As the first multi-purpose shoe of its kind, the Nike Air Trainer 1 "Chlorophyll" is among the most important models of all-time, and now the man who helped make it famous is sharing his memories of the sneaker — that would be none other than tennis legend and notorious hothead John McEnroe. Without him, the sneaker might not have released.
Esquire recently caught up with McEnroe and reminisced on a time when he was "starting to get a bit older and could use some more of that support and cushion." It was 1986, and Nike had planned to scrap the Air Trainer 1 prototype altogether.
"From what I understood, it was just a prototype, not really something that Nike was necessarily ever going to make. It had nothing to do with tennis whatsoever, but from the moment I put it on, it just felt right and it kind of set me off on this run of success," McEnroe said.
McEnroe, who has been with Nike since 1978, says the Air Trainer 1 is one of the few things he's proud of. The cut of the sneaker was just right for him."If you look at some of the other sneakers that were being made at that time, they were heading towards an all-in-one-type model," McEnroe said. "High tops in basketball seemed too high, low tops seemed outdated and perhaps too small."
But the most notable element of the Air Trainer 1, its midfoot strap, is what caused interest in the sneaker — and confused people, too. "No one could figure out what the strap was all about. So that created some interest," McEnroe said. "I am finicky about making sure my sneakers are pretty tight. It is almost like a superstition for me. I would tie them and pull the strap so much that eventually I would feel that I wasn't getting enough circulation," McEnroe said.
It was a rebellious sneaker that was worn by a rebel on the court. It takes these combinations to create these sneakers moments that we're still talking about nearly 30 years later.