“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely, but they are the same old pieces of coloured glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

Mark Twain

Originality is the art of concealing your sources

Originality in a lot of ways remains a disputed concept. As people, we take inspiration from everywhere and influence from everyone. Fashion is particularly adept at this. Leaning on the circular nature of a trends life, benefiting from the knowledge that style is a cycle in perpetual motion. What I mean is, things fall into and fall out of fashion all the time. What we deem to be “in” right now, could be very much “out” by the following summer, and then before you know it the thing you thought was out of fashion has been reinvented as something “new” and is back in the cool column. After all, “Originality is the art of concealing your sources.”

A modern twist on old silhouettes

So when we talk about trainer culture, we apply almost identical rules. Seldom will you find a design that hasn’t taken inspiration from something pre-existing. While some things are of course precisely as the word suggests, an inspiration for something we regard as “new”, for example, 2018’s shoe of the year the Nike React Element 87 is influenced by old school runners like the 1983 Nike Internationalist but with a modern twist by way of a pressure map tested midsole and a semi-translucent TPU construction. While recently it appears other trends are copied more blatantly, falling into the category of a revival more than an adaptation.

What we are starting to see is a second life for a whole host of previously disregarded or widely forgotten silhouettes. Models like the Nike SB Dunk Low that is almost universally considered the shoe that birthed ‘Hypebeast’ trainer culture in the early 2000s. The Nike Air Tailwind that has roots as far back at the mid-1970s, and the Nike Daybreak to name just a few examples, have started to infiltrate the upper echelons of trainer culture once again.

The idea of Retro

The idea of retro is not an entirely new concept in the trainer game. In fact, it is something that has been a part of the Air Jordan business model almost every year since its inception. The brand’s ability to rework and repackage product that is deeply ingrained in their history is one of the hallmarks of their success. With some of their most prominent silhouettes and colourways celebrated on an almost annual basis. This, of course, allows them to guarantee the success of a portion of releases.

What has been happening with Nike silhouettes, however, is a little less straightforward to explain. As Nike is usually a lot more concerned with innovation than their basketball subsidiary. So the uptake of old school models making noise in the current market is definitely something that is being noticed. We started this piece by talking about the circular nature of the fashion industry, and the ever-present nature of inspiration when it comes to design. Two factors which actually go a long way to explaining exactly how a Nike Air Tailwind is once again making a splash in the ever-changing world of trainers.

Collaboration makes it cool

Nike takes pride in collaborating with a diverse pool of designers from around the world who are all given a relatively high amount of creative freedom. Explicitly regarding what products they choose to use as a base from the extended Nike portfolio. Naturally with designers from brands like Undercover and Sacai opting for much more unique choices than are perhaps expected of them. That ultimately ends up meaning some of these older silhouettes are being chosen for modern adaptation simply because it hasn’t been done before, or more accurately, hasn’t been done in a while at least.

The result is shoes like the Sacai x Nike LDV Waffle, the Undercover x Nike Daybreak and the Supreme x Nike Air Tailwind IV. All of which have taken forgotten silhouettes and catapulted them into 2019. What this means for the general public is that by design or as a welcome by-product, not only are these specific models coveted, the entire silhouette as a whole has been introduced to an entirely new audience. Once again making them hot property for any trainer enthusiast. So naturally, the bigwigs at Nike being the savvy businessmen they are, began to reintroduce non-collaborative variations of the revived silhouettes back into the online trainers market, thus giving old silhouettes, new love.