How Tinker Hatfield became sneaker royalty

September 24, 2021 by Josh Ford

How Tinker Hatfield became sneaker royalty

Tinker Hatfield

It comes as no surprise that Tinker Hatfield is considered one of the greatest minds to ever grace the footwear industry. Currently, Nike’s Vice President for Special Projects, Hatfield cemented himself as a name as synonymous with sneaker culture as Nike itself.

Hatfield joined Nike in 1981, after graduating from the University of Oregon School of Architecture. He began working exclusively on sneaker design for Nike just four years later in 1985.

Tinker Hatfield

However, it was two years later in 1987, when Hatfield’s legacy first begun, going against a Nike design brief to create the now-legendary Air Max 1 silhouette. The move was met with a great deal of controversy over Tinker’s “rebellious” design choice – equipping it with a visible Air Unit underfoot – this was the first time anyone had done anything like it, and the shoe went on to become one of the most iconic in the industry.

Ironically, Hatfield’s inspiration for the shoe was The Centre Pompidou in Paris – a landmark that is widely considered an eyesore due to its structural elements being on the outside of the building.

Air Jordan 3 tinker hatfield

The following year, Hatfield saved the Swoosh retailer from losing Michael Jordan to rivals adidas with the Air Jordan 3, this paved the way for what is now considered the most successful and longstanding partnership in sneaker history, between Nike and Jordan brand. The Air Jordan 4 came shortly after, as the '80s were coming to an end, with Tinker looking to once again change the game.

Hatfield went on to solidify himself further with the inception of the Nike Air MAG. The futuristic model was made famous after featuring in Robert Zemeckis’ cult classic ‘80s film, Back to the Future II. The shoe features Nike’s self-lacing technology and is considered one of the ultimate grails of all time.

Nike Air Mag Tinker Hatfield

In the years that followed, Hatfield continued to set the game ablaze with his designs – 1990 saw two more now-iconic iterations in the Air Max 90 and Air Jordan 5 models – followed by the Air Jordan 6, Huarache, and Mowabb in 1991.

Tinker Hatfield continued to design MJ’s signature sneakers between 1992-2000, with his most renowned models during this era being the Air Jordan 11, and the Air Jordan 13.

Tinker Hatfield Air Jordan 6

With such a renowned and illustrious history behind him, it’s clear to see that Tinker Hatfield is more than just a designer, he’s the lynchpin in the Oregon-based retailer’s rise to the forefront of modern-day streetwear culture.

His shoes have shaped a generation of sneaker-lovers around the world, with their popularity spanning decades. Shoes will come and go, but one thing is for sure – there will never be another Tinker Hatfield.