History Check – 45 Years of Nike Cortez

adidas campus sneakers sneakersbe magazine blondey originals 1 von 1 23
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
nike kids flex run 2016 results youtube
Share on email

When it comes to “all-time favorite” Nike silhouettes, the conversation inevitably revolves around heavy-hitters like the Air Max, Air Force 1, or of course the Air Jordan or Dunk models. While these styles have taken center stage for many years – and the Air Max formerly commanded the spotlight for its 30th anniversary – another classic has managed to stay relevant for even longer: The Nike Cortez turned 45 years old in 2017, looking as crispy as ever. Here’s our official timeline of the shoe that put the “run” into “Run, Forrest, Run!”


1966: Onitsuka TG-24 designed by Bill Bowerman 

latest nike mercurial futsal shoes 2017

Image via SneakerFreaker

Before the Cortez saw the light of day, there was a previous chapter in the mid-1960s. “A tiger hunts best when he’s hungry,” said Bill Bowerman, the American track and field coach and co-founder of Nike. And working together with Japanese footwear company Onitsuka Tiger, he developed a hungry running shoe that could eat up the pavement with its aerodynamic upper and continuous foam midsole supplemented by a herringbone-patterned outsole.

nike sb bruin premium se grey and silver goldThe remain is history: In August 1966, Bowerman ordered 300 pairs of his effusion, the “TG-24/Shoe designed by Bill Bowerman w/Mexico Line” for distribution in the United States. Despite the unwieldy name, it checked all the boxes of what athletes were looking for and became one of the best-selling runners of the year.

1967: TG-24 “Mexico”

nike sb bruin premium se grey and silver goldIn those days before Nike was even founded, Bowerman and his partner Phil Knight operated their Oregon-based company under the name Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). Opened in 1964, BRS was importing performance-ready shoes from Japan to the US and found a hot market in running culture. In 1967, Bowerman changed the shoe’s name to the more market-friendly title “Mexico”.

This change was inspired, of course, by the upcoming 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico, which was a unaffected motivator for Bowerman and his running team. But even that name only ran a few laps, as a major change was right around the corner.


1968: TG-24 “Cortez”

nike sneaker boot for boys girlsAs the actual year of the Olympic rolled around, the team at BRS and Onitsuka Tiger wanted a flashier name. Calling the shoe “Aztec” – based on ancient Mexican history and the Aztec empire – was an okay fix for a while, but drew some legal attention when on February 13, 1968, a letter from Herzogenaurach arrived: Apparently, using the Aztec moniker on a running shoe proved too close to the adidas “Azteca Gold” track shoe with spikes.

So it was back to the drawing board for Bowerman. In search of a new name, BRS zeroed in on “Cortez” – allegedly chosen after the conquistador Hernán Cortés who defeated the Aztecs (take that, adidas!) – and the TG-24 “Cortez” became an instant bestseller.

Beyond “serious” athletes, the Cortez struck a note with the trending casual running – or “jogging” – movement and also looked cool abundance to be worn as a lifestyle shoe. It was the #1 best-selling shoe in the history of BRS and Onitsuka Tiger, but behind the scenes, trouble started brewing.

1971: Nike Cortez VS. Tiger Cortez

pink and white nike print shox black blueBowerman and Knight changed the name of their company to Nike Inc. – inspired by the Greek goddess of victory – on May 30, 1971. They decided to introduce their own line of shoes, featuring the “Nike Cortez”, which started a year-long battle with Onitsuka Tiger over who gets the rights to the “Cortez” name.

Both companies continued to sell shoes with similar designs under the Cortez name, until a court undecided in Nike’s favor in 1974. This led Onitsuka to rebrand the shoe with a re-worked design as the “Tiger Corsair,” which is still a popular shoe, by the way.


