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  • [sea birds calling]

  • [Tinker] I probably think about feet

  • a lot more than the average person.

  • As a shoe designer, I have to.

  • Our feet were made to walk, and run and climb once in a while.

  • Bare feet can be great at all of that.

  • But what the modern athlete asks of their feet

  • is far beyond what they were originally designed to do.

  • My job is to think about how to make these very capable natural instruments

  • perform even better.

  • [upbeat harmonica music playing]

  • That's Tinker Hatfield!

  • Y'all serious? That's Tink.

  • Tinker Hatfield?

  • He's a legend!

  • [young man] Is that the dude that created Jordans?

  • [funky electric piano playing]

  • [Parker] In the '80s, Tinker Hatfield started to define

  • what working with an athlete was all about.

  • It was a relationship with the athlete,

  • really digging in, getting to know them as athletes.

  • Ultimately, it's about performance.

  • But there's so many more layers on top of that.

  • [Jordan] Tinker is a mad scientist.

  • He came from pole vaulting.

  • When I played the game, it was about jumping,

  • so, I mean, it was easy to find that synergy

  • and a great complement between the two of us.

  • What we did as a team was we were able to build a product that sustained time.

  • It catered to the athlete at the highest level

  • to the point where they still can play in that same shoe,

  • thirty years later.

  • [funky electric piano continues playing]

  • [song ends abruptly]

  • Well, that was crappy.

  • I never used to think about design.

  • I was always focused on being an athlete.

  • In high school, I won some state championships,

  • and I even received a full athletic scholarship

  • to the University of Oregon,

  • where I met an enormously influential man by the name of Bill Bowerman.

  • Coach, I'd be interested in your reaction

  • in participating in the coaching of these world-class athletes.

  • First, Hal, call me Bill.

  • Remember, I don't like to be called coach. I am sensitive about that.

  • [chuckles] Okay.

  • [Tinker] His real title that he liked was Teacher of Competitive Response.

  • He was trying to help people learn how to win.

  • He is also one of the two founders of Nike.

  • So when I came here, he was designing Nike running shoes and track spikes.

  • He was liable to do and try anything to make his athletes better.

  • He used to have a little cobbler shop right underneath the grandstands.

  • If you weren't careful,

  • he might just pop out of that cobbler shop and grab you by the scruff of the shirt

  • and tell you to try on these shoes and run around the track.

  • Sometimes they would be great,

  • and sometimes you would come back bleeding.

  • One of my events was the pole vault,

  • and Bill believed that I had the potential to be a national champion,

  • and even become an Olympian.

  • [slow-paced music playing]

  • Pole-vaulting is fraught with all kinds of danger.

  • If you don't have a real strong sense of

  • "I'm committing to doing this, and I'm doing it,"

  • you can get really hurt.

  • In order to deal with that, you have to kind of just go for it.

  • You have to have this mentality,

  • like you're going to just blow through a wall.

  • You can't back off.

  • Your goal is to somehow get upside down and fly through the air and go over.

  • There is a moment where you are flying.

  • You sort of wake up, and you go, "Wow."

  • My sophomore year, I fell from about 17 feet on an uneven surface

  • and tore my ankle in half.

  • Required five surgeries and two years of rehabilitation.

  • [piano music playing]

  • I was pretty depressed,

  • laying in the hospital that night

  • overhearing the doctors talking about "This kid's career is over."

  • There was no way

  • that most of the coaching staff felt like I was ever gonna contribute

  • to the track team again.

  • What was really great though, for me,

  • wasn't anything that Bill Bowerman said, it was what he did.

  • Bill would build me special track spikes that had a heel lift on one side

  • because I was limping.

  • That all added to my ability to be a problem solver for other people,

  • because I understand the consequences of injury.

  • He protected me from being just dismissed from the team and losing my scholarship.

  • I had no idea how much work a discipline like Architecture would be.

  • The good news was that I found out that I could draw

  • and it was almost by accident.

  • That was a pretty big surprise.

  • This took a long time to draw, I'll tell you that.

  • Look at all that little-- that was with a Rapidograph...

  • And those little tiny marks...

  • During my college years in Architecture school here,

  • I also was doing some work for Bill Bowerman.

  • We came across an actual drawing that I did

  • of an early design for one of the very early Nike track spikes.

  • I just wouldn't just, like, tell him what I thought,

  • I would also draw and write down

  • some of my, I guess you could say, interpretations of his design.

  • In this case, he asked me to try out some track spikes he was working with...

  • and they didn't work.

  • They actually unscrewed themselves every time I would go and train in them.

  • Unbeknownst to all of us, I was learning, I guess,

  • how to design shoes and solve problems for athletes right off the bat.

  • Go look at the feet of a pro-athlete who's played basketball for ten years.

  • They're trashed, because their shoes are too tight.

  • They tie their shoes so tight because they need them tight,

  • but they stay that way throughout all their practices and all their games,

  • and their feet become deformed and damaged and sometimes it incapacitates them.

  • Our studies tell us that if you take better care of your feet

  • and get better blood flow, a better fit and better comfort,

  • you actually play better.

