Fashion Synopsis

“Just Do It.”

Nike has just done it for more than 25 years: the ‘swoosh’ is as recognizable as the golden arches or the peace sign, and nothing symbolizes success better than the simple symbol that flashes from feet the world over. A relatively new shoe superstar to the scene, Nike has outperformed the old guard of shoe staples to hold the number one spot in the footrace for most of its lifetime.

The Nike legend began with an amazing partnership between two track and field stars, Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. Bowerman coached the track team of the University of Oregon, and he was focused on perfecting the running shoe. Knight, a former UO undergrad and track star, put his Stanford MBA to use when he convinced Japanese athletic shoe manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger to market their shoes in the U.S. Knight's business savvy partnered with Bowerman’s innovative streak to form Blue Ribbon Sports, marketers of Tiger's low-priced, high-tech shoes in the U.S.

Bowerman and Knight distributed the running shoe to great success, and Bowerman spent most of his time modifying the shoe for faster traction and lighter weight. A waffle iron inspired the trademarked cross-grid sole, and the redesigned Tiger Cortez became the best-selling shoe of 1968. With incredible success under their feet, the two split from Tiger in 1971 to create their own manufacturing company for their very own shoes. But what to call the new company?

Blue Ribbon’s star salesman, Jeff Johnson, a former track star who understood the necessity behind top of the line running sneakers, coined the name Nike in honor of the Greek goddess of victory. Graphics design student Caroline Davidson created several logo suggestions, from which Knight picked the now-legendary ‘swoosh.’ At the time, he admitted to Davidson, “I don’t love it, but it will grow on me.” And grow it did.

Nike made its initial debut at the 1972 Olympics, on the feet of Oregon hopeful Steve Prefontaine. The company passed out t-shirts with the logo, and the biggest question of the day was “Who’s Mike?” But even with all the confusion, Nike’s sales took off, and within the year, sales were at almost 2 million.

Nike skyrocketed to superstardom when it got Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan to endorse his own shoe, the Air Jordan, in 1985. Nike Airs followed, starting an arms race with the other athletic shoe brands in terms of technical wizardry and celebrity endorsement. But Nike held the patent for their polyurethane trapped air pockets, and their shoe became number one in America.

Nike slipped from its gold medal post as number one in the late 80’s, but by ‘88 the company quickly regained the title with the simple slogan that took over the world…‘Just Do It.’ And do it they did. There were no excuses in life anymore, and Nike led the pack with the simple slogan to success.

By the early 90’s, Nike opened their NikeTown superstores, a Disneyland-like venture for Nike fanatics. The entire team of Nike product—shoes, apparel and equipment—capitalized upon the obsession for all things Nike. Boosted by a continuing relationship with a now-retired Jordan (who formed his own offshoot line of shoes and apparel) and newer endorsements from the likes of Tiger Woods, Nike still savors the thrill of victory and still relieves the agony of de feet.

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