Simple, yet striking. Such is the aesthetic appeal of Nike’s original Tailwind running shoe. A one-piece mesh upper, complemented by suede reinforcements and a rudimentary foam tongue, punctuated only by a single oversized Swoosh to each side.
But the Tailwind’s apparent simplicity is only skin deep. Concealed within its modest, white midsole is the first example of the springy sole technology that propelled this once-small, Oregonian sportswear label to greatness: Air.
Today, Nike Air is a household name. It has squeaked across NBA courts, sprinted heroically over Olympic finishing lines, carved up X Games halfpipes and peppered the fashion week front row for decades. All of these remarkable achievements began with the Tailwind, an unassuming icon of epic proportions.
But how was one of the sneaker world’s all-time classics born, and why is the Nike Tailwind is deserving of a place in every self-respecting man’s footwear rotation?
The Nike Tailwind Story
The shoe we now know as the Tailwind ‘79 was originally introduced during Hawaii’s marathon season in 1978. Back then it was known simply as the Tailwind and came in a sleek grey and blue colour scheme.
It was big news in the world of performance footwear, as not only was the Tailwind a looker, it also featured Nike’s hotly-anticipated Air technology.
Back in the 1970s, a NASA aerospace engineer by the name of Frank Rudy was working on trapping dense gasses in rubber membranes. It occurred to him that these air bags could be useful as a cushioning system in footwear, reducing each footstep’s impact on the rest of the body.
Rudy pitched his idea to a number of high-profile sports brands, all of which rejected it, until he walked through the doors of Nike in 1977.
It’s a common misconception that the first shoe to feature Rudy’s groundbreaking innovation was the Air Max 1. In actual fact, the Air Max 1 was simply the first sneaker with a visible Air unit. The true OG status goes to the Tailwind.
This stylish retro runner and its new technology revolutionised the sneaker game. The line remained active, with various Tailwind models being churned out over the years, but the original silhouette was largely forgotten about.
That changed in 2018, when thanks to a lot of archive digging and careful design, a 1-1 remake of that first shoe hit shops, rebranded as the Tailwind ‘79. It was a runaway success, and was shortly followed by a vibrant selection of new colourways. The Tailwind’s heroic status was restored.
What Makes The Nike Tailwind Great
The reason we and the rest of the world love the Tailwind so much is that it’s a fantastic paradox of a sneaker. It’s basic, yet impactful. Restrained, yet bold. Simple, yet advanced.
This is a shoe that offers so much while demanding so little in terms of attention and fanfare. It’s a subtle Swiss Army knife of a shoe..
It’s also a joy to style. The Tailwind’s retro look and simple design make it highly versatile and capable of working with everything on the casual dress side of your wardrobe.
An understated kick that packs a serious punch, and all for less than £100.
How To Wear The Nike Tailwind
The real answer here is: however you like. Still, if you’re in need of outfit inspiration, allow us to impart some wisdom.
The first thing to bear in mind is that the Tailwind comes in many colours, some of which are pretty raucous. If you’re going bright, make sure to balance it out by teaming with subtle staple pieces in a subdued palette.
To play it safe, opt for a neutral-coloured model. Think black or white. This opens your wardrobe options up to an infinite degree, allowing you to insert statement pieces elsewhere in your outfit.
Being a retro runner, the Tailwind works particularly well with shorts as a summer shoe. Try wearing it with chino shorts, a block-colour polo and your favourite sunglasses. Should the weather not be cooperating, switch to cuffed selvedge denim in a straight-leg fit, a plain crew-neck sweat and some light outerwear. A coach jacket or overshirts would do the trick.