There’s something to be said for being a jack of all trades. In a time that encourages and even expects perfection, there’s a certain charm in branching out of one’s comfort zone and attempting to do it all. Introduced in 1987, the Nike Air Trainer 1 bucked the trend of hyper-specific footwear to create an all-purpose sneaker that can truly do it all. Now available in a Limestone colorway with pops of brown, blue, and suede, the lace-up, cinch-up cross-trainers are a contemporary classic.
Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the Air Trainer 1 was born out of frustration and necessity, when acclaimed Nike designer Tinker Hatfield grew weary from lugging multiple shoes to the gym for varied workouts. Seeking to bridge the gap between sport-specific categories, Hatfield decided to create a sneaker that did it all with ease.
It wasn’t an immediate hit. The concept fell flat with Hatfield’s co-workers, who were concerned that a multi-purpose sneaker would draw sales away from the company’s key categories of running and basketball. Despite the detractors, Hatfield secured the backing of friend and collaborator Mark Parker, who was running the R&D program at the time, before rising to CEO.
Proving that you don’t have to be the best to make an impact, the Air Trainer 1 was well-received by professional athletes — counting John McEnroe and Andre Agassi as fans — and regular gym-goers alike. Although there were better basketball sneakers and superior running trainers on the market, the Air Trainer 1 represented the Goldilocks of sneakers, one that was ‘just right’ for most people.
Now, while the original Chlorophyll colorway — inspired by the gym equipment at the Metro YMCA in Portland where Hatfield worked out — can be described as utilitarian at best, the new Limestone colorway really works. If the seminal sturdy sneaker veered somewhat into ‘ugly shoe’ territory, then the Limestone color palette of neutral tones with a pop of blue steers it into the streetstyle-worthy category.
Perhaps the best representation of the Air Trainer 1’s hybrid nature is the inclusion of both laces and a strap, with the latter providing a secure, lockdown feel. The Limestone colorway sees the signature strap and the Swoosh dressed in blue, while rough beige suede overlays and a hint of coffee brown leather adorn the white leather upper. One of the key 'ugly’ features of the Air Trainer 1 is the outsole, which extends onto the upper quarter. Rendered in white rubber, it doesn’t look quite so bad anymore, lending a fun curvilinear element to the sneaker.
Prioritizing function and letting form follow, the Air Trainer 1 does it all. But make no mistake, it will never be your typical ‘dad shoe’. To pair them with cargo shorts or a Jerry Seinfeld-esque normcore outfit would be to demean them. Draw from the hybridity of the sneaker by leaning into dualities; team the Limestone Air Trainer 1 with slightly more formal outfits. Think slim-fit brown suiting paired with a polo neck top; or pleated pants and a t-shirt. Go on, they can handle anything.