In 1987, Nike released the Air Max 1, a shoe dreamt up by an unknown designer with a non-traditional background: Tinker Hatfield. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Hatfield’s designs—referencing everything from avant-garde architecture to fighter jets—revolutionized sneakers. Now Nike has another young designer with a varied résumé who’s looking to leave a similarly outsized footprint. With over half a dozen sneakers under his belt (including hits like the Air Yeezy 2, Mayfly Woven, and the Air Footscape Magista), Nathan VanHook is quietly building his own legacy at Beaverton. 

Born and raised just outside of Washington, D.C., VanHook, now 34, worked as a middle school teacher in inner-city Philadelphia and as a wetsuit designer before joining the Swoosh in 2008. (He’s also an accomplished painter.) His time at Nike has included stints in the cross-training and sportswear departments, with his most famous silhouettes reflecting his wide-ranging interests, as seen in the goth-inspired raised geometric diamonds on the Free Orbit 2 SP and the rustic retro-futurism of the Solarsoft Moccasin. He’s now the design director for Nike’s burgeoning soccer department. With three of Nike’s elite designers having abruptly defected to rival adidas late last year, VanHook’s role at the company is more important than ever as he sets himself up to carry Tinker’s torch. But where will that road lead? How will he get there? Let Nate tell you.

This feature originally appears in Complex's October/November issue.

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