The Nike Air Pressure and my spoiled self

“No, you can’t always get what you want” as the famous Rolling Stone song goes “but try and you might find — you get what you need.”

I’ve wanted things in life that I couldn’t always get, but there are very few things that I’ve wanted as badly as the Nike Air Pressure. This story of spoiled youth goes all the way back to 1989 when Nike released a brand new pair of basketball sneakers called the Air Pressure. This new kind shoe featured a patented air bladder that you could inflate with the included pump to get a tighter fit. This modern marvel of a sneaker had top of the line technology and also a top of the line price. The shoe retailed for $175 USD (in 1989 currency) making it the most expensive sneaker at the time. To give you a frame of reference, the prior most expensive sneaker was a pair of Air Jordans for $125, and a good high top sneaker cost $75.

I was 15 years old when the Nike Air Pressure was released, and when I saw the shoe, I fell in love with it. When I had sufficiently worn out my previous high tops, my mom drove me to the shoe store to get a new pair. I showed her the Nike Air Pressure, explained why it was so awesome and begged her to buy it for me. She said “no.” She didn’t even consider it because she rightly believed that paying $175 for a pair of sneakers for a 15-year-old was idiotic.

Sketch of the Air Pressure by Nike designer Tinker Hatfield

I threw a fit, and we left the shoe store without buying anything. I thought I could convince her to buy them for me if I appealed to her intellect so I prepared an essay covering all of the reasons why she should buy them for me. I proposed the obvious 15-year-old tactics like doing extra chores around the house and studying more at school. I also detailed my plan to try out for the junior varsity basketball team and the need for extra support for my ankles. She admired my resolve but was steadfast in her belief that a 15-year-old shouldn’t be wearing a pair of $175 sneakers. It was a matter of principle for her, and I wasn’t going to change her mind.

I was emotionally devastated and for the next couple of weeks, I gave my mom the cold shoulder to make it clear to her that I was suffering. She was a good mom and consoled me, made me my favorite foods and took me to the movies. She did the things that a mom does to make her spoiled son feel better. Eventually, I settled on a pair of Nike Air Force sneakers which were very nice but sadly not the Nike Air Pressure.

The Nike Air Pressure 2016 on left and the 1989 version on the right. The sneaker did not age well.

On the first day back to school for my sophomore year, I sat quietly in home room waiting for the bell to ring. I glanced over to the doorway as David L. walks in and I immediately see he’s wearing the Nike Air Pressure. They looked brand new and glorious on his feet as he made his way to his desk. David was born to a rich family, he was a star basketball player and ran with the most popular kids in school. I think his dad had something to do with creating the Snapple brand of drinks. David was the sort of fellow who always dated the pretty girl and was on the shortlist to be homecoming king. You could be jealous of so many things about David and his seemingly perfect life but for me it was only his Nike Air Pressure that I coveted. He had them and I didn’t.

For the next year, I watched David walk around school wearing the Nike Air Pressure (he was the only one in my school who had them) and every time I saw them I was reminded about how much I wanted them. I’d steal glances of them and day dream of one day owning a pair myself. I also continued to harbor a little bit of anger toward my mom for denying me these sneakers something I wouldn’t get over for another few years.

My love of shoes continued well into my adulthood and now and then I would find a pair of Air Pressures on EBay but the shoe didn’t age well and most fell apart or disintegrated. My dream of owning a pair would likely never be fulfilled.

Without warning on a balmy fall day in 2015, Nike announced that they would be releasing a limited run of the original Nike Air Pressure. I would finally get the chance to own a pair. On January 14, 2016, Nike dropped them in their SNKRS app. It was a limited released, so it wasn’t easy to buy them, one would need to win the Nike lottery to be selected to purchase them. I wasn’t selected to purchase a pair in the app, but I did find a slightly overpriced pair on Ebay.

The 2016 Nike Air Pressure comes wrapped in air tight plastic.

When the Air Pressure arrived, I was very excited. I felt a lot like my 15-year-old self as I tore into the packaging to reveal a brand new pair of my holy grail kicks. The custom box, the smell of new leather, the pump, it was all perfect. They felt solid in the hand, and they slipped onto my feet like a glove.

Once I got them laced up, I applied some air to each shoe using the pump which caused the shoe to wrap around my feet making it feel snug. They looked so good on my feet. I finally had my own pair of Nike Air Pressure. It is hard to explain the joy I get wearing these sneakers. Hidden somewhere in my brain is that 15-year-old kid who waited more than 25 years to fulfill this dream. In a way, I’m glad my mom denied me the joy of owning those shoes when I was a kid otherwise I would’ve missed the joy of owning them as an adult.

Looking back on this story I wish my 15-year-old self-didn’t come across as such a spoiled kid whose dreams amounted to owning a pair of sneakers. It wasn’t until much later in life that I grew out of that sheltered world and realized there was much more to life than material goods. Still, all things considered, these kicks are dope yo.


Celebrities wearing the Nike Air Pressure

Over the years (as in the early 1990’s) there have been Nike Air Pressure sightings on celebrities. Most were either athletes or musicians. I think the athletes pulled it off better.

Random folks wearing the Nike Air Pressure

By joshkerr

Josh is an 8x startup founder and angel investor.

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