Supreme has a knack for sifting through old Nike catalogs and reviving models that some fans never even knew existed.
That is what Nike’s Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus is at first glance — an old and long-forgotten running shoe that made its debut in 2003. But while Supreme has brought the Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus back to life in collaboration with Nike and rebranded it the Air Streak Spectrum Plus, the original model has an interesting history of its own.
The sneaker was designed by OG InstaPump Fury designer Steven Smith, who has worked with YEEZY, New Balance, Reebok, Nike, and adidas. Back in the early 2000s, Smith was the primary designer for Nike Japan’s running product and the Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus was designed specifically with Japanese runners in mind.
Discussing the sneaker’s design, Smith explains, “As with all the lower-profile Japan running product, the focus was specifically for Japanese runners. Most of the shoes appear to Western runners as racing flats, since Japanese runners require less motion control and structure. The overlays were very performance focused. Each was dictated by the foot and how it moves.”
The most eye-catching feature on both the original and the Supreme reissue is the flames that run up the toebox and sides of the shoes. This design cue, Smith says, was inspired by U.S. hot rod culture: “Inotani-san, who was my main marketing manager, would spend half the trip taking me to cool vintage shops because he knew I loved toys and cars.
“He thought American hot rod culture was fascinating and wanted to add some flavor of it to the racing shoes. We came across these flame and pinstripe decals in one shop and thought they would be a cool detail to integrate into the design.”
When Paula Radcliffe broke the world record at the London Marathon in 2003, she was wearing a Nike Ekiden Racer featuring that very same graphic. The assumption that flames equated to speed (like on a hot rod) clearly paid off: Radcliffe’s record still stands today.
A post shared by Steven Smith (@stevensmith) on Jun 10, 2018 at 10:15am PDT
The Nike Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus and now the Supreme x Nike Air Streak Spectrum Plus are products of their respective zeitgeists. “My marketing counterparts were really in tune with what was happening culturally at the time in sport and in life,” explains Smith. “The main marketing immersion was with Ekiden races around the country. I spent quite a bit of time at events and races in Japan.” Ekiden races are long-distance relays typically held on roads and very popular in Japan.
Supreme’s reissue, meanwhile, taps into the current craze for chunky and retro-inspired footwear. The trend has ballooned in such a manner that Nike even revamped its iconic Air Monarch silhouette in the form of the slightly altered M2K Tekno. With dad shoes the sneaker of choice for many these days, now is the perfect time to haul the Streak Spectrum Plus out of the vault.
The dad shoe trend is something Smith has first-hand experience of, being a proud dad himself. In an earlier interview with Highsnobiety, Smith shared his thoughts on the current trend: “I always liked the 9 series from New Balance but things like the Nike Monarch were never my cup of tea. We always called that look the lawn-mowing shoe. I think the gray is more versatile than a white-based leather shoe. Not my style, but if some people feel comfortable wearing them, then so be it.”
Not only did Smith’s work with Nike Japan on the Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus culminate in a sneaker that was popular enough to be brought back to life, it also led to the designer doing the artwork on the limited edition Hello Kitty Air Prestos. “The guys were fun to work with,” says Smith. “They would always take me to fun places. They knew how much I loved Hello Kitty and Astro Boy.”
Regarding the Supreme revival of his old silhouette, Smith hopes it does well. The designer says the Zoom Streak Spectrum Plus “represents a time in my career with Nike that was one of the best periods of my time there. To this day, I think of the rest of the team from Nike Japan as a second family, and we always like it when our family does well.”
Will you be copping the Supreme x Nike Air Streak Spectrum Plus? Will the sneaker find success as part of today’s retro and “ugly” sneaker craze? Let us know in the comments.
Next, check out what design critics think of the chunky sneaker trend here.
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