Image: Inside the DNA of Nike. A chronicle of the brand's famed runners.

Image: Inside the DNA of Nike. A chronicle of the brand's famed runners.

Having the opportunity to view history is a kind of magic. That's why we love museums. Viewing centuries old Mayan artifacts, pantings by masters of the canvas, or relics from the tombs of great Kings and Queens holds a mystique that is a testament to the ingenuity of creation and the creative. While most of us can grab our tickets to an exhibit with ease, very rarely are we invited into the official archives of a brand that has become engrained in our everyday culture. Nike, the Beaverton, Oregon based brain child of co-founders Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, has a legacy that has endured five decades and they've kept the archives stocked to chronicle it all.

While in Oregon at Nike Headquarters, we had the opportunity to peer into their super-secret treasure trove, The Department of Nike Archives (D.N.A for short), which is the home for a wide variety of Swoosh memorabilia. The building itself isn't open to the public and is a pretty inconspicuous blip on the Nike grounds, but guess that's all part of the secret allure.

Image: Graphic Designer Carolyn Davidson's original Nike 'Swoosh' logo and lettering designed in 1971 for $35 USD.

The good stuff came inside the building and started right upon walking in as we were greeted by a glass case containing the original designs for both the 'Nike' wording and the iconic Swoosh desgined by Carolyn Davidson in 1971. Talk about history!

"This was the first Air Max shoe from 1987.  It was a very difficult technical feat to take this airbag and make it visible, make it really like walking on air. This changed everything for Nike...it [morphed] Nike from a shoe company to a brand." - DNA Senior Director, Rick Shannon

Our next steps were both overwhelming and incredibly inspiring as we entered a room filled to the brim with Nike's abbreviated history as told through sneakers. Think of it like this: rows and rows of sneakers, starting with the first ever Blue Ribbon peddled Onitsuka Tiger, Bill Bowerman's prized Cortez, and even a replica of the waffle maker that spawned the waffle sole that changed the game. According to DNA Senior Director Rick Shannon, Bowerman's wife threw out the original after he glued it shut.

"In the 90's we had Michael Jordan and Charles Barkely. It was time to have a female player get a signature basketball shoe.  Sheryl Swoopes was the first to get her own shoe - the Air Swoopes.  She was amazing." - Nike Training Design Director, Nate VanHook

An entire section was dedicated to the evolution of the shoe that saved Nike's oten floated books, the Air Max, which boasted then-revolutionary technology that continues it's annual evolution 20 years later. Another wall, dedicated to pieces from legendary collaborations - including Nike's first olympic showing and the shoe that had little girls everywhere clamboring after the Atlanta games, the Nike Air Swoopes.

One of the greatest aspects of this experience was the opportunity to truly see just how much Nike has pioneered it's own evolution, continuously one-upping themselves and challenging norms, even now. It was refreshing to see the Air Max 1 in all of it's glory side-by-side with Nike's pillowy VaporMax which looks like a literal attempt to walk on air. It all culminated in a conversation with Nike Senior Innovator Tiffany Beers who spoke candidly regarding the HyperAdapt and Nike's finally making good on their promise to provide a shoe that laces itself. This is Nike's lifeblood, the beating heart of a brand built on pushing limits and breaking molds. This room is a sneaker helix, a timeline of a living legacy.

"This is almost 40% lighter than previous models. Our thinking is that air should go where you need it. Let's redefine the sensation. You can see that paradigm shift just by looking at the shoes." - Design Lead Nike Air, Kathy Gomez

"This is almost 40% lighter than previous models. Our thinking is that air should go where you need it. Let's redefine the sensation. You can see that paradigm shift just by looking at the shoes." - Design Lead Nike Air, Kathy Gomez

As you can see, it was an amazing experience. Get a front row look at our time at DNA via the snaps below.


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