Arrival in Italy.
The Air Max 97 Silver was immediately adopted by the underground scene-primarily in three cities: Milan, Rome and Naples – before being discovered by the fashion industry and becoming mainstream.
There are several theories as to why the 97 received such wide acceptance here, as speculated by Lodovico Pignatti Morano, author of the book commissioned by Nike, “Le Silver. An Italian oral history of the Nike Air Max ’97,” their aesthetic expressed Italy’s late transformation into an industrial economy, compared to Northern Europe, and the desire for hyper-futuristic, made of technical materials such as Gore-Tex and synthetic fibers.
The Neapolitan clubbers of the 1990s are the ones who first catch trends and become spokesmen for “alternative” fashion: observing the looks of DJs from NY or London, they blindly copy their brands, styles, out of cultural simulation, belonging and deep esteem.
These club regulars – the more alternative, house music – related ones – love the futuristic silhouette of the 97s, reflecting the strobe light of the clubs, lighting up the step during the performance on the dance floor. Not only that, the Silver are a statement of style and social status: the shoe’s high price tag makes clear a certain economic affluence of the wearer, as well as a trend-setting fashion choice, strongly outisider than what has been sported so far.
“In Naples, however, it was clubbers from the city’s house music scene who started wearing them,” Morano says. “Neapolitan clubbers were more fashion conscious and interested in matching shoes to designers like Margiela or Helmut Lang.“ As explained in his book.
The Silvers totally influence aesthetics, not only in the realm of fashion: Neapolitan house promoters hold “Japanese Futurism” themed parties. Just to understand the scope of the phenomenon.
At some point in the late 1990s/early 2000s, everyone owns a “Silver”: children, teenagers, adults; in every city, suburb and small provincial town. And as it happens in such cases, whoever wore it first ends up hating it.
As early as 1998, the Silver began to transcend their subcultural origins; according to Morano, the two turning points from underground to mainstream shoe were when Giorgio Armani wore them to take a bow after his fashion show at Milan Fashion Week in February 1998 and a season later, in September, also in Milan, Dolce and Gabbana used them in their fashion show.
The Silver era of the Silver among the ranks of the Neapolitan Club counterculture and among the Milanese and Roman writers elegantly gives way to catwalks, Tisci remakes, and remakes of a thousand colors; what remains of the OG silhouette is one of the greatest aesthetic revolutions of recent decades, and the return to the shelves of the most beloved silhouette ever.
Nike has announced its return, in an OG but not 3M version, scheduled for 10/29/22.
It will be available in store and online.