on* me.
I guess the thing with streetwear (or at least what it feels like to me) is that it always comes with connotation of swag. And with flex culture, the nature of streetwear feels braggadocios and exclusive. Everyone is always trying to one-up each other by showcasing the limited edition item that you missed out on. Just take a look at all the famous rappers out there. And because it’s so of the moment and extremely fuelled by youth culture, I definitely didn’t want to come across as “a regular mum trying to be a cool mum.”
And because streetwear also started as an underground movement and was borne out of subcultures like hip-hop, skating and surfing, I always felt that if I partook in neither of those things (well, I do listen to hip-hop so there’s that), to appropriate their clothes would make me come across as a poser. Because that’s exactly how I feel about people wearing band tees of bands they don’t listen to or have no clue of.
Maybe I’m going too far with this “commitment to authenticity”. After all they are also just shoes, right? Oddly enough, give me a huge tulle skirt form Comme Des Garcon or a weirdly-shaped pair of jeans from Margiela and those I have no problem working—regardless of the weird stares on the train. An oversized tee from A Cold Wall paired with the latest Nike kicks, not so much.
Now if you’ve made it this far, I’ve probably lamented enough over a pair of shoes. So if you’re curious to see how a non-hype beast works a pair of Nike kicks (and are looking for ideas of your own), here are five looks that I came up with.
I call this look business in the front and… also party also in the front. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to style these sneakers just yet and decided that the easiest way to go about it was to match the black and white bits with this “business casual” ASOS dress and let the neon yellow part stand out on its own. I topped it off with a chunky blue necklace from H&M for just a bit more colour. Baby steps, OK?
Now I have to be honest: This one is more of a dream outfit I’d pair with these shoes if I had the abundance of a never-ending wardrobe. As I was browsing through COS and chanced upon this neon yellow turtleneck and skirt that colour matched my shoes almost exactly, I was seriously tempted to buy it just to work this look. But with the whole COVID-19 situation going on, where am I even going to now? Do I wear this from my bedroom to my living room as I work from home? So, because a picture lasts longer, I snapped one and sadly returned this look to the changing room staff. Though I have to say, I really enjoyed it. So I’m going to check back during sale season.
Usually with chunky sneakers, I tend to prefer them with either a bare leg or a skinny pair of jeans or trousers. It’s all about proportions, right? But I figured, why not challenge myself by pairing them with a pair of wide leg pants instead? I went with these skater-esque pants from MSGM and I actually thought it looked OK. And the platform made sure my pants weren’t sweeping the sidewalks of Singapore for once as well.
This was my best attempt at trying to be a hype beast. For a casual trip to IKEA, I had on a pair of nylon joggers from Korean label MPQ that I got from Sects Shop at Orchard Central, together with a utility vest with dangling straps that I borrowed from my sister. Was I overdressed for a stressful trip to buy furniture? Yes. Was I also wildly inappropriately dressed for the sweltering weather? Also yes. And to top it off, as I tried to do the squat pose that all the cool insta-kids were doing (see above), my friend’s boyfriend was at the back filming me in the hopes that his submission will get published to the Instagram account @Influencersinthewild. (Follow it—it’s hilarious.)
For my last and final day, I came across this pair of shorts from local designer Thomas Wee as well as a corset. I was looking for an occasion to wear it (which is more or less zero because WFH) and decided, why not just utilise my errand running day and dress up a bit more instead of relegating to my good ol’ fave of a loose band tee and denim shorts? For some reason, green seems to be the running theme for the week (which is weird ‘cos I rarely wear green). I went with this knit sweater and some emoji felt brooches, which really described the mood of 2020.
I guess now I understand what Drake means when he said “Started from the bottom now we’re here.” I’ve never been much of a shoe person so styling outfits usually means I pick my clothes first and shoes last, so doing the reverse was an interesting style challenge. I tried to look for things that matched my sneakers, and ended up incorporating the colour green much more than usual. I don’t usually wear green but after this, I might! I did play it safe in terms of colours though, so I might try to incorporate more prints and unexpected colour combinations the next time.
Also, a comfy shoe is a comfy shoe. I think nobody can argue with that. And the Nike Air Max 90s really made me feel like I had little cushions on my feet. And with comfort comes confidence. I generally felt great walking about and felt a little of that streetwear bravado that I was so intimidated by just from knowing I had a pair of cool sneakers on my feet. Is this how the descent and obsession starts into streetwear starts?!
The Nike Air Max 90 is available at $199 at select Nike stores and on Nike.com.