Tuned Air: A History of Nike Air Max Plus

– Over the past two decades,
the Nike Air Max Plus has garnered a cult-like following among sneaker enthusiasts. It’s one of those sneaker
designs that you either love instantly, or hate on sight. Nike’s running shoes often
transcend performance features and become cultural phenomenons. And the Nike Air Max Plus is no exception. But hey, if you’re tuning
in for the first time, my name is Brian; me and
my brother Nacho make videos on sneaker history
and sneaker culture. So if you’re into that kind of thing, please consider subscribing. Let’s get into the video. Sometime in the mid 1990’s,
Sean McDowell was sitting on a beach in Florida
watching the beautiful sunset. The incredible colors that
the sunset was giving off inspired McDowell, and he decided to make a sketch in his notebook. The palm trees and beautiful landscapes kept him coming back for more, and soon he was a regular, sitting on the beach, and drawing sunsets for hours. This was years before Sean even joined the team at Nike as a designer. Little did he know, what
he was actually doing was laying down the sketches
that would later be used as inspiration to design
the Nike Air Max Plus. In 1997, Sean McDowell was
hired as a designer for Nike. He was immediately
assigned a project to work with one of the brand’s
biggest and most important retail distributors at
the time: Foot Locker. A daunting task, because
McDowell was expected to design a new running shoe using Tuned
Air, a recent breakthrough in Nike’s famous air
cushioning technology. Not only that, but to
top it off, Foot Locker had already grown increasingly
frustrated with some of Nike’s other, more
established designers, rejecting more than a dozen
proposals made by Nike. The initial project name for
the Foot Locker exclusive was dubbed the Nike Sky Air. When McDowell, heard
this, his mind immediately went to that special
beach in Florida, and its beautiful, gradient sunsets
that he loved so much. It was from these vivid
sunsets that the shoes instantly recognizable upper
gradient, and palm tree inspired exoskeleton was born. One of the silhouettes
most striking features was the shank, which extends from the bottom sole to the mid sole. This was actually inspired
by the tail of a whale. Here’s a quote from McDowell himself: “The shank is a modified whale tail. That tail coming out of
the water is so iconic.” McDowell’s lack of experience
at Nike was actually one of the main keys to
unlocking the shoe’s originality. Take the swoosh for instance. It’s easily of of the most
instantly recognizable logos in the history of
design, let alone fashion. Yet, because of his inexperience, according to him, he simply winged it. “No one had given me any guidance because it was my first few days. The shape is a little
bit off, and I put the border on the inside, when technically all the brand guidelines
say to go outside.” Because McDowell was so
green, he constantly broke sneaker design conventions. Sometimes, without even knowing it. For example, he took his
own observations as a runner to implement reflectivity
in footwear design in a very new way. “I grew up a runner, and you learn to always run facing traffic
so that cars can see you. And I thought, it’s weird
that they put reflectivity on the back of every shoe
when you need reflectivity all the way up the front. So I put bars of reflectivity
going all the way up the forefoot, the
vamp, and the tongue.” The Tn Air logo which
stands for Tuned Air, is one of the most famous
icons in Nike’s history. Everyone knows that the
Air Max Plus is the shoe that is synonymous with the Tn logo. But the hexagonal branding
was a surprise at the time for the young designer. McDowell didn’t want to include
it in the design initially. “They told me the TN Air
logo was a really big deal and I needed to feature it prominently.” The initial design sketches
that got approved by Foot Locker didn’t include the Tn logo. Out of obligation,
McDowell thew the Tn logo on the back and the sole of the shoe. Tuned Air was a huge
technological shift for Nike. The Tuned Air unit featured
what Nike called “hemispheres.” Solid half spheres inserted
into the sole and air unit, which allowed them to
reduce pressure in the heel, while increasing
cushioning in the forefoot. Nike considered Tuned Air
to be the most significant innovation in the history
of Air technology. It wouldn’t be updated until 2006 with the release of the Air Max 360. Think about that for a second. For a brand that’s made its
reputation off innovation, Tuned Air has stood out
as the best technology in Visible Air Nike’s choice
technology for almost a decade. Everything was going according to plan, everyone loved the design and the accompanying innovative features. But, there was one little
problem: the faded upper. Sean McDowell’s picturesque
sunset fade that he had envisioned was now being dubbed impossible to create by Nike. Being naive and new, McDowell would not take no for an answer. “I drew the fade, and everyone was like, ‘You’ll never be able to do that, you can’t find a material like that.'” Being inexperienced, he was
determined, and willing to do everything he can to prove
them wrong, and he was right. It was possible; Nike had been
using smooth gradient designs on their apparel for years. McDowell knew that it could be pulled off. And it literally just took one sample to get the desired effect: it was perfect. Foot locker and Nike were
so dazzled by the shoe that they decided to bypass
their traditional route of doing marketing
research and focus groups. Instead, they decided to
simply place the sample pair on the shelf of a local Foot Locker to see how kids would react. Sean McDowell explained
what happened next. “Five or ten minutes later,
there were like ten kids flocking to the shoe asking, ‘What is this? How do I get it?’ The associates were looking around like, ‘I’ve never seen that
thing before, I don’t know how much it costs, I don’t
know where it came from.’ wile the kids were running around like, ‘I wanna buy this thing’;
they were almost frantic. I was beaming. One of the major hurdles
for the Air Max Plus was having to compete with
the actual Air Max line. You see, the show wasn’t exactly slated to be the next Air of the year model. Nike was placing it’s bets
on the Nike Air Max 98, but nonetheless, in 1998, Nike
released the original trio of Air Max Plus colorways to much success. McDowell’s original
Florida inspired sketches were used to tell a three part story. There was the sunset colorway
with the blue and yellow fade, the night sky model he cooked
with black and hints of red, And the sunrise with blinding orange hues and shades of yellow. Despite releasing it
alongside the Air Max 98, the Nike Air Max Plus Tn thrived. An interesting part of
the Air Max Plus’s history was its international appeal. The Air Max Plus gained a cult following in Europe and Australia. In those markets, the shoe was better known by two letters: Tn. The hexagonal logo which McDowell was hesitant to include,
came to define the shoe. The Tn really became popular
in inner city streets, where it became a
favorite among street kids who had enough money to afford a pair. Thanks to the silhouette’s
crazy and intimidating design, the Tn symbolized a bad boy image in the UK, Australia, and France. Here in the US, the Air
Max Plus was known for its heavy cult-like following
among sneaker aficionados. Trust me, if you knew an Air
Max Plus fanboy or fangirl, then you know how crazy they
can be about their collection. Later on down the years,
Nike attempted to follow up the iconic silhouette with
the Air Max Plus 2, 3, and 5. But the shoes didn’t have the
cultural and technological impact the original Air Max Plus did. The Air Max Plus released
over 20 years ago, and continues to be one of
the top silhouettes out there. Reflecting on the shoe now,
the Air Max Plus wasn’t destined to become the
footwear icon we know today. How could it be? It was a (muffled speech) and
inexperienced Nike designer who couldn’t even draw
the brand’s logo properly. But that’s exactly what made
the silhouette so special. Sean McDowell wasn’t
afraid to break conventions and try new things an important
aspect in all areas of life. Alright guys, that’s gonna do
it for this week’s episode. Hey, I wanted to run something by you, so, you might have noticed that my brother Nacho isn’t in this video. Obviously, because I’m
hosting it this time. So, we really want to start creating more videos for you guys,
more content, you know, we want to upload weekly. I know we upload like,
every two to three weeks, and that’s because it takes
forever to research these videos edit them, and make the
thumbnails, you know, it takes a lot of work and,
in order for us to start uploading more frequently,
I’ve gotta start helping with hosting as well. I just wanted to get you
guys’s thoughts on this, if you guys though this was
dope, leave me a comment, if you thought it was
wack, you know if you thought I was wack as a presenter,
then leave me a comment, it’s really not gonna
hurt my feelings at all. Um, thank you guys so
much, the support recently has been incredible, so
thank you guys so much, and have a great day. (upbeat music)



