The Nike Air Presto is probably one of the most ‘Nike’ Nikes out there. I feel that it ticks all the company’s core running design ethos boxes – lightweight, formfitting, innovative design with purpose. The shoe was conceived by Tobie Hatfield – younger brother of Tinker – who at the time was working as part of Nike’s Alpha Project. The department was charged with creating truly innovative products without traditional constraints of a design department. In a way it carried on the legacy left by the brand’s original designer Bill Bowerman who was notorious for his hellbent obsession with progression. The Alpha Project gave birth to a spate of oddballs including the Air Seismic and Hyperflights, but the Air Presto definitely remains the numero uno (if you ask me). Influenced by earlier sock-like runners including the 1980's Sock Racer and Air Flow models as well as the '90s Air Huarache, the Presto was served up as a sleek design that not only looked out of this world but wore like heaven. The Presto was a groundbreaker, it was yet another vision of the future straight out of the Nike weird science lab.
The Nike Air Presto originally hit retailers globally in the year 2000, right around the same time as the big buzz of the Sydney Olympic Games here in Australia. It wasn’t like, “Here is our newest running shoe in two optional his and hers colourways.” It was more like SLAP! “Here are 13 outrageous options of the zaniest thing we could come up with, oh yeah, and they don’t come in traditional sizing either because they’re t-shirts for your feet — don’t you know?” I’m a sucker for a fashion challenge, so when I first saw the lightning-laden ’Trouble At Home’ edition in the window of Sydney’s George Street Foot Locker I jumped straight into a pair, because YOLO. I don’t think I was even halfway home before I had realised that this was no fling, I was in serious love. It was like meeting my sole mate, the comfort was overwhelming, but the looks… I bite my fist just remembering. I simply couldn’t stop staring at them. The original fleet of Prestos ended up everywhere — on all kinds of feet. It wasn’t really part of any subculture’s uniform or anything, nor were they really that hyped, but they were out there putting smiles on people’s dials.
Following the original 13 colourways, a gang of SMU iterations (special make up – limited run releases purpose-built for specific people and events) started popping up. The Australian Olympic team wore a fresh green commemorative release with Southern Crosses embroidered into the toes at their home Games, ‘family and friends’ promo editions such as the ‘Hello Kitty’ collaboration and the infamous Sole Collector x NikeTown Honolulu Event Hyperstrike release where copped by a fortunate few. Even the man Eric Clapton scored his very own 1-of-1 ‘World Tour’ edition Presto. But it wasn’t a completely ‘hard to come by’ situation, Nike kept feeding the shelves for a good amount of time with region-specific releases and also offered a make your own option in the early days of their NIKEiD initiative. New models like the Nike Free Run (also designed by Tobie) took the pole position in the lightweight running arena and as the machine continued to churn, the Presto – like many other models that had come before – softly disappeared off into obscurity.
It wasn’t really that much of an issue for Presto-heads because there were still an abundance of deadstock pairs up for grabs up on eBay for reasonable if not bargain prices. It was all good, until… once the model past its tenth birthday its expiry date started to show. First the hardwearing BRS 1000 carbon composite rubber on the heels started to peel off on dance floors the world-over, never to be seen again. Next the plastic toe caps started to lose their grip and become completely unstuck, and finally the TPU side cages cracked under the pressure of oxidisation and all but turn to dust. It was time to do like Justin Timberlake had advised to Britney after their heated bust up and ‘Cry Me a River’.
Soon the calls started coming thick and fast, powered by Facebook pages and Instagram posts dedicated to the beloved model. “Got any Prestos?”, “Does anyone know how to fix Prestos?”, ‘Why doesn’t Nike bring back the Presto?”, “I neeeeed me some Prestos!”
From 2010-2013 a string of colourways – including the now-illusive ‘Triple Black’ edition – graced the shelves of European and Australian Foot Lockers, but without any hype momentum they didn’t seem to blow up. In the meantime the onslaught of online pleas for Prestos continued to snowball until finally, early this year murmurs of OG retros on the horizon began to leak. Praise the lord!
Now ten months into 2015 a slew of Prestos have already hit the street. Near-faithful retros of a couple of the originals including the infamous ‘Trouble at Home’ Lightning edition (yes, I did purchase a pair… two pairs actually) have been resurrected, along with some new editions including the Tech Pack and BR (Breeze) collections. Presto faithfuls have something to smile about, but true to their treat-‘em-mean-keep-‘em-keen marketing game Nike haven’t extinguished the burning fire of desire. They’ve actually done the complete opposite — adding fuel by delivering extremely limited numbers of each release. The result? Wildfire-type hype. Enough hype to burn your face clean off. “Did you manage to cop the Lightnings”, “Nah, there were 20 people at the store when I arrived at 6am and they only had 16 pairs”. “Prestos. Do you have any Prestos?”, “Where can I get Prestos?”, “When is the next Presto release?”. However, the good people of the wetsuit-shoe-loving world need not fear. The silhouette has recently returned to NIKEiD, and as the 2016 Rio Olympic Games drawn nearer my hit prediction is that it’s only a matter of time before the whole damn wall comes crashing down and unleashes an almighty flood of Nike Air Prestos for us all.