Sneaker Book Club: Genealogy of Innovation
Welcome to the latest edition of Sneaker Book Club! Showcasing the greatest sneaker-related titles ever put to print, so far we’ve seen everything from promotional flipbooks, street culture retrospectives and the history of skate shoes! For this instalment however, it’s time to look at something from Sneaker Freaker’s own portfolio: Genealogy of Innovation.
During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a pop-up space called Phenomenal House appeared in Paris, London and Berlin. Inside these spaces housed Nike’s Genealogy of Innovation exhibition, a retrospective of over 200 Swoosh silhouettes that mapped out 40-plus years of development. Who else better then, to write the accompanying eponymous book, than the world’s greatest sneaker magazine?
If you think Nike’s Irreverence Justified is rare at 2000 copies, think again! That said; if anyone has that gold-covered slab considered to be the Nike bible, get in touch… Officially, only 10 copies of Genealogy of Innovation were publicly available as a giveaway, and never intended for retail release. At time of writing though, there is a copy on eBay for the princely sum of $10,100!
Unbeknownst to most, the first Nike shoe to bear the idiosyncratic Swoosh branding was actually – wait for it – The Nike, in 1971. It was a football (or ‘soccer’ depending on where you live) boot, a sport perhaps more synonymous with Europe than America. As the book progresses however, it becomes clear the Swoosh was right there in all of sport’s biggest moments. Moments including two Ronaldo goals scored in the 2002 World Cup final.
Genealogy of Innovation is divided into seven arcs: Genesis, Reformation, Golden Years, Enlightenment, Renaissance, Transformation, and Revolution. Each arc fluctuates wildly in timespan, but the innovations contained within each are as explosive as each other. Various football boots anchor the time periods, but it becomes clear how their related silhouettes in other fields inform the pinnacle boot design. To make things contextually clear, the book is packaged in neon and orange patterned sleeves, which resemble the Magista and Superfly boots’ knitted uppers.
If deeply researched and articulate sneaker copy by the late, great Gary Warnett (RIP) wasn’t enough, long-form interviews with Nike designers and fanatics confirm the sneaker stories. Hear from Tinker Hatfield and Martin Lotti amongst others on the design side, plus lifelong Swoosh heads Lindy Darrell and Gooey Wooey share their soles.
Here are just four out of over 200 models featured inside Genealogy of Innovation:
The Nike (1971)
This is what The Nike actually looks like. Representative of football boots from the era, the simple design almost looks like a running shoe upper made in cowhide, grafted to a studded sole. This boot was only available for a year, but it definitely laid the groundwork for Nike’s future football domination.
Air Zoom Flight (1995)
1995 was when Nike’s Zoom Air technology began rolling out. Designed for low-profile responsiveness, it would prove perfect for sneakers like the Zoom Flight. Built with a rigid carbon-fibre upper shell, behind the cored-out ‘bug eyes’ of the midsole housed the sneaker’s namesake cushioning tech. Zoom would be the leading cushioning system on the field too, finding itself in boots of the era like Christian Tresser’s 1997 Air GX.
Zoom Moire+ (2006)
In retrospect, did anyone actually use the Nike+ functionality that was rolled out with the Zoom Moire+? ‘The first shoe to talk to the iPod’ was able to because of a little oval-shaped sensor that could be fitted underneath the left shoe’s insole. This sensor acted as pedometer, fitness tracker, and prototypical data miner. The hype was somewhat short-lived because of a rather botched rollout plan by Nike and Apple, but in-the-know sneakerheads knew the Moire was special. Some airtime on Nike iD and even two very obscure TZ (Tier Zero) colourways have fans scrambling for the few remaining pairs on the Internet.
Roshe Run (2012)
The impact of the Roshe Run cannot be underestimated, especially in the seven years since its debut. Deconstructing the mesh upper before deconstruction was a ubiquitous ‘design’ cue, the Solarsoft cushioning and low price point caused a revolution among both sneakerheads and the general public. In 2014, Gary Warnett was already singing its praises, an unassuming minimalist silhouette that actually embodied plenty of Nike DNA. He said it best: ‘Reductionism put shoe design into its most meditative state yet and created an instant classic.’
As always, if you have an interesting sneaker-related book that you think deserves some read time, earmark it in our DMs…