Ever wondered why so many of the festival-visitors wear Airmax? Ever wondered why it is mostly one specific model? Read here what this shoe is all about, how it is connected to the hard dance scene and how its history has developed within 30 years.

Carsten Giese

The Air (Max) (Classic) BW was developed by Nike’s own head designer Tinker Hatfield at the End of 1990 and released in 1991.
Since then it had to go through some changes, mostly because of the name.

The past

The shoe was originally named the”Air Max 4″, because it was the 4th model with visual air in Nike’s history (Air Max 1 = Air Max 1 (1987), Air Max light = Air Max 2 (1989), Air Max 90 = Air Max 3 (1990)). Due to marketing reasons the description quickly changed to “Air Classic BW” or partly only to “Air BW” on some occasions – despite the big lettered AIR MAX on the heel tab.

Back in the 90s the Air Max 4 had the biggest Air Window ever used on a running shoe ever.
It was even bigger than the Window of the previously-released Air-Maxes until the Air Max 180 was released some months later.
Therefore it was reminiscent of the abbreviate “BW” forever.

The most commonly-known colorway (and most beautiful?) is the “Persian Violet”.

Hard dance music and the BW

In the beginning of the 90’s the gabber scene evolved and the Air Max (4) (Classic) (BW) quickly became THE shoe of the gabber-scene as we know it nowadays.
Worn together with tracksuits from brands like “Cavello” and “Australian” the BWs and the suits itself became some kind of a uniform for gabbers.
When hardstyle evolved and became a part of hard dance related festivals/parties festival attendees adapted the shoes so that approximately 90% of the visitors can be seen wearing Air Max.


Here you can find some honourable mentions of the BW’s hostoric colorways:

2003 US-based graffity-artist “Stash” had the honour to crate a collaboration.

Nike Air (Max) – The Hardcore Shoe: Nike x Stash Air Classic BW (2003) – The video

2005 Nike created the size? “Clerks”-Pack, which included the mostly black/grey/orange edition of the BW and got released in 2006.

Nike Air (Max) – The Hardcore Shoe: Size? x Nike Air BW Clerks (2005)

2006 Nike released some kind of “City pack”. The BW itself was almost completely white with a clear outsole and a Print of the Paris Metro silhouette on the heel’s mudguard.

Nike Air (Max) – The Hardcore Shoe: Nike Air Classic BW “Paris Metro” (2006)

2007 the legendary Paris Football club “St. Germain” received its own colorway.

Nike Air (Max) – The Hardcore Shoe: Nike Air CLassic BW “PSG” (2007)

Additionally in 2007, somewhere at the end of the year the Newark Eagles, a former Baseball-Team of America’s “Negro National League”, got honoured with their own colourway.

Nike Air (Max) – The Hardcore Shoe: Nike Air Classic BW “Newark Eagles” (2007)

Nintendo collaboration

2008 we were able to witness maybe one of the best concepts of a collaboration on a shoe: The “Nintendo” Air Max BW:
Being part of the “Nintendo Pack” Nike provided a great shoe with great details:
For example, the left shoe is called “select”, the right shoe is called “start”.
Just have a look at the details:

Nike Air (Max) – The Hardcore Shoe: Nike Air Classic BW “Nintendo” (2008)

The fall of the BW

From 2010/11 on it got a little quiet concerning the BWs.
New colorways or variants like the Air Max BW Engineered Mesh got canceled. Also the production sites hat to used new forms/tools which changed the toebox, which got really boxy. You had to be lucky to receive one of the “old” pairs.

2014 was a markdown for all the BW-Enthusiasts: As a worst-case-Scenario the GEN-II-BR-Editions were the last BWs you could find for some time. Nike stopped production due to decreasing worldwide demand.
Although the silhouette had its fanbase in central Europe (Germany + BE/NL, partly Italy) Nike was not interested in continuing the Model.

2016 – 25th anniversary

At the end of 2015 the first pictures of a new BW edition hit the surface: The “Air Max BW Ultra”.
This lead to an overall enthusiasm as the shoe had its 25 years-anniversary in 2016.

One of the most Iconic editions of the 25 years anniversary release must have been the “Big Letters” colorway.
The mostly colorway itself seemed to be quite simple. The really outstanding detail was the big bold black letters: A “B” on the left shoe and a “w” on the right shoe.

The second fall

In the beginning of 2017 things got really quiet again. The Air Max BW Premiums could be purchased at the outlets for 60 EUR maximum or even less during the Nike outlet’s discount campaigns. And here we had it again: We ran out of BW releases only about one year after re-introducing them.

2018: As a last hooray Nike threw a hybrid between the BW and the Air Max 97 on the market. The acceptance was quite low, even though they used UK-based Rapper Skepta as an ambassador.

Unfortunately there was one thing all the releases from 2012 until 2018 including the hybrids had in common: The bulky toebox.
This was one of the main reasons that decreased the popularity of the silhouette. While still popular in the hard dance scene almost nobody seemed to buy them from the most commonly known stores like Foot Locker.
Therefore Nike stopped producing them again.
Prices for older shaped versions got really high and so did the number of fakes available on the market.

The Future?

As we all know the BW turns 30 in 2021. Let us hope that Nike provides them as much attention as they did with the Air Max 1s and the Air Max 90s for their anniversary. Both got re-released with their original shape. The Air Max 90s re-releases even released in their OG boxes including all the accessories your could find 30 years ago.
Go Nike and do us a favor so that we can continue destroying the BWs on festivals in the future!

Happy Air Max Day!

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