Nike Air Revolution 2013 retro: 25 years of visible air in basketball


The Nike Air Revolution is a shoe that lived up to the bombastic pre-blog hype of being the first ever basketball shoe with visible air. Back in 1988, this shoe arrived to mess with the minds of the people (it's odd that they never got a good preview in the 1987 TV campaign that used the Beatles song of the same name) and it's a great example of gimmickry gone right and the best shock-absorbing shock to the system since the AF1 appeared over half a decade prior. In a lot of ways, the Revolution's ankle strap and height made it the definitive update of that authoritative court look, but we don't think anyone under a certain age can fully comprehend just how much of a dent this model made on our shoe-loving psyches. Everything about the Nike Air Revolution seemed to be carefully engineered for greatness - that ski boot style insert for stability and that sole unit made it seem like something sent from space.

This shoe sold well and other colours (we recall a quartet of strong colourways) dropped to accompany the original, setting a standard that defined basketball shoes until the end of the decade. This one preempts the Nike Air Jordan III by a few months, so there's no room for chicken or egg debating - in fact, MJ's third signature shoe was originally down as the Air Jordan Revolution on Tinker Hatfield's original sketches and just as the IV and Flight shared a sole unit the following year, these became siblings. We'll take the III as an overall design, but we still think this shoe is a classic - it's also less ubiquitous than the aforementioned Air Jordan in the current climate.

The problem with the current era of twice retroed releases is that they create tiers of collector smugness. If you've got a pair of 1988 originals in the red box with the booklet, we're happy for you, but those things are primed to self destruct if they're ever put to their intended use. Those old school collectors were a little snooty of the 2003 reissue of the Air Revolution that had the Velcro strap that didn't fight correctly. Those things were still a great sale rack pickup (salutes, TK Maxx) and ended up being reissued in various forms and levels of quality for five years after that retro. In 2013, we're getting the Nike Air Revolution again, so anyone that grabbed them a decade ago can get all smarmy that the rest of the world is late to the party. The victims have become the tormenters. And the owners of the 2003s will be happy to find out that the materials and shape aren't quite as good. Everything seems a little chunkier than before and we don't know if it's just a sample thing, but we're not sure why the middle and bottom of the tongues don't have the extra colour block that the O.Gs and reissues had. The outsoles seem to have different colours too (though - and we're not going to dig through shoes to check - didn't the 2003 white/reds stray from the outsole patterns too?).

Legendary white/red revolutionary Radio Raheem (R.I.P) would probably unleash LOVE and HATE over those alterations, but the essence of these shoes is still intact. Our expectations aren't what they were back in the early 2000s, but it's good to see this model acknowledged on its 25th anniversary - we'll just pretend the Nike Air Revolution Mid from 2004 never happened. The Nike Air Revolution returns to the Crooked Tongues store next month in a handful of old and new forms. While we're on the subject, when's an Nike Air Ace reissue going to drop?

Posted by, gwar on 3 June 2013