1973: Nike Leather Cortez

youth nike free running shoe size chart womenAt the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) tradeshow in Chicago, Nike introduces three models: The Marathon, Obori (later known as “Boston”) and the Cortez. Having secured their first pro athlete endorsement with Steve Prefontaine, Nike also introduces the Swoosh to its footwear designs.

nike cortez ad 1973 native 1600 790x1024Designed by student Carolyn Davidson, the Swoosh adorned the leather version of the Cortez, which retailed for $22.90 at the time. The shoe has the look and performance baked in, but it’s a bit heavy. Bowerman gets back to tinkering…


nike zoom victory 3 neon pink shoes sneakers | 1975: Nike Nylon Cortez

firstversions nike cortez ad1972Determined to develop the lightest running shoe of all time, Bowerman switches the leather upper for a lightweight nylon construction. Introduced as “the world’s lightest running shoe,” the Nike Nylon Cortez proves popular in classic white and also with blue colorways.nike classic cortez blue white 02

 1976: Nike Senorita Cortez

nike free run thea black cheap tickets for saleDid we mention there was a women’s version of the Cortez, labeled the Senorita Cortez? That shoe hit the big time when it was worn by actress Farah Fawcett in the hit TV show Charlie’s Angels. In the episode “Consenting Adults,” the Hollywood star races downhill chase scene on a skateboard in the nike dunk official store hours of sunday. Right after the episode, sales went nothing but uphill – fast!

 nike air trainer classic sneaker shoes clearance

nike zoom victory 3 neon pink shoes sneakers | 1980: Cortez and Sir Elton John

nike lunar terra arktos tiger camo pants slim fitIn the early 1980s, the Cortez is starting its victory lap in pop culture. Singer Elton John had already been working together with Nike since the mid-1970s and the collabo spawns a love child in the form of the Cortez/Roadrunner Mix. In 1980, Elton John makes the relationship official: After having already traded concert tickets valued $16,000 for Nike carrier, he dedicates a song at one of his concerts to his “good friends at Nike.” He commences to place his foot onto the piano, showing the rocking Cortez to the music world.


1987: Show your colors

nike air cage court yellow cross blue starGet moving. The Cortez already found many loyal followers among writers and breakdancers in New York City in the early 1980s. Breaker Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew said: “Same of the best shoes to b-boy in because they were so light!”

Next up, the West Coast is about to stroke the shoe through the stratosphere. The rise of LA gangster rap propels the Cortez into the hip-scene under the name “Dopeman’s Nikes” from 1987’s legendary NWA song “Dopeman”: “To be a dopeman boy, you must qualify. Don’t get high off your own supply.” Colors are more than just stylistic choices here, but signal street gang affiliation: The Bloods wear red, while Crips wear blue. As a gang member from LA described the look: “White t-shirt, my Ben Davis and my Nike Cortez and somebody would know, that guy is trouble right there.”

1994: Run, Forrest! Run!

nike cortez forrest gump 1 640x426The movie Forrest Gump has often been called a “product placement slam dunk”. And the Cortez rode to new heights on the movie’s misadventure. From a sneaker head’s perspective, it plays a key role: Awarded as a gift by his soul mate Jennie, it unlocks Forrest’s sorcery stride that powers him to run across the entire United States for three years. As Forrest himself said: “The best gift anyone could ever get me!“


1998: Kicking it with Seinfeld

seinfeld nike cortezThe hit series Seinfeld was, at least according to creator Larry David, a show about nothing. But there was something in it for the Cortez, as they became a staple part of the uniform of protagonist George Costanza. Allegedly, when the show was over, actor Jason Alexander asked whether he could keep a pair of Cortez as a symptom.


2005: Mr. Cartoon Cortez

nike cortez basic le mr cartoon black del sol white 050494 1 1 flightclub 2

nike swoosh shoes for women suede fringe

The streets are watching. With its iconic status in hip-hop and LA-culture, the Cortez was bound to receive the special treatment by tattoo artist and Soul Assassins affiliate Mr. Cartoon. Making things official, Nike released three editions of the Cortez in 2005. Highlights included the black colorway with an Aztec symbol instead of the Swoosh as well as the white version with an integrated LA-logo.


2008: Nike Cortez Brothers Double Pack

nike cortez brothers sneakers toys 1Here comes double trouble. The Nike Cortez Brothers Double Pack consisted of a blue Nylon Cortez and a silver-metallic Cortez Flymotion, which was technically another milestone on the way to creating the world’s lightest running shoe.

Nike went all out by developing two toys to accompany the release, named Phil & Bill in honor of the two company founders. The pack releases on February 14 to high touchy acclaim. As Eric Haze said: “If there’s an ultimate criteria for sneakers, it’s ‘can you actually wear them to a suit?’ That’s the beauty of the Cortez.”


