Did you know that Nike reported making over $44.5 billion in revenue last year? These days, it’s hard not to view Nike as the behemoth it is in the footwear industry. But, the reality is that things weren’t always this way.
In the 1970s, Nike was a true underdog to major brands like Converse and Adidas. So, what changed? Contrary to public opinion it wasn’t the Air Jordans that put Nike on the map.
Instead, it was the humble Nike Blazer sneakers. Anyone calling themselves a sneakerhead should be familiar with the important history of these shoes. That’s why we made this guide detailing its rise and evolution. Let’s take a closer look.
Setting the Stage
Before we dive into the history of the Blazer it’s important to first understand the historical context of Nike before the year 1973. In fact, before the year, 1971 Nike wasn’t even known as Nike.
The company began its existence as Blue Ribbon Sports which was founded in 1963 by Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman.
Originally acting as a US distributor for Japanese footwear, the shoe company decided that it wanted to start competing with other basketball-focused brands. To set themselves apart they did a complete redesign.
This started with the infamous graphic design swoosh from design student Carolyn Davidson. Quickly it transformed into a name change (Nike) and two sets of shoes made specifically for the basketball court: the Nike Blazer and Bruin.
By today’s standards, the Nike Blazer isn’t much to look at. It’s a simple white shoe with the Nike swoosh emblazoned on the side.
It comes with a tall leather upper, a tongue made of mesh nylon, and a sole featuring a vulcanized role with added texture for the court. Bowerman put a lot of time and effort into distinguishing the shoe from other rubber-soled options used in the 1970s.
And, while the original certainly isn’t the best basketball on the market today, it represented a huge step forward for both the sport and the culture at large. But first, let’s take a look at how the Blazer made its debut in the world of basketball.
Nike Blazer and the Iceman
It makes sense that Nike would name their first shoe after the local basketball team in the same city as their headquarters: the Portland Trail Blazers. However, it wasn’t the Trail Blazers that made this shoe famous.
Instead, it was a rising icon from the San Antonio Spurs: George “The Iceman” Gervin. This was a bit of smooth marketing on the part of Nike.
It makes sense that the new kid on the block, in terms of basketball shoes, would want to distinguish itself from the competition. So, they found one of the most notorious players in the game.
They paid the Iceman a lot of money to ditch his usual Adidas and where the new Nike Blazer for each game. The strategy paid off. Each time Gervin would make a shot (which was a lot) all the cameras would be pointing at him and his Blazers.
It helped that the shoes came with instantly recognizable brand recognition. On top of that, they featured a spectrum of different colorways. This allowed professional players to match them with the colors of their teams.
However, the Nike Blazer’s heyday in basketball would be short-lived. This is due to the AIR program that Nike began. Soon, basketball shoe designs became a science.
And, unfortunately, science ruled that the Nike Blazer wasn’t the most efficient shoe. The materials that once set the shoes apart — heavy leathers, hard vulcanized leather, and fragile messes — quickly became dated.
That, along with the introduction of new models like Air Jordans, caused the shoes to fall out of style with basketball players. However, it would have a second life with an unexpected sport.
Transition From Basketball to Skating
By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Nike Blazer was losing ground to the Air Jordan and Air Force 1 line of Nike products.
But, what made the shoes a little clunky in basketball made them perfect for another sport: skateboarding. Specifically, the traction on the shoe gave it the perfect amount of grip needed for staying on a board during difficult tricks.
On top of that, the thick mudguard meant that the toe box could stand a lot of abuse that’s typical from the grip tape. For a while, the skater’s obsession with Nike Blazers was an underground phenomenon.
It drove sneaker sales, but not in the same way that basketball did. However, that would change when an original member of the Bone’s Brigade member Lance Mountain redesigned the shoe in 2005.
The new shoe was made specifically for skateboarders and cemented the role that Nike inadvertently played in skating history.
Transition From Skating to Streetwear
There’s a reason why Nike Blazers survived in the skate community besides the fact that they could take a beating. They were inexpensive and comfy.
With the majority of Americans experiencing foot pain, many people jumped on these models that felt comfortable for decades. When you combine this with the nostalgic design and minimalistic look, it’s not hard to see why this became popular streetwear.
However, its credibility didn’t become cemented until 2003. That’s the year when Nike collaborated with famous street artist Futura 2000 to produce only 1,000 collectible models.
This collab, which featured a blend of olive, blue, and tan suedes, instantly became rare. It cemented the footwear’s place as a street icon.
But, more importantly, it opened up the door for future collaboration. We’ve already touched on the famous Lance Mountain collab. But, this was truly just the beginning.
Different Nike Blazer Collaborations
The first collaboration that kicked off the Nike Blazer collab frenzy was Supreme. The Supreme collaboration released three different types of custom Blazers and charged $180 for them.
And while the release wasn’t initially popular shoes, that’s since changed. These days, many sneakerheads consider this Blazer collection to be the best thing Nike and Supreme have ever collaborated on.
And it’s far from the only notable one to occur. Here are just some of the other notable Blazer collabs that have occurred since 2006:
- Comme des Garcons
- Hiroshi Fujiwara’s Fragment Design
- Virgil Abloh’s Off-White
So, if the Blazer continues to have the rich collaboration streak that it’s experiencing, then we can expect it to stick around shoe history for decades to come.
The Legacy of the Nike Blazer
The Nike Blazer represents a lot of different things to different groups. For some people, it represents a nostalgic period in basketball history. For others, it’s a skate shoe that paved the one for some of the greatest tricks in sports.
However, regardless of which camp you fall in, it’s impossible to appreciate the classic design. The plain design, which was once thought of as a hindrance, now provides a blank canvas for sneaker designers everywhere.
Overall, the sneaker history of the Nike Blazer perfectly encapsulates the social evolution of sneakers in general. What started as a marketing attempt from athleticwear companies transformed into an unstoppable fashion icon.
Best Place to Purchase Nike Blazer Sneakers
The best place to buy Nike Blazers will depend on what type of model or collection you want. If you don’t have a specific collection in mind, then consider shopping from a reputable online store.
There are plenty of great ones to choose from that come with thousands of different Blazer models to choose from. If you want to explore some of them, then you can learn more about here.
If you prefer trying them on before buying, then you can go to an in-person shoe store or designer boutique that carries sneakers. Just keep in mind that you will have a much smaller selection to choose from than an online store.
If you want to purchase a specific vintage collectible model, then you’re going to need to do more research. You can find online sellers or shops that carry just specialty sneakers.
But, make sure you do your research before you purchase from them. Collectibles are notoriously expensive and it’s easy to get scammed if you aren’t careful.
Appreciate Learning the History of the Nike Blazer Sneaker? Keep Reading
We hope this article helped you learn more about the history of the Nike Blazer sneaker. These days it’s easy to view the Blazer as a simple shoe. It’s part of what made the iconic design so timeless over the years.
But, back in the day these shoes completely revolutionized basketball sneakers by introducing the latest footwear technology.
So, when you wear them never forget that shoes on your feet helped kickstart an entire sneaker revolution in the athletic industry.
Did you learn something from this article? Keep exploring our website to find hundreds of similar topics.