Ascending the retro wave
Updated: Mar 22
Patta and Nike inspire instant classics: Air Max 1 ‘Monarch’ and ‘Noise Aqua’
By Christie Edward James
Photo Courtesy of @SoleSavy on Unsplash
The sun and the sea were simply teased to us this year, the summer slipped away. Autumn is here and the winds of change have become waves of inspiration. For the sneaker world, it’s another season to shine. Out of love and necessity will creativity rise.
The Dutch sneaker boutique Patta has a long history of collaborations with Nike—the last in 2019—from the modest /Air Force 1/ and super clean and sporty /Air Span II/, up to their signature /Jordan 7/.
Their design brilliance again shines on the /Air Max 1/; a silhouette sure to embody the retro look more than any other. But not for the first time.
In 2009 they cemented themselves within the Nike ecosystem with the /‘Purple Denim’/ and /‘Chlorophyll’/ (my personal favourites) making history with ease. Today, they sit at the top of the /Air Max 1/ game, kicking it alongside the wilder impressions of Hommyo Hidefumi’s atmos collabs and, of course, the original Nike looks. Will they do it again?
But the /Air Max 1/ has been struggling this year. Sneakerheads have hyped up the futuristic looking /Max Plus/ and /VaporMax/, the hi-tech yet retro-inclined /Air Max 95/ and the more traditional /Air Max 90/ instead. In bids to win over the New Balance old-school chunky crew and the avant-garde Yeezy crowd, with, say, the /FlyKnit/ or muted /90/ and /95/ colours, the /Air Max 1/ has suffered in 2021.
The retro look is certainly in style right now, with some of the more subdued colourways on Reeboks, Adidas and even Jordans being the most sought after. Not to mention the New Balance 550 Aimé Leon collab, which is old-school to the core and as popular as ever.
The first of the four new colourways is /‘Monarch’/, named after the Dutch royal colour, in platinum and burnt-orange. Releasing first on Patta’s website on October 8th for €160, they required users to enter a secret code to cop; the amazing design had bots gouging the site. The wider release came on October 15th, if you could get your hands on them.
Each colourway release is being partnered with a short film, overlayed with thoughtful and elegant spoken word poetry, in a series called /‘The Wave’/: directed by Mahaneela and produced by Steve McQueen. It follows brother and sister Abdul and Carista through their turbulent lives in London, including cameos from Little Simz, Skepta, Ozwald Boateng and Mo Farah.
The limited-edition black box features Patta and Nike co-branding, slapped in silver slogans ‘GET FAMILIAR’ and ‘Patta Got Love For All’. Inside a small chain with the two company’s logos and a flag of Suriname feature: from where the two Patta co-founders originate.
The body of the sneaker is white and platinum, with options for off-white or cream laces. The tongue, inner liner, insole and midsole are a retro sail colour. As with all /Air Max 1s/, the /Air Max/ cut-out is a staple feature, as is the half Nike Swoosh on the side.
By no means designed to be a running sneaker, the 1987 cushion technology admittedly hasn’t held up to the standards of today; the lifestyle element will be the biggest pull for this shoe. That being said, the material quality holds up throughout, with cream-coloured padding on the inside, clean nubuck and suede wrapped all over and a fine mesh base layer.
But that’s not why we’re here.
It’s the silhouette-defining mudguard that will turn all the heads.
The distinctive wave pattern wraps around the lateral side, the back, the toe box and is only broken on the medial side. It’s beautiful. Not a realistic wave, however, not a /Great Wave off Kanagawa/ look. It’s a simple yet unmathematical rolling design, like sharpie on paper, that gives it a classroom aesthetic. The steady waves pouring into the front keeps it looking 70s retro, much helped by the tan, sun-bleached cream on the sneaker. Any more pointed or taller and it would be a cheesy 80s or 90s flame design throwback. But they aced it. It’s a flawless, fresh and crisp reimagining. A mini Swoosh in silver is all that interrupts the mudguard.
With /’Monarch’/ comes chapter one of /‘The Wave’/, all about breaking from the norm and finding your own path. It discusses themes of inspiration and getting started. The main character Abdul learns to search outside of his normal setting, seeking relationships with the unlikely characters of London. McQueen, in /Dazed Digital/, made it especially important to give stage to the insecurities of life, and those amongst us who don’t feel validated where we are. No black stereotypes such as criminality, overt masculinity and sportiness, it instead reflects on the perspective of people simply trying to make their way in the environments they find themselves in, he added. It focuses on people without spaces trying to create them.
Although the sneaker works perfectly for autumn, it doesn’t forget the summer months. The orange is bold and the overall look is bright. I see it working throughout the year. Style with a flannel, even a flannel jacket for extra texture and some earth tone bottoms and you’re golden. The retro look is begging for soft knit textures, even corduroys or felts. Autumn doesn’t mean all your clothes need to be muted, however. This will work with some brighter complimentary colours for sure. I see this popping in the sun with sportier get-ups come springtime.
It’s with the blue /‘Noise Aqua’/ I would look into some sleek tracksuits, windbreakers or simple joggers and sweatshirts. The blue is saturated and can look much darker much quicker as the sun stays low in the sky. The beautiful, simplistic wave still features prominently as the standout feature of the shoe—this time in a wavier colour—and can easily be the centrepiece of any outfit. Other than the boxier toe box there’s not much difference between this and the previous design other than the colour.
Chapter two of /‘The Wave’/ released alongside the blue pair, this time with a look into Carista’s life; as a DJ/producer she learns that the hardest part of making a splash is the very beginning, in finding a voice from the get-go. As with chapter one the spoken poetry outlines the importance of relationships. Connections with others are pivotal for the world to make sense, and it’s through the limits imposed on you by others can you realise the power of art.
The film is in keeping with Patta’s philosophy. As a black-owned business they strive to empower the next generation. Gee Schmidt (in /Dazed Digital/), Patta co-founder, describes the wave as being a duality: it represents ‘big statements and self-reflection’. Mahaneela adds that the ‘highs and lows’ of life are encapsulated by the design. In fact, it’s the experiences of those ‘above us, below us, to the left and right’ that can help us understand life the most.
Both designs, I think, don’t fall into the autumn trend of being all beige, grey and earth-toned. It keeps the glimmer of the summertime but the cosy, vintage familiarity of the colder months. Like with summer-wear sneakers, it can easily be an attention piece. But if styled correctly it can match more subdued, warm autumn outfits. The style is bold but gentle. I think it’s genius, just gorgeous. It’s a must-have for all sneakerheads. /The Waves/ have etched themselves into the top Nike /Air Max 1/ designs of all time. And with more colourways coming soon, Patta’s sneaker designs will keep on giving!