While it’s safe to say it’s impossible to pinpoint a single Nike icon, an array of Nike sneaker collaborations, including Sacai’s futuristic take on the track shoe and Tom’s highly anticipated general-purpose shoe Sachs, champ the waffle like the shoe that started it all.
Today, sporting any Waffle iteration signals an “if you know, you know” nod, a nod to its 50-year-old genesis story. I asked designer Susan Korn of Susan Alexandra, herself a Waffle wearer, to reflect on the role of style in our current fashion mindset: “Great design defies time, gender and place. . That’s what makes this shoe essential in everyone’s wardrobe. She elaborates, “When I was growing up, my dad wore a pair of 1970s cobalt blue waffles. Now, in my 30s, I want to emulate all of his carefree style. Remaining relevant across generations and popular among the sports and fashion communities, Nike’s most original style has stood the test of time while representing sneaker history for the ages.
The waffle was first invented in 1971 at a breakfast table, where Nike co-founder and athletic trainer Bill Bowerman enjoyed waffles with his wife. Looking at his plate, Bowerman realized that the grooves in the waffle mimicked an ideal mold for grip suitable for multiple surfaces (the track he was training on in Oregon went from crushed cinder to an artificial surface. metal spikes typical of a track shoe would damage the new surface, so Bowerman was looking for a softer solution). Bill’s wife Barbara recalled in an interview with The Oregonian in 2006: “When one of the waffles came out, he said, ‘You know, turning it over, where the waffle part would come in contact with a track, I think that might work.’ So he got up from the table and walked into his lab and took two boxes of what you pour together to make urethane and poured them into the waffle iron.
After creating his first prototype, Bowerman tested his invention with his racers. The style later earned the name “Moon Shoe” in 1972 for the footprint left that resembled that of Apollo astronauts on the moon. Because the inventive outsole was so effective on multiple surfaces, the shoe was later adopted by other athletes, including soccer and baseball players. Later described by the brand as “an iconic silhouette served up with a rebellious side of soul”, the Waffle Trainer quickly became the nation’s best-selling training shoe and an icon of innovation.
While the most legendary sneakers were born out of a necessity for performance, it didn’t take long for style savants to recognize the finest craftsmanship and design expertise. Seth Weisser, fashion historian and co-founder and CEO of What Goes Around Comes Around, shed light on the sneaker’s rapid foray into the world of fashion: “The Waffle changed the game in sports, so Wearing them was a form of being ‘in knowing what was going on in the culture.Once the Waffle Trainer and Waffle Racer were created in 1973 and 1974, respectively, the style gradually gained street cred. “Today’s classic retro feel of the Waffle is a break from the current roster of running shoes,” says Weisser. “It’s the OG for Nike in addition to later models like the blazer and then the Jordan series. .”
The Waffle’s heritage proves that in a world of sneaker abundance, the original is always better. Today, Nike’s holy grail, Bowerman’s waffle iron, resides at Nike headquarters along with a handful of Bill’s handmade shoe treads. Half a century after its contribution to sneaker folklore, a story of imagination, inventiveness and style so cool it might have you stopping a stranger on the street lives on.
Here are the Nike sneaker collaborations that honor the Waffle as the street-style throwback shoe that never really left.
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In their first-ever partnership, Nike and Jacquemus celebrate Nike’s 50th anniversary with a collection of clothing and footwear, which was launched this summer. The duo’s fashion-sports collaboration combines a vintage ACG trail shoe aesthetic, elements of the original 1997 Humara, Air cushioning and a waffle outsole.
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The Japanese luxury brand first collaborated with Nike in 2015, when NikeLab turned to Sacai to create a capsule collection of clothing combining sportswear and fashion. With a focus on Nike’s most original styles, Sacai first reinvented the Waffle in 2019 with a classic black and white iteration. A successful collaboration, Sacai continues to release limited edition Waffle shoes alongside Nike and third collaborators, such as Fragment, Clot and Undercover.
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Nike and Sacai have teamed up with Japanese streetwear brand Undercover to create special-edition Waffle models. Together the trio recreated the LDWaffle, a combination of the LDV and Waffle Racer styles, in a new deconstructed version incorporating new materials and colors. Undercover also collaborated with Nike on the Daybreak, a style that is part of the extended Waffle family.
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Another Japanese label, Fragment, has teamed up with Nike and Sacai to create a timeless version of the LDWaffle, which combines Waffle Daybreak and LDV styles. Available in Blue Black and Light Smoke Grey, designers have added signature features to this waffle including the double tongue and double Swoosh.
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The Hong Kong-based streetwear brand founded by former popstar Edison Chen and entrepreneur Kevin Boon, Clot first collaborated with Nike in 2006. In a partnership that connects Eastern and Western culture through footwear , Clot reimagined the Nike Waffle alongside Sacai, designing a version that incorporates semi-translucent mesh and new colorways.
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Off-White’s Virgil Abloh and Nike joined forces in 2019 to create a Waffle Racer built for speed and optimized for style. Designed in various palettes that incorporate bold pops of color, Abloh’s Runner is a futuristic running shoe that incorporates Nike’s original Waffle outsole.
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The highly anticipated versatile shoe, made in collaboration with American contemporary artist Tom Sachs, was designed with the belief that “your sneakers shouldn’t be the most interesting thing about you”. The shoe has been marketed as “boring” and features a gray and blue palette with a gum outsole as well as a sulfur and cream version.
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Nike has teamed up with the Netflix series stranger things in 2019 to collaborate on a number of styles, including the Nike Air Tailwind 79, in anticipation of the show’s season three release. The collaboration highlights styles that would suit the setting of the 1985 series and reflect the colors of the series’ school, Hawkins High School.
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In collaboration with Boston-based boutique Concepts, Nike has released a series of Air Max 1s that incorporate the original Waffle-style outsole. Featuring mixed materials and patterns inspired by late ’60s counterculture, each sneaker’s fabrics are hallmarks of the hippie movement’s music festivals, including cashmere, denim and tie-dye.
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fear of god
Jerry Lorenzo, designer and founder of Fear of God, first collaborated with Nike in 2018 to develop a collection. Their Air Skylon 2 was released soon after in two versatile colors, Light Bone and Black Fog. A spin-off of a vintage running silhouette, the style incorporates Nike’s waffle-style outsole while taking on a sleek, modern look.
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In partnership with the famous Japanese fashion label, Nike released their all-black Waffle Racer in February 2020 exclusively at Dover Street Market. Paying homage to the vintage element of the shoe, the collaborative design preserved the classic silhouette while blending a distressed look with a modern, monochromatic twist.
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The Nike Challenger is a reinterpretation of the OG sneaker designed in the late 70s. Nike reinvented this shoe for the first time in 2020 and has since released vibrant colorways that breathe new life into this silhouette while maintaining its retro look. of origin.
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Classic Waffle One
Representing Nike’s running heritage and the face of the Waffle sneaker family, the Waffle One incorporates sheer mesh, suede details and bold colors into one of the brand’s most archetypal designs.
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Classic Waffle Trainer
An original icon, the Waffle Trainer recalls the ’70s style that has made history and influenced many Nike silhouettes and collaborations over the past 50 years. The new colorways, specifically the University Gold and Blue, are a nod to the very first colorways of the shoe.
This story originally appeared on Vogue.com.