Air Max Day 2023: From the Eyes of One of It’s Biggest Fans in Singapore
How far are you willing to go for Air Maxes? For longtime collector Marc, the sky's the limit. We sat down with him and talked about this year's Nike Air Max Day and his sneaker collecting journey.
Nike Air Max 1 ’86 OG "Big Bubble Red" Retail US$
Skepta x Nike Air Max 97/BW Retail US$
atmos × Nike Air Max 1 Premium Retro "Elephant" Retail US$
Off-White x Nike "The Ten" Air Max 90 Retail US$
size? × Nike Air Max 1 "Safari" (2018) Retail US$
atmos x Nike Air Max 1 Animal 3.0 "Giraffe" Retail US$
To most people, 26 March might just be another day on the calendar. But to the sneaker cognoscenti, 26 March is essentially Christmas. One that comes with a gigantic Swoosh on top and an air bubble at its base.
“26 March—Air Max Day, to me, is a celebration of something that I’ve spent more than half my life obsessing about. It’s a celebration of something that I love the most,” said Marc, one of its biggest fans, gleaming from ear to ear.
Indeed, that seemingly random day in late March is a significant day for anyone who claims they like sneakers. It is the day that the legendary footwear designer with a Midas touch, Tinker Hatfield, gave birth to the first ever Nike Air Max 1 way back in 1987.
Who would have thought that a trip to Paris’ Centre Pompidou, then considered to be an eye-sore in the City of Light, would result in the decision to integrate the now-iconic visible Air Max bubble on the sole unit of the Air Max 1. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but even Hatfield himself couldn’t have possibly predicted the lasting impact of his creation.
36 years and many, many silhouettes later, the Nike Air Max has truly grown into one of the biggest footwear series in the world. While that comment is made with the rosiest of tinted glasses, it’s not that crazy to think the Air Max was certainly a big contribution to the brand’s boom through the ’90s and 2000s. So much so that Nike, and its legion of endearing fans, have now designated 26 March as Air Max Day.
While the annual Swoosh holiday is certainly a big deal in sneaker culture-rich countries like the US, UK and France to name a few, Singapore isn’t quite on Nike’s radar just yet. That’s why we wanted to hear more from local Air Max collectors here in Singapore, which led us to find Marc Aw. He’s a longtime collector who, while gentle and shy on the outside, in our opinion, is one of the local community’s lowkey aficionados.
We knew about his collection, but we had to see it in the flesh. Hence, we paid a visit to Marc’s quaint little house in the heartlands of Singapore, and boy it was a real treasure cove. Upon entering his room, we felt like kids in a candy store. From floor to ceiling, one side of his room is decorated with multiple versions of Nike boxes, ranging from the iconic red Swoosh Air Max boxes to special ones such as the Parra x Nike Air Max 1. We took a good long while to marvel at his collection, before we finally settled down and began the conversation.
Tell us more about yourself.
I’m Marc, 44 this year. I started collecting sneakers when I was in my teens. Probably when I was around 16 years old. Back then, it was really a different time and I had different influences as compared to today. It was never about, say, music, culture, or anything along those lines. For me, it was just, you know, seeing the shoes in the window and thinking, “oh, what kind of new technology/footwear is that?” That drew me to look at sneakers as a whole.
Slowly but surely it became an addiction [laughs]. The next moment I knew I just wanted everything. I don’t know the exact number, but I would say my collection is safely over 400 pairs. And out of that 400 or so, maybe around half of those are Air Maxes.
Do you remember the very first pair of sneakers you owned?
Oh wow, I can’t remember exactly what my very first pair of sneakers were. But, I remember that the first pair of sneakers that I bought with my own money was a pair of Air Max Plus TNs. I don’t remember the name, but it was a purple-and-white gradient colorway. But my first real love for Air Maxes was definitely the Air Max BW. I’ve got a hybrid here, it’s not exactly what my first love was, but close enough.
He takes the time to retrieve something we haven’t seen in a while—a pair of Skepta x Nike Air Max 97/BW in all of its mismatched beauty.
This is one of my favorite shoes. This is the Skepta Air Max 97/BW. This was one of those things that Nike has done that, I guess no other brands have really tried before, at least to my knowledge. Essentially it’s a hybrid of two silhouettes—an Air Max 97 sole with the Air Max BW upper.
