In 2011, Nike set the hearts of every Marty Fly fan in the country racing when they released the limited-edition Nike Mag, an almost exact replica of the sneakers worn by the teenage hero of Back to the Future II. Anyone who was anyone wanted a pair, but with production limited to only 1500 pairs, only the quickest off the mark (or those with the very best connections) managed to bag a pair. On October 4, 2016, Nike set pulses aflutter once again when they announced the release of the 2016 Nike Mag – a revamp of the 2011 version that came with the added bonus of powered shoelaces. This time around, Nike were even more stingy with their production, allowing only 89 fans the chance to snag the coolest footwear in town making these sneakers one of the most expensive pairs of shoes to ever be sold.
The story of the Nike Air Mag Back to the Future 2016 started all the way back in 1989. Back to the Future II had just been released, thrilling fans with its continuation of Marty Fly’s (aka Michael J. Fox’s) adventures in space and time. The sequel to 1985’s Back to the Future proved just as successful as the first… with viewers, at least. Critics were slightly less effusive with their praise, with many calling out the formulaic plot-lines and rampant misogyny. Regardless of whether you sided with the critics or the paying public, you were sure to be impressed with at least one feature, if nothing else…the all- singing, all- dancing space age sneakers hugging Michael J. Fox’s tootsies. The brainchild behind the futuristic footwear was Tinker Hatfield, an innovative designer who’d been putting his talents to good use at Nike since 1981.
The 2011 Edition
15 years after the film’s release, Hatfield stumbled upon an online petition calling for the shoes (which, lest you forget, featured light-up panels and self-fastening laces) to be released for purchase. Sensing he could be onto something big, Hatfield engaged the support of footwear innovator Tiffany Beers, and together, they set to work on creating as close a replica to the original as possible. The shoe took 6 years and three restarts to make, but eventually, it was ready. Featuring an electroluminescent out-sole, space age materials, and a rechargeable internal battery with enough power to kick it for 3000 hours, the sneakers were, to all intents and purposes, a perfect copy of those worn by our BTTF hero …. except, that was, for the absence of self-tying laces, which sadly, proved too much of a challenge to replicate. The shoes, which Hatfield admitted were intended more for display than actual wear, were released in a limited edition 1500 pair run. Rather than retailing the footwear via the conventional route, Nike decided to auction the sneakers on eBay instead. It proved a wise move, with each pair retailing for between $2,300 and $9,959 and raising a grand total of $4.7 million towards The Michael J Fox Foundation. A further 10 pairs were sold at live events across the globe; at the auction held at Montalban Theatre in Hollywood, British rapper Tinie Tempeh was the envy of BTTF nerds the world over when he walked away with a pair after handing over a jaw-dropping $37,500.
The 2016 Re-Release
Fans who didn’t manage to get their hands on a pair of the coveted sneakers in 2011 got a second chance at victory in 2016. On October 21, 2015 (which, coincidentally enough, was the same date Marty McFly traveled into the future in Back to the Future II) Nike announced they would be re-releasing a jazzed-up version of the Nike Mag… and this time, it would be 100% accurate, right down to the self-lacing shoelaces. The new version (which, unlike the 2011 edition, was fitted with Adaptive F, a responsive system which senses the wearer’s comfort and tightens or loosens accordingly) was due to be released on March 20, 2016. After some delays in production, 89 limited edition pairs were eventually released on October 4, 2016. Appropriately enough, the very first recipient of the new edition was Michael J. Fox, whose foundation Nike was once again supporting with the proceeds of the auctioned footwear.
As reported by Nike.com, within just 10 days of the shoe being released, nearly $10 million had been raised for the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s research into Parkinson’s disease. “Though it initially shared only a few seconds of screen time with Michael, the idea behind the Nike Mag unlocked something much bigger at Nike,” Mark Parker, Chairman, President and CEO, NIKE, Inc said at the time. “It sent us down an uncharted path of innovation, but it also opened our eyes to our ability to fight some of the world’s biggest challenges. We feel privileged for the opportunity to raise even more awareness for the fight against Parkinson’s.”
The Luck of the Draw
The majority of the 89 pairs of Nike Air Mag 2016 were made available for sale in the US and Canada via a digital draw process (which placed no limit on the number of entry’s allowed per person). Each $10 entry went into a draw that took place between October 4, 2016 and October 11, 2016, with lucky entrants notified of their win on October 17, 2016. 3 pairs were also put up for public auction at the Michael J. Fox Foundation's benefit gala, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson’s” in London, Hong Kong and New York.
The Legend Lives On… For Those Who Can Afford It
You might think pop culture aficionados would be more inclined to cut of their right arm than part with their pair of Nike Mag 2016, but never underestimate the power of cold, hard cash. Although sightings might be rare, eagle- eyed sneaker-heads may occasionally see a pair of the coveted footwear pop up for sale (although don’t get your hopes too high- when I say rare, I mean rare in the sense you have the same chance of seeing a pair on eBay as you do of seeing a snow leopard in the Sahara). While you can be sure their retail value will do nothing but increase over time, the initial investment might be enough to deter all but the most committed (and richest) BTTF fan … if you’re intent on hunting a pair down, don’t expect to see much change from $26,000.
Written by Garrett Parker
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