Hunting the world’s most coveted sneaker: Back to the Future’s Air Mags
If you used the internet or watched television at any point on Wednesday then you are likely aware that it was finally Back to the Future Day, the day in which Doc Brown and Marty McFly landed in the second installment of the Back to the Future series.
While for many it was a day to make jokes about the Cubs World Series chances and hoverboards, for sneakerheads it held a greater importance: The arrival of the self-lacing Air Mags.
Michael J. Fox slapped on a pair of auto-lacing future Nikes in the film, and shoe fanatics have long awaited on Nike to deliver the real deal. On Wednesday morning the shoe behemoth announced it would.
The first pair of self-lacing Nike Mag shoes is in New York City.— Heidi Burgett (@heidiburgett) October 21, 2015
The info sent the sneaker collecting world into a panic, and sent me to the streets of New York to search out the coveted kicks.
The logical first stop was the Nike Store, where I immediately encountered some BTTF2-level advertising, which was encouraging.
The store had shoes everywhere, but each pair required you to tie the laces yourself, like some kind of non-future chump, and no one I talked to in the store seemed to have any info if the Air Mags would be showing up.
Unlike BTTF2’s villain Biff Tannen, the real 2015 doesn’t have a casino-owning megalomaniac putting his name all over everything.
Undaunted, I moved my quest on to greener pastures, deciding that the only place to safely land a nuclear-powered DeLorean was probably Central Park. Once I got there I realized wandering around a park for several hours was probably not going to net me any leads. I did see one guy with a dope pair of shoes though.
As I left I met Emile, a 65-year-old whose trade is selling carrots and flags near Central Park. He did not have any info on the Air Mags but he was pretty proud of his new pair of shoes, which he insisted I get in the picture after I carried several bags of carrots up some stairs for him.
My next stop was the Nike Lab 21 Mercer store. If Nike wants to release something awesome, the Lab stores are where they do it, so it was as good a lead as any. I arrived and found some people loitering outside in cool sneakers. Always a good sign.
Inside was the standard array of limited-release Nikes. Cool stuff, and some of it very futuristic, but no sign of the Air Mag. One staffer said the shop had been getting a lot of calls about the shoes, but added that they are pretty much always getting a lot of calls about shoes.
Outside I talked with some of the hopeful future Air Mag owners, (from left)Jason, L and Aaron, who said they were willing to wait outside as long as it took to get the shoes. Aaron swore that not only would he never sell the Mags if he got a pair, but also he would disown any of his future children if they ever tried to cash in on them.
Sometimes when people can't find something they are told to look in the last place they would expect, which is how I wandered into Shoeco.
In Shoeco I met Jimmy, who explained that they only carried women’s shoes and no Nike products, so I decided to show him the Air Mags to see what he thought. His professional opinion was this: “Those are ugly. I would not wear those.” Jimmy declined to be photographed, but did say he enjoyed Back to the Future II.
This is the part of the story where I get insanely lucky. I began wandering, looking for places Nike may be hiding the Air Mags, when I stumbled across a sneaker resale store I had never seen before, called Stadium Goods. I quickly learned that the reason I had never heard of it was that it opened last week, but they had Air Mags.
Now these are the 2011 Air Mags, which light up like in the movie but do not have power laces like the new model. It is still as close as I was going to get.
Store co-owner Andrew said the price on the Air Mags was $9,000, although he expected it to go down when the power-lacing version hits the market. Andrew was kind enough to let me hold and take pictures with the shoes and to let me gawk at the rest of the store’s collection of highly covetable footwear.
I still wanted a look at the real deal, so I hit the pavement and headed back uptown. On my way I was reminded that even though BTTF did not perfectly predict 2015, it did accurately guess it would be weird as hell.
I stopped in pretty much every footwear chain I passed but was growing less hopeful with each passing Foot Locker and Michael K.
At the House of Hoops store near Madison Square Garden, I happened across a knowledgeable pair in Brittanie and Anton. Brittanie told me the store had gotten lots of calls that day, and though she knew nothing about the shoes' location, she heard a constant refrain of “I know you know” from those on the other end.
Anton was the first person to show me the new ad that Nike planned to release the show via auction, as announced in a letter sent from from Nike designer Tinker Hatfield to Michael J. Fox. Anton was still dedicated to grabbing a pair, and told me he had already set $5,000 aside to bid on a set, and hopes to have around $8,000 on hand when the bidding starts in spring 2016.
I decided to head to Times Square in a last ditch effort, hoping that the mecca of marketing stunts had something planned for the big day. All I found was a Back to The Future-themed Toyota display. Because a pick-up truck is definitely the car we all associate with the BTTF franchise.
Eventually the world did get a look at the shoes, both in a short Twitter video of Fox lacing them up, and later when he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in Brooklyn. I tried to get tickets but it was sold out, which makes sense, as everyone had 26 years to plan ahead.
While my Back to the Future Day was not a success, I did get an up close look at some Air Mags. Now all I need is get my hands on the shoes is several thousand dollars, or a flux capacitor.