I don't own that many Air Max sneakers. It's probably somewhere in the ballpark of 15-20 well-worn pairs. In the grander scheme of sneaker collectors, though, I don't have a problem associating my self with those who love any runner that has visible Air on it. If it weren't for Air Max 1s, 93s, 180s, 90s, and 95s, I probably wouldn't have the job. They're what made me catch the sneaker bug and never get rid of it.
So when Nike declared March 26, 2014, the inaugural Air Max Day, a celebration of the initial release of the Air Max 1 in 1987, I was supposed to be ecstatic, right? Well, I really wasn't. I wore my white/red Air Max 1s to work that day and even took a sneaker circle photo with a few co-workers. But it seemed contrived. It was the 17th year since the Air Max 1 first came out. It wasn't even a milestone. The day came and went, and the biggest takeaway from the "holiday" was a pair of white/red Air Max 1s with a Volt midsole. I didn't get pair and had nothing to remember the day from.
Some time passed, and Air Max Day was once again approaching. Somehow, though, this year seemed to be more important than last year's. Nike was set to re-release a handful of original colorways of its most sought-after Air Max silhouettes, and the brand had gotten more — with deeper roots and cachet — outlets in on the event. It had shifted from an off-year celebration to a huge consumer event. Air Max Day was supposed to mean something this year. The day hasn't even hit yet, and the Air Max love is already in full effect.
Air Max 1s have dropped on Nike.com and instantly sold out. Instagram has been full of some of the most reputable sneakerheads wearing nothing but Air Maxes for the past few days, and even some of the larger, more well-known boutiques — mainly size? and Kith — have added to the holiday, shooting videos and dropping casted versions of sneakers around New York City.
Air Max Day has brought Air Maxes to the forefront of the sneaker discussion over the past week or so — ahead of the usual talk of Air Jordans anything NikeLab-related. Cars are driving around Korea in the shape of the most iconic Air Max models, and Nike has even used this as an opportunity to launch a whole new silhouette: the Air Max Zero, which is based off a sketch that Tinker Hatfield drew before he designed the initial Air Max 1.
More interestingly, however, Nike has been able to excite the U.S. market over limited-edition Air Maxes, too. If someone was to ask the brand if it sells a ton of Air Max sneakers in the American market, the answer would be a resounding, "Yes!" But the core and enthusiastic consumers of rare and dwindling Air Max models — think of the Patta x Nike Air Max 1s or any of the atmos collaborations — tend to have more resonance in Europe, where Air Jordan sales aren't nearly as strong as they are in the U.S. Air Max Day, though, has brought some of that excitement over to the States and is making the Air Max fanaticism more of a global game — one that stretches beyond generic models that are sold at large retailers.
In short, Nike has been able to turn a legitimate date in the company's history into a huge marketing frenzy for sneakers that are over 20 years old. It's been able to sell some sneakers in the process, too. Instead of putting together a vast quantity of heavily pushed and promoted advertisements, the brand simply created a hashtag, contacted some influential folks, and let the whole thing spread organically. It didn't hurt that Nike made some great sneakers in the process, either, but it's made wearing Air Maxes the cool thing to do, even if it's only for a week at a time.
That leaves us with tomorrow, the actual Air Max Day. Tons of Air Maxes are going to be worn across the globe, and Nike is going to be even more visible than the sportswear behemoth already is. Runner fans, who might otherwise be lacing up ASICS, New Balances, or Sauconys, are going to be wearing Nikes for sure. And those who may stick to Jordans, Kobes, or LeBrons are going to dig out a pair of Air Max 90s from their closet, and they might take a picture for Instagram with their friends and hashtag it #AirMax. It's no wonder that Nike expects this day to blow up.
Matt Welty is a staff writer at Complex. You can follow him on Twitter here.