  • I still have a mint condition pair of the actual original tiger stripe colourway

  • This is the eshay shoe

  • Dope episode. Keep’em coming!

  • Sneaker speaks for it self….Dope.

  • Fuckin Eshaaay


  • In France we’ve always called these the « Sharks ». Only the hood guys used to wear em but now they entered the fashion

  • Who thought the inspiration was from a tigers' stripes

  • The Nike TN‘s are also very popular in germany
    There is even a song about the shoe released by a german Rap group called 187 Straßenbande
    The Song is called „Haifischnikez“ (Sharknikez)

  • You was good like your brother 👍👍👍👍👍

  • Nothing has been the same since the airmax classics in the 90s airmax bw I think they are now but I can't find any. All the other designs are awful whoever designs them wants sacking

  • This is a gangster shoe here in Italy

  • Keep up the good Work 👍👊, awesome series you guys do ☝️

  • This was great, and you were great man. You have a chill, relaxed vibe, but you're not boring if that makes sense. Keep that up just be you, I'm sure you'll get more comfortable and better each time too.
    Dope video!!!

  • This was dope

  • Great video!! Keep up the good work

  • https://youtu.be/1QTOpTZRvnU

  • Great video! Respect the hustle!!!

  • 7:04 i see what u did there

  • Keep up the great content us sneaker nerds appreciate it 💯👍😄

  • UK Chavs and Aussie Eshays United in one trainer 🇬🇧🇦🇺

  • Great video, and just a heads up for everyone – The Air Max Plus iii is re-releasing late this year / thoughout next year. The first colourway has just released.