I can’t say that I grew up with the Air Max because being in Asia and specifically Singapore you’ve never been exposed to Nike commercials and all that. But, I remember seeing it for the first time on—what we’d call a “fashion influencer” these days—and I was wondering: “Why is there a little bubble in the sole?” My friends and I were super intrigued by that. When you first put it on, I was like, “oh gosh”. You’re actually wearing a piece of history.
From then on, it’s always been Air Maxes for me. Anything with that beautiful little bubble in the sole unit. That was what attracted me the most among the many sneakers that were available.
How’d you find out about new sneakers back then?
In the past, I would say magazines. I can’t really remember the name of those magazines, but I do remember later on, in the early days of the Internet, there was NikeTalk.
It was a forum back then when we didn’t have sneaker-focused websites such as yours (SNKRDUNK Magazine). Instead, you had sneaker collectors who had maybe seen a sample pair or saw something in their local stores. These guys would post in the NikeTalk forums.
You never had “leaked photos” as we do nowadays, but you would read forum posts that described upcoming designs. It was pretty much the best source for me to get information and to hear about new releases. It really keeps you interested and excited for the next release. So yea, as far as I remember back then, it was this NikeTalk forum that really drove the desire and the want… and then the need [laughs].
Do you remember when it really clicked on for you? Like, “Oh I really like Air Maxes and I really want more?” Since there were so many other series such as the Jordans, Air Force 1s, etc.
For me, I think it started when I first began working in 2004. I’ve always been drawn to runners to a certain extent. Air Maxes, from the time it was developed until now, have always represented how a performance brand can push the boundaries further.
I had the privilege of traveling the world as part of my job, and it really opened my eyes to a lot of stores overseas. Besides using NikeTalk, you actually had to do the legwork—you had to go to the physical stores and have a look at what’s available.
Sometimes I would walk around and also see something new on someone else’s feet and be like, “oh what are those.” Then you would ask him or your friends if anyone knows what it is and stuff like that.
That’s when I was truly exposed to the full spectrum of what Air Maxes were available. It’s also helped me to foster closer relationships with friends and like-minded collectors from all over the world.
What other Air Max models do you vibe with?
Recently I’ve really taken a liking to the Air Max Scorpions. A couple of years back, the VaporMaxes. These were all new variations of existing Air Maxes that Nike has improved on. Well maybe not an improvement by all means of the term, but you know it’s where they tried to push the boundaries of, for example, where that bubble can go. Even for the Scorpions, nobody ever expected them to stack bubble on bubble [laughs]. Yea, that’s why it’s just super exciting to see what else Nike can cook up with the Air Max series.
So you’ve been a Checks over Stripes kinda guy since day 1?
Well, not exactly. I did start with Nike at a young age, but when the whole Ye and adidas revolution came, I too was swayed a bit by the hype of it all [laughs]. From NMDs to Yeezys, I had quite a few pairs of adidas too, but that phase only lasted for a short while. After that, I went back to my first love, Nike.
Like I said earlier, Nike always has been at the forefront of technology. I wouldn’t say they were the first to come up with everything. But from a skewed point of view, Nike has always been the best at combining performance, technology, and fashion when it comes to footwear. You know, back then nobody knew that you could put that air bubble into a sole. It was crazy.
Every year since 2014, Nike celebrates Air Max Day with a whole bunch of releases and community events. The first Air Max Day celebration in 2014 saw the release of the Nike Air Max 1 “Air Max Day 3.26” in all of its neon midsole glory; 2016 had the HTM (Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker) assortment; and 2018 had the legendary Sean Wotherspoon Air Max 1/97, so on and so forth.
Particularly, 2017 was an insane year for Air Max lovers. Not only did Nike serve up the iconic Air Max 1 “Master”, they also brought back one of the most highly sought after Air Max 1s of all time—the atmos × Nike Air Max 1 “Elephant”.
What was your favorite Air Max Day thus far?
