Why, back in my day, we had Nike Alpha Project. This was the Swoosh’s short-lived sub-label from the late-1990s and early-2000s. In a nutshell, its brief was to make highly innovative, highly technical shoes for athletes at the top of their game.
The goal of the Alpha Project wasn’t so much aesthetics (by gum, some were truly hideous), but to make the most exciting, most forward-thinking shoes around.
So, gather ‘round the figurative fireplace, young whippersnappers, while I tell you about the Alpha Project shoes you’ve probably never heard of, because you’re too young and stuff. After all, you’re probably too young to remember the first coming of Nike SB and how it formed the template for hypebeast culture as we know it today.
Oddly enough, there are a few Alpha Project shoes you probably have heard about. The Air Presto (in its original iteration with the 3XS-3XL ‘T-shirt’ sizing) was born from the Alpha Project, so was the Kukini, which will soon receive a mashup collab with Stussy, the Air Flightposite and how Nike tried to make Shox happen. Again. And how Alpha Project shoes saw fit to put shrouds on everything.
And if those mad, mad silhouettes (look up the Air Fantaposite Max, Flightposite 2 and Air Zoom GP, if you don’t believe me) weren't enough of a clue, there’s also the presence of five dots, the logo of the Alpha Project, found most famously on the heel unit of the Presto. There you go, you’ve learned something new already.
But I don’t want to talk to you about shoes you already know about. I want to tell you about sneakers only the cognoscenti know about, or at least the ones of a certain vintage will. Yours truly, naturally, is both of the above.
Today, I’m going to be talking about the more obscure members of the Alpha Project lineup. Specifically, the ones I think are deserving of a retro release.
First up, the Air Zoom Seismic. The Seismic went completely ham, taking the stretchy jacquard uppers of the Presto, the ‘lacing’ webs of the Kukini and visible full-length Zoom Air pockets. Like an Alpha Project runner’s greatest hits compilation.
Like the Kukini, the Seismic is one of those things that defies description. Part of you wants to stare at it all day long, marvelling at the technical construction, another part of you wants to gag and say you’re never letting it go on your feet ever.
However you feel about it, and as with pretty much anything in the Alpha Project range, the Seismic looks current even today, some two decades after it was released.
Speaking of modern-looking, what about the Air Zoom Citizen? I mean, just look at it. it’s got technical dad shoe written all over it. It’s minimal, but there’s just enough tech in there with the glossy midfoot bits on the upper and visible Zoom Air pockets to keep things interesting.
Collectors everywhere have been screaming for Nike to give this the retro release it deserves, and if there’s anything from the Alpha Project that should be revived, it should be the Citizen.
Finally, saving the best for last is the Air Zoom Haven. I’ve got a personal connection to these shoes, being one of the first ones that got me into the game in the first place. Originally conceived as a cross-trainer, the exposed arch shank, neoprene semi-bootie and high-sided textured outsole was pure genius.
Ditto the plastic lace cage with attached wraparound straps that pulled the whole shoe around your foot (heel included) when you tightened the laces. Its beautiful, low-to-the-ground profile, unfortunately, was lost with last year’s Air Max 97 Haven drop, which turned the sleek, cyberpunk cross-trainer into a sort of dad shoe Quasimodo.
So, Nike, do this cantankerous, doddering old hypebeast a favour and do the right thing.
Bring them back.