  • Shamar air max kareem kabir Raymond Washington easterling beamon magic tookie beamon wingates sox ssi ssd only craige crash crunch yogi bera warriors sox and the beamon sneakers store Newark nj tisha owner beamon Jackson jadakiss October 1st my birthday oww biggavelli home only me merciful the grapestreet finest wbla

  • Keep it up!!!💯💪

  • Do the zoom 2k’s

  • only aus knows what this is about

  • great content, great images. Not my first pick as a host but nowadays i dont think kids give a shyt bc the "professional" aspect of presenting has gone out the window with the existence youtube. you know, anyone with a camera, mic and internet can do this. So hire someone who knows the industry standard of presenting on a professional level or keep doin you, sun. you win either way.

  • In europe that shoe alot of drug Dealer wear them

  • it was dope…I really enjoyed the video and all the research you did….. and I'm a shoehead and you presented some info I didn't even know, so thanks.

  • Eshay

  • I bought that blue pair when they where first released in 90s and i also bought a re released pair earlier this year which i haven't worn yet (last pair at footlocker)

  • the perfect eshay shoe


  • Good video bro, just to add on there is an interesting back story to this shoe and more specifically the sole which goes back to 1995. Nike do not own the sole, Footlocker does hence why you couldn’t buy it at any other retailer for years.
    Paris was also the first store to get the TN with 30 pairs.

  • They're so popular in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia. Love them they're so comfortable, coped a pair of OG Sunset for cheap in Footlocker.

  • In Germany we call them ,,Haifischnikez"

  • Another GREAT video with some great info about the sneakers! 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👣❤️🙏🏾🤲🏾

    Yes, I’d love to see more videos from you! I know that you and Nacho have the knowledge and passion to do it! 😎

  • Great work, great presenting 👏

  • Tns really shape the Australian shoe culture… Australia has changed the Tns and the way we Australians think of the shoe.

  • Music way too loud, but good video! 🙂

  • First video I’ve seen, you’re a good presenter man. Keep it up.

  • australians out here paying $400 plus for shit colourways lmao thats how much we fucking admire this shoe

  • Can you do for the vapormax plus after 😀

  • keep doing yo thing! i love your content! much love from brazil!

  • I've never actually liked these shoes and I think they're ugly, but I found this video really interesting

  • eetswa

  • The purples never came out in ‘98.. they released in 2018. Bro..how you gonna have a 10 minute documentary about a shoe without doing your homework

  • Possibly my favorite Airmax of all time flawless design and timeless silhouette.

  • Weird for me this is a shoe I think look good but I'd never wear them lol I got wide feet man airmax 95's all day for me

  • Best video yet!!!!

  • TBH I just thought Nacho shaved, I'm newish to the channel… Thats a compliment btw, it means this video is great quality. I'm okay with the host change if it means more content!

  • great video mate, please do more !!!!!!!

  • The drug dealer shoe


  • Guys I love the channel i live in Australia n nike tns are a everyday shoe for me just keep doing video's on gangster shoes like these

  • eshayyyy

  • Good video

  • bro if you from Australia then you know that eshays always got these on… even when they sleep


  • fergy is hereeeee oml

  • These are the german gangster shoes 187!!

  • The ugliest shoe in history worn by barbarians worldwide..

  • this was def DOPE!! keep up the great vids fellas yall rock

  • Dude. Your guys content is some of the best on here.

  • Do a sneaker history for Nike foamposites and New balance 990.

  • Get yo self patreon would be 100% down paying for this kind of content.

  • Hi Bryan

  • I see all these eshays wearing them, they're UGLY as FUCK

  • Eshays

  • I’m ashamed that people in my country (Australia) find this shoe drippy as fuck I’m just gonna enjoy my lifetime of wearing jordan 1s 😔😔😔😔

  • History of eshays in Australia 😂

  • Every dude who think they are footballers be like:


  • Eshaaaaayyyy lad Eetswa!

  • Love both of yall as the hosts just keep the dope ass content

  • Keep it up man! Great video!

  • What happened to the videos of Ross trips??



  • “Oi caant, give us ya tn’s or we’ll roll ya.”

  • In Australia if you’re in the bad parts and wearing them you’re gonna get stabbed hahaha


  • Fucking dope these little shoe docs. Wish they were made for every model.

  • Air max 95 plss

  • The company is named Nike not nikey so I would hope you called the brand by its actual name. As they say you don't call a bike a bikey

  • I think the tn's are common with gangsters all over Europe, I think some pretty big names in German rap have written whole songs about this shoe. They are all so known as "haifisch nikes" yall should look up some songs

  • Don't wear tns in Australia

  • Don't wear tns in Australia

  • Fuck these shoes, they’re ugly and worn by uglier people in Australia

  • Eshhay


  • we all know that the 97s are better…*

  • Both of you should keep hosting. Great job!

  • very very dope sir     I'm a sneaker head and love any history on sneakers!!!!!!

  • Uk junglists stand up



  • Keep up the dope videos

  • It's a really nice shoe but you simply can't wear these is Australia unless you want to get rolled. Ill just stick to my 95s

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