Over the past two decades, Nike’s Air Max Plus sneaker has become as fashionable as it is notorious – especially in Australia.
After making its debut on our Shores in 1998, the shoe – widely known as the TN – was soon adopted by problematic youth cultures and became the footwear of choice for “eshays”, groups of young men known for antisocial behavior.
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But although the TN has been the object of brazen daylight muggings and even been banned from certain bars, that stigma lessened as the TN was adopted by footwear fans from all walks of life.
Which is not to say the Air Max Plus is now Universally loved. The over-the-top design and remaining stigma has ensured it is still footwear that prompts passionate debate.
Despite this, the Air max plus has Cemented itself as one of the Favorites for so many Australians and people across the globe.
So where did it come from?
Then-Rookie Nike designer Sean McDowell created the first sketches of the TN in 1997, turning to the Florida landscape in which he holidayed for inspiration.
The shoe’s signature soft gradient made it very different from any other Nike sneaker at the time and McDowell says he was inspired by the sight of palm trees swaying in the Florida sky.
“I hung out on the beaches of Florida and just thought and sketched – it was one of my most creative times,” McDowell says.
“One evening, it was turning to dusk, so the very blue sky was starting to fade to dark blue, and the palm trees were blowing in the wind.
“I sketched that out, and I thought, ‘It could make a quarter panel, like you could hold your foot down with those palm trees.'”
The original colorway conveys this theme of the sky, depicting dusk with the TPU black lines representing the palm trees.
The Air Max Plus was also the first Nike sneaker to use Tune Air technology – a big step forward in the company’s air cushioning technology.
But the shoe’s biggest impact came when it hit the market in Australia and found its way to the feet of a wide range of people from all sections of society.
Soon after its arrival, the bright, bold and distinct Aesthetic of TN made it the sneaker of choice for Myriad underground and youth cultures from graffiti artists to hardstyle Ravers.
However, the shoe has also been favored by Troublemakers of various kinds and has been strongly linked to the “eshay lad” culture.
Eshay is a term commonly referring to hyper-masculine youths who generally Hang out in groups and are inclined to crime or violence, often identifying themselves through postcodes.
And the value which thugs place on the shoe sparked brazen thefts and led to bans on the footwear in some Venues.
In 2017, the 12-year-old allegedly stabbed the 10-year-old at an inner Sydney apartment block in a bid to take his TNs.
And in April 2018, a 13-year-old was allegedly attacked and bitten in a busy Northwest Sydney shopping center food court in an attempt to steal his Nike TNs. Ironically, the shoes were fakes they had bought in Thailand a few weeks earlier.
These incidents came a few years after the shoe was banned by the Bank Hotel, a busy pub on Newtown’s King St, in Sydney’s inner-west nightlife district.
Of the 2015, the venue said: “These types of footwear are more often than not worn by less-than-desirable patrons. By that I mean they are Gang members in the worst case scenario, or just young men you think are Gang members. ”
To this day, The Argyle Rocks specifically names the TN in its FAQ as unacceptable footwear, writing: “Please note that shoes like the Nike Air Max and Nike TNs are not permitted on weekends.”
Despite the undeniable controversy, it’s not just the Troublemakers who value the TN.
Like any cult classic, there are die-hard Collectors of the finest and rarest pairs of TNs to ever be released.
There are Instagram pages and Facebook groups that have dedicated communities for buying, selling or discussing TNs.
Tim Ingram, who runs TN Talk Australia, experienced this stigma in the past but says today the audience for the Air Max Plus is growing exponentially.
“You’d wear a pair of shoes and go to a party or go to school, people would say‘ Oh there an eshay, he’s going to steal your stuff ’… I’ve never stolen anything in my life,” Ingram says.
“It’s just crazy to see how big the TN scene is actually blowing up. We’re getting recognition now. We don’t have such a bad rep. ”
While there have been many iterations of the Air Max plus, now Collectors stick to Pursuing the original 1998 design.
With the sneaker still being offered on the shelves of Footlocker over two decades since its release, the Legacy of the Air Max plus TNs is a story that is still being written to this day.