When it comes to legendary Tinker Hatfield designs, we feel like the Nike Air Safari does not get the love and credit that it rightfully deserves. The Safari theme made its debut back in 1987 when the Nike Air Safari released as part of the Nike Air Pack. This pack also included the debut of the Nike Air Max 1, Nike Air Trainer 1 and Nike Air Sock. Talk about an impressive pack, right?!
During the design process of the Nike Air Safari, Tinker Hatfield knew that he wanted to design an athletic shoe that would be introducing the Safari print to the world. He wanted to create a performance-inspired shoe that also had a luxury look and feel. One look at the Nike Air Safari, and you know Tinker was thinking “premium” with the model.
The inspiration? None other than a certain couch in a window display that caught Tinker’s attention. That particular couch was covered in real ostrich skin. The moment Tinker saw that, he knew exactly what he wanted the Nike Air Safari to look like. Tinker made a mental note of the luxe material used on the couch and went on to find a faux version of that. This is the very moment that the Safari print was born and soon thereafter was utilized on the Nike Air Safari.
Air Safari: since 1987
When the Nike Air Safari released in 1987, it didn’t get much love. To put it simply, the Nike Air Safari was way ahead of its time. Not because of the tech used on the shoe, but rather because it was way too fashionable for those times. Fashion in performance sneakers was not something common 30+ years ago. Tinker got rid of the mesh build you were used to seeing on runners and replaced it with leather. He did this because he wanted the Nike Air Safari to be running-inspired, but no longer a runner.
The Air Safari was Nike’s 1st sneaker to explore the idea of a product which is sports inspired. Fast-forward to today and the sports-inspired footwear and apparel industry is as big as it ever was. Talk about a revolutionary sneaker, eh?
Over the past few decades, not only has Nike given the Nike Air Safari the retro treatment, but they’ve also utilized the luxury couch-inspired print on some of their most beloved silhouettes. Although the Nike Safari theme/print got off to a rocky start, it now seems as if streetwear culture and fashion is finally “getting” what Tinker was trying to bless us with 30+ years ago. That said, the Safari vibes are alive and well today as they’ve been utilized on a handful of other Nike models. Here’s a list of some of our favorite silhouettes utilizing the Safari theme while also putting their own modern twist to it.
Nike Air Trainer 1 Mid PRM NRG Safari
Image via: Flight Club
This one is special because the Nike Air Trainer 1 model was also part of the Nike Air Max Pack, the very same pack the debuted the Nike Air Safari. In other words, this classic silhouette is paying homage to its counterpart. Now that’s love.
Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 Safari
Considering the mixed reviews that the Nike Air Safari started off with, who in their right mind would have though that this Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 Safari collab would end up being on lots of people’s wish list? Considered an Air Max 1 grail (both the 2002 and 2016 version), this Safari-themed Air Max 1 is designed and executed to perfection.
Atmos x Air Jordan 3
Often overlooked, (we honestly have no idea why?!) this collaborative version of the Air Jordan 3 released as a pack alongside the Atmos x Nike Air Max 1 Elephant. Atmos opted to swap out the classic Elephant print overlays in exchange for Safari print. The result was way better than anyone expected. It doesn’t look forced and it actually flows really well with the rest of the shoe.
Nike Air Presto Safari
When the Nike Presto released in 2000, it was marketed as the “t-shirt for your feet”. Now considered a classic silhouette in its own way, Nike released this Safari-inspired iteration of the Presto back in 2016. Instead of using the Safari print as an accented overlay or as a secondary colorway, Nike opted to be bold and place it on the entire upper of the shoe.
To be quite honest, we’re in love with how loud and bold this release turned out. Now that you’ve seen some of our favorite Safari-themed kicks, what Safari-themed sneaker would you add to this list?