With fans up and down the country, only two cities can truly claim the style as their own. 

Is it webs or creps, trainees or trainers, Liverpool or London? The Nike Air Max 95 has reached legendary status around the UK, but nowhere has the same appreciation for the iconic sneaker as these two cities. 

Designed by Sergio Lozano, who had been working in the ACG (All Conditions Gear) division of Nike, this anatomy-inspired sneaker draws on the human body for inspiration. Rib cage-style lacing systems pair with leather side panels to mirror human muscle fibres. Despite the shoe’s success, initially, it was met with hesitation, partly due to the inclusion of some previously unseen design features. These included minimal Nike branding and the first ever shoe to feature a visible Air bubble across the whole shoe. Lozano’s perseverance paid off, and eventually, the ‘95 was created, with a Swoosh logo added to the heel. The Nike designer’s belief in the strength of his design has led to the widely appreciated icon we see today. 

Often referred to as “110s”, thanks to the Air Max 95’s original retail price of £110, the shoe’s lasting impact can be seen in its nickname’s longevity. The long-term use of the phrase to refer to the shoes was acknowledged by Nike in 2020 with the Nike Air Max 95 110. 

29-year-old Netherlands-based consumer-lifestyle researcher and women’s sneaker consultant Maartje van den Hurk has spent time in London and Liverpool for her work. “I always say that every major city in Europe has its own signature Air Max and in the UK, that is definitely the 95 or 110s.” So what does all this have to do with Liverpool? She cites the city’s footwear influences as coming from “traditions and football” compared to London, which draws on “different cultures, such as hip-hop and grime. In Liverpool you can still feel the essence of football.”  

Credit: @Maartjesfootprint on Instagram

Traditionally, Scousers have adopted certain items of clothing or footwear as geographical signifiers or signs to anyone in the know they are from the city. In the ‘80s, this was seen through the casual scene drawing heavily on terrace wear and the football culture at the time before moving onto more traditional sportswear and, more recently, outdoor gear. Van den Hurk sees the Air Max 95 as a “part of current Scouse culture”.

Lewis Earle is a 27-year-old sneaker collector based in Liverpool whose connection to the Air Max 95 started when he was young. “I was introduced to the shoe in secondary school, I was around 14 at the time and a lot of my mates were wearing them in P.E or swapping their school shoes out to play football in them during lunch breaks and after school.” 

For Earle, the shoe has come to resemble the city he calls home. “Many saw the 95 as a scally shoe. That connotation and retail price is probably why my mum never bought me a pair at the time. Nowadays, with 10 pairs in my collection I see them more as a Scouse shoe than anything else. You kind of feel a sense of acknowledgement when you step out in Liverpool in a fresh pair of 110s.” 

Credit: @lewearle on Instagram

The Nike Air Max 95 has been tied to several subcultures since its release. Credited as the shoe that represented London’s now-famous grime scene, it’s the 110 that holds a special place in the city’s heart.

Out of East London’s marginalised estates, alongside the waning momentum of garage, came grime. An energising kineticism was injected into the UK scene by a genre that reflected the reality of life for many, fusing fast beats with distinct British accents. With this new sound came a uniform that has influenced how we dress ever since. Nike tracksuits, favoured for their comfort and practicality, would be paired with Air Max in a look that came to represent the city’s sound. Grime has undoubtedly played an enormous role in the popularity of the Nike Air Max 95. However, the 110 has always been associated with the genre. 

Van den Hurk cites grime as the subculture associated with the silhouette. “The shoe became part of a uniform for grime culture, so you would have to have a fresh pair of Air Max 95s on your feet to be part of it,” she says. “[The Air Max 95 evokes] a sense of power. I think it empowers the person who wears them.” 

In her 2015 short film, Air Max – The Uniform, directed by Grace Ladoja, a British-Nigerian talent manager, grime legend Skepta shares his love for the 110 with the statement: “I just wanted 110s, everybody wanted 110s.” The original price of the shoe, £110, allowed wearers to make a statement, and cemented the Nike Air Max 95 as an icon within grime. 

The rebellious attitudes that grime came to represent mirrored those reflected in the sneaker’s design origins. According to Highsnobiety, “Lozano wanted to minimise the appearance of dirt, mud, and wear and tear that the shoe would achieve over time and use, so he prioritised the use of gradient grey even when told the colour would not sell.” With the OG Neon colourway serving as a nod to Nike’s race kit, the Air Max 95 proved an instant hit. The demand for the striking colourway has led to it being applied to other silhouettes, such as the Air Jordan 4 95 Neon Grey

For van den Hurk, a standout Air Max moment is “Skepta’s video, ‘Shutdown’. Even though there are older examples, this video really set the tone for this generation”. In Skepta’s video to the acclaimed single, the City of London gently protrudes from the enclaves of the Barbican estate. Various Air Max silhouettes are paired with sportswear, capturing the durability and appeal within grime. 

Earlier this month, London Streetwear prodigy Corteiz, whose unique and refreshing approach to a crowded industry took the brand from founder Clint’s West London bedroom to Nike boardroom, produced a collaborative Air Max 95 model. It is unsurprising the 110 was chosen, a silhouette that reflects the deep-rooted sense of belonging the style has come to represent in the capital.  

Nike x Corteiz. Credit: Laced Studio

Earle feels Nike’s partnership with Corteiz exemplifies the silhouette’s collaborative strength. “I think if you get it right on the 95, you gain a lot of respect from enthusiasts.” 

While no one city can claim the style, it is clear the Air Max 95 has its feet planted in both the North and South. From a subcultural appeal to widespread appreciation, Sergio Lozano’s championed design has struck a chord with fans across the UK.