As fashion staples, basketball and running shoes are not confined to the games they are built for. Translating football is a little tougher.
The athletic shoe penetrated other markets through a consumer decision to take footwear beyond its intended place, assisted by some smart marketing. For many, it was a new use for designs aimed at the track, the road, and the court. The football pitch has always been a more difficult translation. After all a football boot is not necessarily ready for pavement wear unless you really want to make a bizarre first impression.
Training shoes like the boldly colored Nike Firenza series had a little moment with New York’s footwear connoisseurs in the late 1980s, and the T90 series for strikers spawned a line of apparel and training shoes that shifted units in Britain during the early 2000s, yet that one-time mass appeal hasn’t generated the kind of nostalgia that a European favorite like the once-maligned (now beloved) Air Max TN line had. The crossover was elusive.
One could argue that the synthetic upper on a groundbreaker like 1998’s Mercurial boot — as seen on the feet and around the neck of Brazilian phenomenon Ronaldo in France that summer — helped birth the non-leather performance uppers with bombastic names like Hyperfuse and Flyknit. Beyond special editions of failsafe designs in football team palettes for events like the World Cup, specific Nike Football technologies seemed bound to the turf.
Over the last year, Nike has made significant shifts to bring football to lifestyle footwear without the contrivances of the past. Hybrid thinking has been man of the match, resulting in fan favorites like the Air Footscape Magista. Hyper-literal naming unites the title of the two design concepts spliced here — the Air Footscape and the Magista Obra.
20 years ago, Nike made an unorthodox move into natural motion experimentation with Footscape. Created using findings by the Nike Sport Research Laboratory and the Advanced Product Engineering Group, Footscape designs were a response to how the foot moves, flexes, and spreads throughout foot strike. The resulting last — the foot-like form that a shoe is built around — was used to build a training shoe and a sandal, but it was the running shoe that made the most impact.
The Air Footscape’s broad toe box and asymmetric lacing to reduce pressure on blood vessels and nerves made it a strange-looking shoe, yet a trend-led crowd found themselves paying markup prices when enterprising boutiques bought up sports store stock. In Japan, the Footscape was embraced immediately, and re-released time and time again with casual wearers in mind. Even Paul McCartney opted to wear a pair.
That the Footscape’s side-lacing paralleled the lacing system on a football boot like Nike’s 1997 GX — with the laceless space creating an unobstructed sweet spot for contact with the ball — was not entirely tenuous, because the alleviated pressure was still a consideration. For the 2006 World Cup, several special editions of a hybrid with 2000’s equally odd Air Woven were released in team makeups and, for 2010, a new Footscape Free Motion with greater flexibility, was released in time to get makeovers that coincided with the festivities in South Africa.
Then there was the Magista Obra boot. Launched in early 2014, the Dynamic Fit ankle collar and Flyknit upper upped the height and slimmed the shape of the football boot completely in a bid to create a second-skin style extension of the body. In the same eye-catching shade of volt that lit up the World Cup that year, the Magista Obra was the boot worn by Germany’s Mario Götze when he put in the winning goal of the tournament.
With both the Footscape and Magista concepts rooted in the foot’s true nature, they are a logical match. The Nike Free Mercurial Superfly HTM’s success last year — informed by the three-man think tank of influential Tokyo-based creative Hiroshi Fujiwara, legend designer Tinker Hatfield, and Nike Inc. CEO Mark Parker — ushered in a new kind of football reappropriation.
Flyknit and a sock-like fit, plus a spirit of the times that welcomes stealthy ninja-like looks, made room for the Air Footscape Magista for its January debut. Freed from the weight restrictions and the protection necessary for sports performance, an addition of Vachetta leather as a heel support and removal of the original Magista’s overlay for better ventilation adds to the heightened experience.
This zeitgeist channeling, ankle caressing union of sport and style gets celebratory to coincide with the UEFA Champions League final in Berlin, plus the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, this weekend. The Nikelab Air Footscape Magista Tournament Pack utilises familiar colours on that textured upper, with these special editions available exclusively at NikeLab locations and Nike.com/nikelab. After plenty of practise, this is a perfect cross.