📷 via @doc_downes
There is a good reason why Fortune magazine named Tinker Hatfield one of the 100 Most Influential designers of the century in 1998. Tinker’s beginnings were both humble and grand at the same time, and his work on the Air Jordan line is well-known outside shoe aficionado circles and continues to this day.
“Tinker” sounds like a name given to someone who would be an inventor, but Tinker’s father actually named him after himself. Tinker Sr. was a figure in Oregon coaching who won three straight state Class AA titles at Central Linn High School. Tinker Jr. was a sports prodigy that excelled in many sports and was all-state at basketball, football, as well as All-American in track and field.
After high school, Tinker attended the University of Oregon School of Architecture, and then joined Nike in 1981. In addition to being great at sports, he was also quite bright off the field as well, applying his skills as an architect into footwear.
Tinker was instrumental in designing the first cross-training shoe with the Air Trainer, and collaborated with Michael Jordan for the Air Jordan line. He served as the lead designer for Air Jordans III XV, XX, XX3, and he co-designed the Air Jordans 2010 as well as the XXX (the 30th anniversary of the iconic shoe).
Tinker has several projects that he works on with Nike, such as the Kubo X Air Jordan 15. This shoe was a collaboration with LAIKA stop motion studios Travis Knight, son of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, and made to commemorate the recent release of Kubo and the Two Strings film. It features a reworked bulky style with a zipper and blue and red color palette.
LAIKA is based in Oregon, and it is clear that the northwest state always holds a special place in Tinker’s heart. Tinker has reportedly remained active with his alumni University of Oregon, and designed a special type of Air Jordans with the Oregon school logo. They are the most sought after exclusive pair of Air Jordans ever.
Tinker continues to work with Nike to this day, serving as the Vice President of Design and Special Projects at Nike. He is considered one of the greatest designers of sneakers that the world has ever known, and there are rumors that he might retire soon.
Sneaker culture is a multi-billion dollar industry, and its connection to popular culture and its biggest stars play a large part in the overall fandom of sneaker enthusiasts.
Athletes and by extension popular culture first became a focal point in the production of sneakers in 1934 when The Converse Rubber Shoe company created the first ever shoe endorsement by naming their All Star’s after athlete Chuck Taylor.
Controversy backfired in 1985 when the commissioner of the NBA, David Stern, banned Michael Jordan from playing basketball wearing his signature sneakers. In a now iconic act of rebellion, Jordan wore them anyway. This act of defiance ultimately created a high demand for the outlawed footwear and catapulted the sale of Jordan’s sneakers.
Around the same time Hip hop was also an influential part of the sneaker culture. Run DMC emerged as the first musicians to break into the sneaker game when they produced the hit song “My Adidas” which ultimately led to a contract with the brand. Now Hip Hop artists sign deals with major shoe manufacturers like Adidas, Nike, Reebok and Puma to promote their shoes. Today Kanye West has teamed up with companies such as Nike and Adidas to produce his signature “Yeezy’s”, Singer Rihanna followed suit this year debuting her very own collection of footwear through Puma called “Fenty’s”, and in a clear next step in the progression of sneaker heads into popular culture, movie stars have signed deals such as comedian Kevin Hart who was the first to enter the sneaker industry with his production of “Hustle Harts ” with the help of Nike.
Sneaker culture has seen vast changes in the last twenty years as new athletes, musicians, and stars have produced their own footwear. Today millennials support their favorite celebrity by collecting their latest sneaker.