Nike Mag Shoes are Back From the Future
Thirty years ago, the producers of the movie ‘Back to the Future’ reached out to designer Tinker Hatfield of Nike, (the same man who created the legendary Air Jordan sneakers) to collaborate on the movie’s sequel that would feature scenes set in the futuristic world of 2015, and create a pair of shoes that would be featured in the movie.
This initiative breathed life into the original Nike Mag, which was worn by the ‘Back to the Future’ character Marty McFly, played by Michael J. Fox, in the year 2015. The shoe came alive, lit up and fitted Marty’s foot with self power-laces. After the movie’s release on Nov 22, 1989, fans became obsessed with the design of the shoes.
Five years later, in 1991 Michael J. Fox, then aged 29, noticed a twitching finger, and was shocked to learn he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which he publicly disclosed in 1998. Doctors told him he had 10 years of work left.
The popular actor subsequently decided to come to terms with his condition and live with it. He became an advocate for research toward finding a cure and he created the Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) for Parkinson’s research in 2000. In 2010, Sweden’s Karolinska Institute gave him a honoris causa doctorate for his work in advocating a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Nike has been a partner in progress for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and introduced the Nike Mag sneakers in 2011. This pair of shoes was designed to be a precise replica of the original from ‘Back to the Future II’ with the exception of the power laces. Tinker, the original designer, alongside Tiffany Beers created an exact match with the exception of the power laces, down to the contours of the upper, the glowing LED panel and the electroluminescent Nike logo in the strap. The Nike Mag lit up with the pinch of the “ear” of the high top, and glowed for five hours per charge.
Only 1500 pairs were initially released in September 2011 and were auctioned off on eBay with all net proceeds going directly to the MJFF. On November 11, 2011 the MJFF for Parkinson’s Research announced that Nike’s total funds generated by the 10-day eBay auction topped $4.7 million, which went straight to the Foundation’s aggressive research programs to help speed a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Not only did the release of the shoes generate a remarkable sum for Parkinson’s research, resulting in the largest charity auction in eBay history, it also brought the critical unmet medical need in Parkinson’s disease to the attention of new audiences, increasing the Foundation’s website traffic by 1300 % over the course of the 10-day auction, and the Foundation’s Facebook page added almost 10,000 new fans.
The Brin Wojcicki Challenge, which promised to match dollar for dollar raised at the auction, doubled the numbers bringing the total funds generated to $9.4 million. This was made possible by longtime Foundation friends Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the personal genetics company, 23andMe.
Those 2011 Nike Air Mag sneakers worked their way through the sneaker resale market for an average of over $6,000, according to resale analytic site, Campless. But, they did not have one key feature: self-lacing technology. Nearly two years to the day of the 2011 Nike Air Mag release, Hatfield and Nike were granted the patent for self-tying shoe technology.
After much speculation, on the 20th of October 2015, Nike sent Michael J. Fox a cryptic message on twitter saying “see you tomorrow”.
.@realmikefox see you tomorrow.
— Nike (@Nike) October 21, 2015
On the 21st of October, which is the iconic futuristic day that Marty Mcfly steps in from the past according to the movie ‘Back to the Future II’, Michael had received his very own power lace 2015 Nike Mag shoes and posted a demonstration of the pair on twitter. Michael also received a handwritten letter from Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield himself, which was posted on twitter shortly after he received the shoes, which read “Although the project started as science fiction, we’re now proud to turn that fiction into art”. The letter then went on to add, “In addition to your personal pair, we’re creating more pairs for support in aid of the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2016”.
The announcement on Nike’s website describes the lacing mechanisms as an “individually responsive system that senses the wearer’s motion to provide adaptive on-demand comfort and support. But this is just the first iteration”. Nike also states, “We started creating something for fiction and we turned it into fact, inventing a new technology that will benefit all athletes, by imagining the future we create it”.
The shoe has been described as a “product that comes alive, with on-demand comfort and support when you need, a product that senses you and adapts to you”, says Mark Parker, chief executive officer of Nike, Inc. Based on the language included in the announcement, the limited edition version could just be the first of a new kind of “smart shoe” that continuously re-adjusts the fit to optimise for comfort and performance.
Michael J. Fox who is at the fore front of the battle against Parkinson’s says, “The enthusiasm this project ignited, and the funds and awareness the shoes generated for Parkinson’s research, are both humbling and inspiring. Our Foundation is truly grateful to Nike for this unique partnership that brought ‘Back to the Future’ fans, sneaker heads and the PD community together in the quest to eradicate Parkinson’s from the space-time continuum.”
The 2015 limited edition Nike Mag will only be available via auction, with all proceeds going to the MJFF and details regarding the auction won’t be revealed until Spring 2016.
It has truly been an adventurous journey for Mark Parker and Tinker Hatfield, who first envisioned and created the sneakers as a prop for ‘Back To The Future II’ in 1989, to see it through to making the elusive self-lacing Nike Mag sneakers become a reality. With Lexus making hoverboards and everyone from Google to Ford designing cars that drive themselves, we may be headed back to the future sooner than we expected.