Everything You Need To Know About Tinker Hatfield
- by Chazz Demaria
- March 23, 2021
Tinker Hatfield is one of the world’s most legendary sneaker designers, and currently Nike’s Vice President for Design and Special Projects. Hatfield joined Nike in 1981 soon after graduating from University of Oregon School of Architecture. You might recognize him from the famous Air Jordan 3 through 15, Air Jordan XX, XXIII, XXV, and XXIX and other landmark Nike designs like the Air Max 1, Air Max 90, Air Trainer, and Air MAG. His inspirations always brought Nike’s Jordan and Air models to elevated heights, pushing the boundaries of technology and contemporary sneaker design. His relationship with Michael Jordan is one of the most intimate and unique between athlete and designer and changed how athletes interacted and influenced sneaker design on the whole. Without Hatfield and his game-changing designs, Nike would likely be a very different company today.
Hatfield’s first controversial design was when he put a clear air bubble as the sole of the Nike Air Max, an inspiration he derived from the architecture of the Centre Pompidou while visiting Paris. Since being trained as an architect he built this shoe with an inside-out approach and continued this design thinking method throughout his years at Nike. One year later Hatfield designed the first Jordans that have the Jumpman logo, what’s known now as the iconic elephant print. When he cooked up the Air Jordan 6’s his muse was the silhouette of Michael Jordan’s Germany sports car. Hatfield wanted to give the sneaker a sleek, aerodynamic look, making the sneaker sole and upper part less bulky than previous Air Jordan models. Hatfield wanted to convey the speed and high class of Jordan’s sportscar, but also make it lightweight. By using a neoprene sleeve and Nike Air, he achieved his vision, and by adding a heel tab, he gave the sneaker its own rear spoiler—just like on Jordan’s sportscar. His shoe designs not only look great but separate him from the competition by combining breakthrough technology and a winning narrative.
In recent days Tinker Hatfeild has stepped away from the pen and paper to become a mentor for young designers, teaching his unique way of telling stories through product design. He is still consulted by Nike before product launches and helps their design team to keep producing great user experiences. Today Nike celebrates their recently minted holiday Air Max Day, which celebrates when the Air Max 1 hit shelves, but because of Hatfield’s immense contributions to the sneaker most people call it “Tinker Day”.
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