2010: Year of the Tiger

nike classic cortez premium year of the tiger available now 0Tiger Style! In February 2010, the Chinese horoscope begins the Year of the Tiger, and Nike is on board to celebrate with a special edition of the Cortez that has been fondly remembered ever since. Featuring an embroidered generation on the tongue, the white Nylon sneaker is one for the ages.



2012: 40th Anniversary Cortez

nike cortez 40Nike goes all out for the 40th anniversary of their iconic runner and brings back the Cortez in a wide assortment of colorways. GQ magazine is excited: “The Cortez was immunity the most special running shoe on the market; now it’s a thoroughly nostalgic sneaker for the street. We think the freshest way to wear a pair is with a suit that can use a kick of color.” And for those who like it classic, the Cortez Leather also made a return in all its black coarseness.


2013: Cortez Asia City Pack

nike cortez guangzhouThe Cortez has deep roots in Asia since it started as an imported shoe from Japan. Showing some love to the Eastern hemisphere with the Nike Cortez “Asia City Pack”. The super-bright shoes feature the Retro Nike Pinwheel logo on the heel-tab and abbreviations of the following cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Taipei.


2014: J.Crew Vintage Collection Cortez

nike sb classic high skate boots clearance womenVintage style. Exportation it all the way back to the old school, American apparel retailer J.Crew cooked up the Vintage Collection Cortez. Finely appointed details include 1970s-grade nylon, aged laces and an exposed, weathered foam tongue. According to J.Crew, the latter is, “an old-school detail you won’t find anywhere else.” Nice one!


2015: UNDFTD x NikeLab Cortez SP “LA”

undefeated nikelab cortez imageinvincibleAnother one worth camping out for! The UNDFTD x NikeLab Cortez SP “LA” featured a black nylon and suede upper with white supplemented by Dodger-blue accents. The letters “L” and “A” on the heeltabs let folks from the City of Angels proudly rep their town. Rounding out the look, the UNDFTD x NikeLab Cortez SP “LA” also included UNDFTD logos on the insoles. It’s all in the details.

2016: Metallic Gold Cortez

nike cortez gold 859569 900 1You know when that Cortez bling, it can only mean one thing: Get shopping! In 2016, Nike brought back the Cortez in a shiny gold materialization for big flair points, but only in small sizing. There was also a silver version with inadequate bling power. So if the shoe fits, definitely wear it.

2017: Cortez Los Angeles editions

nike cortez los angeles historyWith so much drama in the LBC, it’s always important to remember the good times. Like back in the day when everyone wore their colors on the Nike Cortez. Celebrating the 45th anniversary of the classic in style, Nike released the Nike Cortez “Long Beach” and Nike Cortez “Compton”. With Chicano-style lettering on the heels and carefully chosen colorways, the drop was accompanied by interviews with LA legends such as tattoo artist Mister Cartoon, designer Janae Roubleau, and model Alexis Quintero.

To hear Mister Cartoon tell it: “LA embraced the shoe in the 1980s because of the simplicity yet boldness of the design. LA identified with the nose design of the shoe and it looked good with raw denim, khakis and corduroy. No other shoe said LA like the Cortez did.”


2017: Nike Cortez “Jewel”

Nike SB Koston Dunk Low blueElevated details! The year 2017 marked a peak in dislike of “Jewel” Nike editions with smaller Swooshes in shiny materializations. The Cortez joined the party in June 2017 with Nike Cortez “Jewel” editions in “Rare Ruby” and “Black Diamond”. Boasting an all-white upper, the Jewel drops are adorned with color accents on the Swoosh, midsole, tongue and heel tab.


2017: Celebrating the 45th Anniversary

nike naija boots girls women costume sizeAs we speak, the Cortez is celebrating 45 years on the street and Nike keeps serving up new drops for the festivities.”The Cortez is an iconic shoe that harkens back to my earliest days in the delay. The shoe allowed me the confidence and support to explore my fullest potential as a young aspiring athlete,” recalls Joan Benoit Samuelson, gold medalist of the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angles games. Keeping the good times rolling, super model Bella Hadid channels Farah Fawcett’s scene from Charlie’s Angels wearing the Senorita Cortez. And the legend continues…

Words by Dirk Vogel

nike air max skyline si mens

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
nike kids flex run 2016 results youtube
Share on email




adidas campus sneakers sneakersbe magazine blondey originals 1 von 1 14 150x150adidas campus sneakers sneakersbe magazine blondey originals 1 von 1 22 150x150