Better than catching air, street-cred Airwalk sneakers made thrashing up the scene sweeter than ever when kickers hit the board, and the board hit the streets. The skate shoes made for the rebellious set and named after a free-flying skateboard trick, Airwalks were the innovation of George Yohn and Bill Mann, two buds from California.
The duo formed the Airwalk company in 1986 in response to the high-tech, high-gloss performance sneakers taking over the market. Airwalks were the ‘anti-Nike’: they weren’t for jocks, they were for skaters, the anti-jocks. Airwalks were made for skateboarding, specifically designed with thick rubber soles and pliable tops for the ultimate in movement and precision work on boards.
The skate craze of the late 80’s saw Airwalks take great air, launching themselves onto the top of the market. The ‘Jim’ shoe captured the defiant spirit of the skating world, and parodied the other sports that were seen as inferior to the in-your-face skating realm. A fuzzy yellow felt tennis shoe, an orange leather hi-top basketball sneaker, and a dimpled toe golf shoe became instant hits not only in the skating world, but among other counter-culture individuals who didn’t have a place in the jockified world of traditional sports.
Airwalk almost lost its steam in the early 90’s when public outcries about the nuisance of skateboarding got the boards banned on public property. But the rebellious attitude of skateboarding was what Airwalks were built upon, and they didn’t go down without a fight. Skateboarding was relegated to skateparks, but other ‘extreme sports’ carried on the fight: in-line skating, BMX biking, and where there was snow, snowboarding. And with that, Airwalks triumphed once again, supporting an ever-increasing audience for extreme fashion.