Why, back in my day, we had the holy trinity of sneaker gods, HTM. It’s a three-letter acronym somewhat that newer and younger sneakerheads would no doubt be unfamiliar with, but in the first decade of the new millennium, this triumvirate absolutely ruled the roost.
It didn’t have to resort to loud branding, with the label usually found on the insoles or on the tongues, but the mere sight of HTM’s unique colours or silhouettes would be enough to have collectors foaming at the mouth.
HTM was the first letter of the three collaborators—Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design, former Nike boss Mark Parker and legendary designer Tinker Hatfield. The brief, much like Alpha Project, which I talked about before, was to create cutting-edge sneakers free from the bounds of tradition.
But unlike the Alpha Project, the goal wasn’t so much performance for professional athletes, but to push the envelope of sneakers in streetwear. And of course, build hype as a halo Nike sub-brand, something Fujiwara no doubt understood well, realised through the creative vision of Hatfield.
Oddly enough, making money directly through HTM products probably was never really on the cards, in spite of Parker’s presence in the triumvirate. HTM sneakers were released in tiny, tiny, numbers, and seeing them on foot was the early-2000s equivalent of seeing a pair of Yeezy 2s today.
Even HTM’s simplest ideas were flawlessly executed. HTM was part of the reason why the Air Force 1 was such a huge hit in the early-2000s, with the trio turning their eye to the iconic Nike silhouette. It used buttery premium leather with contrast stitching, and later on, croc leather to give a sort of luxury spin to the AF1. A fairly commonplace notion today, given the popularity of the Dior B23 and others, but completely mental in 2002.
But HTM’s star shone brightest when it was at its most experimental. Don’t forget that it was in 2012 that Flyknit tech debuted through HTM with the Flyknit Racer and Flyknit Trainer. The knitted, sock-like upper was not only supremely comfy, it was sturdy enough to allow for some degree of form, and yet, amorphous enough that radical silhouettes could be produced. Sheer genius.
Even before the Flyknits made their debut, there was a Sock Dart, a HTM-tinged remix of the classic Sock Racer.
Then there was the Macropus, a shoe that we’re unlikely to ever see from Nike ever again. Looking like a cross between a Clarks Wallabee and a Visvim FBT, the Macropus was a mid-cut chukka with sneaker soles and a Zoom Air insert.
Timeless lines, a Swoosh so hidden as to be invisible, with subtle technical details—along with the kicker, the laser-cut details on the heel counter—the Macropus remains one of my all-time favourite Nikes and one of its most underrated silhouettes.
However, I think HTM’s biggest triumph was in its mashups both, of materials and silhouettes, that paved the way for such modern classics as Sean Wotherspoon’s corduroy Air Max 1/97 and the Acronym Presto Mids.
It’s difficult to see the latter existing without the foundations laid by the Air Presto Roam in 2003. A Free-like grooved sole unit, reinforced toe guard and extended bootie turned the sleek runner into a chunky hiking boot. You may not agree with its execution, or drab brown colourway (a hit of green or red would really have helped), but even then, you’ll have to concede the thinking behind it was impeccable.
The same goes for the Air Moc Mid. To look at, the HTM collab merely changed a few details on the OG Air Moc, switching up the original’s waffle outsole for a lugged one, swapping out the heel drawcord for elastic sides and extending the silhouette upwards.
But look closely and compare the OG Air Moc to the HTM one and you realise that the seemingly insignificant changes amounted to a revolution. What was once an amorphous lump of a sneaker that could well be a bedroom slipper could now be worn as a semi-formal boot.
Now, if that isn’t inspired, I don’t know what is.