Hmm, I think it was the “Vote Back” year, which was 2017 I believe. That was where Air Max fans voted back the Air Max 1 “atmos Elephant” to be re-released. That’s one of—for lack of a better term—my “grails” that I was never able to procure back in the day. And when they finally brought it back in 2017, I managed to secure the pair I’ve always wanted. I still love wearing them till this day.
The “atmos Elephant” sure is iconic, huh?
Marc took the moment to look at his Air Max 1 “atmos Elephant” once more. He paused, observing the finer details of his sneaker, before answering the question.
It basically signifies everything that I love about what the Air Max can be. Its a collaboration with one of my favorite Japanese brands, atmos. It has the Elephant print, fantastic leather, and of course, all of that combined into the beautiful Air Max 1 silhouette. Definitely is one of my favorite sneakers, ever.
2017’s Air Max Day truly was wild. What else did you cop?
Along with the “atmos Elephant”, I got the Air Max 1″Anniversary” in its original red and white blocking and the “Master” as well.
In those days there was no “demand,” per se, for Air Max 1s. Especially in Singapore. So, the “Anniversary” wasn’t too hard to get off Nike’s website back then. As for the “Master”, those were an interesting story.
I coped them from South Africa if I’m not wrong? In Johannesburg, I believe? Um, a friend of mine who worked at Shelflife had a pair that he didn’t really want. He was willing to do a trade with me for some other streetwear items that I had. And yeah, we worked out a deal and I managed to get my pair that way.
Speaking of atmos, did you know they were the first boutique retailer to ever work on an Air Max 1 back in 2003?
Of course! That’s why atmos’ collaborations with Nike carry so much significance to collectors. You know, back then collaborations were far and few in between. Never before had Nike ever agreed to allow another company “take over” the Air Max 1 and do whatever they wanted with it.
atmos really resonates with me because the founder (Hidefumi Hommyo) basically started off the company by going overseas to the US and procuring shoes that weren’t available in Japan. He brought these back to Japan with him and started selling them there, which in turn gave birth to atmos.
That’s also how I started off my sneaker collecting journey, because I too traveled all over the world and was able to come back to Singapore with pairs that weren’t available here. So yeah, the story of the founder and how atmos was founded really resonated with me. That’s why to me even after all these years, atmos still holds the biggest significance in terms of Air Maxes to me.
Wrapping up, let’s talk about your collection. What’s your favorite Air Max, ever?
Oh gosh. I wouldn’t say there’s a “favorite Air Max of all time”. I think all of them are equally as precious to me. Maybe you can come back to me with a top 50? I think then I can help you with that (laughs).
Ok, what about a top five?
Hmm, in no particular order because I can’t really say that I have one favorite, but the “atmos Elephant” we talked about earlier is definitely one of them. Same with the Skepta Air Max BWs 97s.
Oh, definitely another would be the atmos Animal 3.0 “Giraffe”. You could only get it from atmos Tokyo or ComplexCon Chicago back in 2019. Also the size? x Nike Air Max 1 “Safari”. Those are really really nice.
And to finish it off, I guess it’s a little cliché, but it’s a pair that aged really well in my opinion. The OG Off-White x Nike Air Max 90 “The Ten”.
Wait, I know you asked for five, but this is a special honorary mention, the one that brought it all home. The 2017 remake of the Air Max 1 OG: the Air Max 1 “Anniversary”.
On that note, surely you’re excited for this year’s Nike Air Max 1 OG “Big Bubble”?
Haha, you know me too well. Of course.
In terms of celebrations, I think Nike has decided it’s not the most important thing in the world to hold a physical event. But instead, they drive excitement for Air Max fans by bringing back models that people have been talking about.
This year the biggest talk is definitely the “Big Bubble”. I mean, the OG 1987 version is such a rare pair that not many people have even seen in real life let alone hold one. It’s one of those pairs that true Air Max collectors hold really dear to their hearts. So it’s super exciting to see what the actual Air Max 1 looks and feels like.
Super excited for Air Max Day this year.
Air Max Day falls on 26 March and with it comes a series of exciting releases. Nike Korea is already out and about with a collaboration with popular K-Pop group NewJeans, so be sure to check out your local SNKRS domains to find out more about what this year’s rendition will bring us. Stay tuned to our socials and our Magazine as we’ll be sure to keep you updated about the happenings of Swoosh’s holiday.