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The person most surprised by Supreme’s decision to collaborate on Nike’s Zoom Streak Spectrum sneaker, a running shoe with flames up the front, is the person who originally designed it.
“That really blew me away [laughs],” says longtime sneaker design veteran Steven Smith on the first time he saw the collaboration leaked online during a conversation a few months ago. “I was like, ‘What? This sneaker is being done again by Supreme?’”
The shoe is set to make a comeback this Thursday, with two colorways being released at Supreme’s New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London locations, as well as online. It’s more shocking, however, that the shoe is coming back at all. This is the first time the shoe’s being retroed since its debut in 2003.
The history of the sneaker starts in Japan. Smith was working on a series of running shoes for the Hakone Ekiden, a week-long relay race in Japan, where he was developing lightweight, yet durable footwear.
“The whole series I did of Ekiden shoes I did at Nike, were made for Japan’s precision, performance runners. The Ekiden race is focused on the high school to college age male, and it’s a week-long relay,” he says. “That one was a pleasant surprise. We went and visited those kids at the dorms they stayed at with their coach. Then built the best shoe we could for them. Then Paula Radcliffe, this big, gonky bushrunner, goes and breaks the world record in them. It was meant for an 85-pound, 15-year-old Japanese boy.”
It’s a shock that Supreme is re-releasing the Spectrum and shows that Supreme isn’t afraid to add its design ethos to shoes that have no presence in the lifestyle realm, a far cry from its work on the Air Force 1, Dunk, and Air Jordan V. The initial design process of the sneaker also came from left field and Smith’s love for hotrods and motorcycles. “[It came about] through my Japanese marketing guy. He was awesome. We had a great creative relationship. He knew how much I loved cars and motorcycles and stuff,” he says. “We would go to Japan to all these car and motorcycle places, in addition to the running shops. He had this decal set that were hotrod flames. He would say, ‘Steven, you like hotrods, what do you think, we can put this type of graphic on the shoe?’”
Smith responded, “‘That would be cool in a tiny font.’ It gets back to your feet are on fire, so you’re flying.”
He goes on to say, “That was the origin of the graphics on that shoe. The Japanese are very conservative in general. And this was funny, because the shoe itself was conservative and performance-driven. But when we did it, we slapped a crazy graphic on it from a hotrod.”
It’s been 15 years since the Spectrum has first released, and it’s safe to say that it’s one shoe that no one had on their calendars, counting down the days until its birthday. Throw a Supreme logo on it, and all of that changes. The sneaker has defied common logic since its inception, so it’s not astonishing that, once again, a sneaker that’s literally flames has defied expectations.