You’re likely familiar with Nike’s logo, the Swoosh, but how familiar are you with the history of this iconic sneaker brand? Learn all about the highlights of Nike’s 50-year history, including some of the brand’s most notable shoes.
Who Founded Nike?
Nike was started under the name Blue Ribbon Sports in 1962. It was founded by Phil Knight, a former runner at the University of Oregon, and his former track coach, Bill Bowerman, with the original intent to be a distributor for Onitsuka Tigers, a Japanese shoe brand.
According to CNBC, Blue Ribbon Sports was started with a $500 investment and the first sales were made by going to track meets and selling shoes out of the trunk of Knight’s Plymouth Valiant.
In 1971, Knight started designing his own shoes and decided to rebrand the company to become the icon it is today. Nike, as we know it today, released its first shoe, dubbed the Nike Cortez, in 1972. The shoe was a staple of the company in its early years and became a pop culture icon, making appearances in the film “Forrest Gump” and in the 1991 Super Bowl halftime show during Whitney Houston’s performance.
By 1978, the company had an impressive customer list, including members of the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. It was also the brand Jon Anderson was wearing when he won the Boston Marathon and the brand Jimmy Conners was wearing when he won Wimbledon. Henry Rono also set four track-and-field records wearing Nike sneakers.
About the Nike Swoosh
The Nike Swoosh was created in 1971 by a graphic design student at Portland State University named Carolyn Davidson. Knight was supplementing his income by teaching accounting courses at the same university and happened to overhear Davidson talking about how she couldn’t afford the high costs associated with an oil painting course. He offered her a job making charts and graphs, and her success there led to Davidson being asked to create the logo that would later become the Nike Swoosh.
Davidson was given the task of creating a striped logo that would encapsulate the idea of speed. Davidson spent 17.5 hours on the project and earned $35, total, for creating the logo. Davidson’s goal with the logo was to show motion through a stripe, and she used the goddess Nike as inspiration.
Davidson presented four designs to Knight and his business partners. They didn’t initially love the design that would later become the Swoosh, but that quickly changed, and the Swoosh became the official registered trademark of Nike on June 18, 1971.
The first shoes to bear the Nike Swoosh were the Nike Cleat and the Nike Waffle Racer at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.
More Nike History
Over time, Nike has innovated the way their shoes serve and benefit their customers. They released basketball shoes, running shoes, and eventually sportswear to serve their target market.
However, Nike is about more than just aesthetics. The company has also demonstrated a commitment to sustainability with its Move to Zero promise. This initiative includes looking at the source of many of its materials, including using recycled nylon, sustainable cotton, and recycled polyester in its shoes.
They are also always innovating to improve their products to better support their athletes. Some of these innovations include the Nike Free, a barefoot running shoe developed by the brand more than two decades ago and characterized by the heel-toe offset.
A more recent innovation is the Nike React shoe, which the company introduced in 2017. This shoe incorporated better cushioning and energy return into a lightweight running shoe.
Nike’s history also includes numerous collaborations, including collections with basketball stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Noteworthy Nike Shoes
Nike Air Force 1
Nike Air Force 1s are considered a Nike classic. The shoe was originally designed in 1982 by Bruce Kilgore and was initially only available as a high top. The shoe was supposed to be discontinued in 1984, but loyal fans kept it alive, and Nike eventually created a Color of the Month Club that increased the shoe’s lifespan. Today, the shoe serves as a canvas for artists of all ilk and has undergone subtle updates to make sure it keeps its classic silhouette.
Nike Air Max
The Nike Air Max line is characterized by the visible cushioning on the sides of the sneakers’ sole. It was first designed by Tinker Hatfield, an architect turned footwear designer, in 1987 and gained popularity throughout the 1990s. The shoe continues to remain popular today, with numerous iterations being added to the shoe line.
Nike Air Vapormax
Nike added new innovations to their popular Air Max line in 2017. The Nike Air Vapormax revolutionized the use of the Nike Air insole by removing the secondary rubber layer to result in protection and improved durability. This allowed designers to incorporate the air unit into the exterior of the shoe more easily while maintaining the shoe’s form and elasticity. It also allowed for more air to be placed directly underfoot, eliminating the need for a traditional foam midsole.
The original Nike Blazer was released in 1973, and versions of this shoe continue to be released today. It was originally created as a basketball shoe, but has since transcended markets, including skateboarding and luxury shoe brands. In the last 10 years, the shoe has boasted collaborations with brands like Supreme, Comme des Garçons, and Virgil Abloh’s Off-White imprint.
The Nike LeBron shoes were created in partnership with basketball star LeBron James starting in 2003. Nike and James continue to collaborate to release innovative and stylish basketball shoes that are loved by many sneakerheads.
The Nike Kyrie shoe line was first launched in 2014 when Nike partnered with basketball player Kyrie Irving. The first shoe, the Kyrie 1, featured an interlocking emblem with Irving’s initials on the tongue and his mother’s name, Elizabeth, etched on the tongue. The basketball player continues to create shoes with noteworthy touches to them. Irving continues to work with Nike today and collaborate with major brands to create new and exciting shoes using Nike’s signature technology.
This year we’re hyped to celebrate alongside Nike as the iconic brand rings in their 50th anniversary. As we look back on the many contributions the SWOOSH brand has made to culture over the past half a century, one thing is clear – we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Shop Nike Shoes Today
Want to bring home a piece of this iconic sneaker brand? Take a look at the variety of Nike sneakers that Finish Line has to offer today.
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