The Story of Football’s First Sneaker Collab

The Story of Football’s First Sneaker Collab

A look back at the iconic Juve 110s.

February 22nd 2023

In 2023 the convergence of football and fashion is a given. Whether you’re talking about Raheem Sterling fronting Burberry campaigns, New Balance linking up with Stone Island, or elite players like Marcus Rashford and Son Heung-min popping up at LFW – this cultural crossover is always on, and always present.

But how did we get here? Let’s dial the clock back to the early noughties. We’re in Saitama, Japan and the World Cup semi-final is about to kick-off. Ronaldinho, fresh from embarrassing David Seaman and sending England home, is in the stands. He’s suspended for the game against Turkey but is still managing to make history – at least in the recently exploded world of sneakerheads. On some of the most talented feet in the world sat a pair of fresh Air Max 95s – neon, of course.

Known by its original price point ‘110s’, the Air Max 95 is one of Nike’s most recognisable creations. After starting life as a humble neon green running sneaker, the shoe quickly took form as a cultural icon to be reckoned with, gracing Saturday kickabouts and high-fashion runways alike. Created by ACG designer Sergio Lozano, the 95 silhouette takes inspiration from the human body: muscle fibres, spinal columns, rib cages – all on your feet. It’s a classic that gave Nike the perfect opportunity to cross the football-fashion-footwear divide for the first time.

Releasing alongside Y2K heavy hitters like the rainbow-coloured SB Dunk High x Supreme, the luxury Italian-inspired Jordan XVIII and the often-forgotten Adidas T-Mac 2, Nike’s Juventus 110s are etched into sneaker mythology.

Produced as part of the launch of Nike’s partnership with Italy’s most successful club, the 2003 release is the Old Lady with bubbles. An oreo upper serves as a nod to the iconic Juve home strip, the insole is inscribed with a bold monochromatic ‘03’ print and the front tongue swaps the Air Max logo for two embroidered stars to commemorate the club’s 20 Serie A Championships. Consumers, collectors and calcio connoisseurs went wild.

Long before the Nike SNKRS app, internet shopping bots and resell culture, your average trainer fanatic would have to head over to their local JJB Sports or Caliroots to browse new releases. Sneakerheads all over the globe flocked to their nearest crep supplier to try and secure their pair. But, like all good things, this one unfortunately came to an end.

By the mid-2010s, the Juventus 110s were a relic of the past – a crep people adored but could no longer wear. As with all 95s, its polyurethane midsole crumbled with age – a poisoned chalice that punished the Bianconeri the more they wore it and made the release all the more exclusive.

For 15 years, seekers of the Juve 110s were relegated to scrolling online forums, hoping an intact grail would appear. That changed in 2018 when Nike finally listened to their clamours of I Gobbi. Just before the shoe’s 15th birthday, the Swoosh issued a women’s-exclusive variant of the Juventus 110s. The sequel crep saw Nike strip down the black panelling, remove the now dated two-stars and replace them with a classic Air Max logo on the tongue. Nike topped off the 2018 reissue with a gum sole to inject some much-needed colour into the predominantly white retro.

Before the Juventus Air Max 95, there weren’t any prominent sneaker x football collabs. This was new ground. Without that first link-up, maybe we wouldn’t have Brazil World Cup 95s, or the Inter Milan Air Force – would Mbappé have got his KM Air Max 98s back in 2019 if Nike hadn’t taken that brave step 16 years earlier? The Juve 110s were the first rung on a long ladder of cross-subculture Nike collaborations.

The original Juventus 95s live in the memories of sneakerheads the world over. Not only for its looks but for what it represented: the floodgates opening on some of the most exciting cross-cultural partnerships in sneakerdom. Long may it continue.