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The History of the Nike Air Presto

While the fashion world continues to blur the lines between a functional running shoe and a street style accessory, the Nike Air Presto has now seemingly crossed over into sneaker culture and this global obsession with incorporating sneakers into street fashion. Now, on the 19th birthday of the famous silhouette, it seems a really fitting moment to report on the rise of this shoe as a status symbol.

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The Winner Is… Presto

The first version of the Nike Air Presto was born at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 – the timing couldn't have been more perfect. As the sporting world was dominated by the performances of long-distance runners and sprinters, Nike chose the opportune moment to drop a sneaker that featured the latest technology. For the creative ensemble at Nike, comfort was king, so there was a good chance it would be a success. 

Upon launch, the Nike Air Presto was marketed as a "t-shirt for your feet" to emphasise the sneaker's killer comfort and versatility. Instead of traditional numerical sizing, the Nike Air Presto was sold in sizes S, M, L, and XL, which simplified the manufacturing process. Nike's fascination with creating a running shoe that simulates the feeling of running barefoot was born through the development of the Nike Air Presto. It's amazing to think that without the Nike Air Presto, the Nike Free Runner might never have existed, isn't it?

With Heavy Advertising to Success

What does a current Nike advertisement look like? One with an army of athletes, rhythmic symmetry in the choreo, and matching beats, that is. In 2000, it all looked a bit different, though. Everything was a lot simpler then. For Nike, that was exactly the reason why something heavy had to be done. They skillfully played off the boring commercials of the competition by simply rushing out loud advertisements. 

The Nike Air Presto originally came in 13 different colourways. Each version of the Air Presto had its own commercial on TV. There were some really funny things to see that definitely shocked the advertising world. Each Air Presto had its own name, which was mentioned in the TV spot, including the version number. 

The curious spots played a big role in pushing the Presto into the mainstream and became one of the most popular running shoes of its generation. Nice Job, Nike! 

This Is What Nike Air Presto Commercials Looked Like Back Then:

Nike Air Presto Commercials

How the Nike Air Presto Got Its Name

To find a name that matched the sneaker's qualities, Nike's creative team decided to accept suggestions from the design and development community. Over 300 submissions were received, one of which named it "Presto Magic". The name was chosen because the sneaker magically moulded to the foot.

What Versions of the Nike Air Presto Were There?

As for the sneakers, there were 13 nicknames for each colour: Catfight Shiner, Trouble at Home, Brutal Honey, Rogue Kielbasas, Unholy Cumulus, Rabid Panda, Abdominal Snowman, Shady Milkman, Orange Monk, Migraine Fly, Jack Mackerel, Presto Bill, and a final thirteenth version that remained unnamed.

Technology, Design and Development 

The original Presto line from 2000 was easily recognisable by its neoprene mesh upper, lightweight midsole, and cushioned outsole. The design itself has remained unchanged over the years. The five dots on the outsole were another trademark of the Nike Air Presto. 

Over the years, numerous special editions have been released, while the shape has been retained. Thanks to the sneaker's age, new designs over the years range from denim, safari, and Oreo themes to a highly exclusive collaboration with musician Eric Clapton. The sole, which featured digitally printed graphics (one of the first shoes), offered plenty of scope for stark designs.

The Presto Gets Its Wings

There was a time when Nike really focused on improving their iconic silhouettes with the Flyknit treatment. This technology was a perfect fit for the sneaker, and so, the Nike Air Presto Ultra Flyknit was born. 

The addition of Flyknit to the signature upper gave the Nike Air Presto an even more futuristic silhouette. The introduction of this new material provided better ventilation for the wearer and made the shoe more comfortable for the runner, building on the original principles of the Nike Air Presto in 2000. By transforming it into a mid-top sneaker, the sneaker has found new life on the street as the athletic trend continues to make big strides into the mainstream.