  • If you're standing around for a free throw,

  • wouldn't it be great if your shoes loosened up and let your--

  • let the blood flow back into your feet

  • and gave your feet a little bit of a rest?

  • And as soon as the person shoots the free throw, the shoes know it?

  • They know you're going to start moving quickly

  • and they "zzzim" back up again.

  • You go sit on the bench. Why would you leave your shoes tight?

  • They would just go "zzzz..." They would relax.

  • That's when I started E.A.R.L.

  • E. A. R. L. Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing.

  • [upbeat music playing]

  • The first person I talked to about it was really developer Tiffany Beers,

  • to see if we could even entertain the idea of starting a project like this.

  • What did you say?

  • Well, I said I wasn't sure

  • -[Tinker chuckles] -because I didn't report to him.

  • And so I went and talked to my managers.

  • They said, "You don't say no to Tinker. Yeah, you just took the project.

  • If he asked you, you're taking it."

  • [both laugh]

  • [Beers] We started to focus primarily on the mechanism.

  • Like, how do we tighten the laces?

  • How do we get it small enough that it's performance and it still looks good?

  • [Tinker] I think this is a whole new product design

  • that will be part of the future.

  • I think there's art involved in design.

  • But to me, I don't think of it as art.

  • My perception of art is that it's really

  • the ultimate self-expression from a creative individual.

  • For me as a designer,

  • it is not the ultimate goal to become self-expressive.

  • The end goal is to solve a problem for someone else,

  • and hopefully it looks great to someone else

  • and it's cool to someone else.

  • [upbeat music playing]

  • This is how design works for me.

  • I started drawing space.

  • I was really just trying to reflect my mood at the time.

  • I started to have a little bit of fun with the actual planets

  • and put faces on them and...

  • I put George Jetsen.

  • You know, I have a Volkswagen Bus,

  • Porsche Speedster, peace symbols and fingers.

  • I don't even know why I am doing this, I'm just doing it.

  • I drew a cheetah foot that's actually embedded inside of a sneaker.

  • And I'm kind of moving through from that first page of space.

  • Now I'm getting more specific about innovation in general.

  • I remember somebody telling me it'd be great

  • if Nike could do shoes that were invisible and I drew the Invisible Man.

  • This is just all stuff that's coming to my head

  • and I'm just sketching.

  • All of this stuff ended up in a drawing of a shoe.

  • A stream of consciousness can lead you some place.

  • You may not even know where you're headed,

  • but somehow you end up somewhere, and here I ended up with a shoe.

  • [TV commercial announcer] Today at Nike, we know even more.

  • We developed one of the most sophisticated sport research labs in the world.

  • [Parker] Nike had grown up very fast.

  • We were leading the industry,

  • focused on basketball and running.

  • [upbeat music playing]

  • Reebok came along, there was this aerobics craze.

  • [Tinker] Reebok invented aerobics shoes. It was a whole new thing.

  • They had the right product at the right time,

  • and they actually passed Nike in size.

  • So there was a bit of a panic and Nike was laying people off right and left.

  • They were also thinking that they needed to upgrade their design group.

  • So, I was invited to be a part of a 24-hour design contest.

  • [bike revs]

  • [Parker] Tinker wasn't a shoe designer at the time.

  • He was designing trade shows and displays and retail.

  • [Tinker] I worked the whole 24 hours. I didn't go to bed that night.

  • Most of the other designers,

  • I think, just tried to work off of what they were already doing,

  • and it wasn't really anything very unique in terms of storytelling.

  • I came back in with a big presentation,

  • sort of having fun with the fact that this was the perfect shoe

  • to ride a motor scooter in.

  • [laughs]

  • And then get out and then jog around and walk around a little bit.

  • Two days after the competition,

  • I was... I wasn't even asked,

  • I was told that I was now a footwear designer for Nike. [chuckles]

  • In a very short period of time, I pretty much became the lead designer.

  • [guitar music playing]

  • One of my very first projects was the Air Max.

  • I felt like this was an opportunity to think way differently.

  • Nike was encapsulating gas inside a urethane airbag

  • for a cushioning component.

  • I thought, "Let's make the bag a little bit wider, make sure it's stable,

  • but then let's remove part of the midsole, so we actually see it."

  • The closest you'd come to anything before that was, I remember as a kid,

  • seeing Elton John having high-heeled shoes with a goldfish inside of them.

  • Right? I mean, it was simply, like, very... punk even.

  • [Tinker] I had gone to Paris

  • and seen a very controversial and loved or mostly hated building,

  • The Georges Pompidou Center, designed by Renzo Piano.

  • It was a building with all of the inside mechanics on the outside of the building.

  • He painted everything in primary colors just to piss off people even more.

  • I was very much inspired by that building,

  • and that's how I ended up exposing these airbags in the Air Max.

  • After those sketches came out,

  • it was widely discussed that I had pushed it too far.

  • People were trying to get us fired,

  • they were screaming like there was no way in the world

  • that we could ever sell a shoe with an exposed airbag

  • that looked fragile, like it could be punctured.

  • The Air Max One took off.

  • It was an amazing success story

  • for not just Nike, but for all of footwear design.

  • It's built on taking a risk for a good reason,

  • which was to tell a story and to also make a better product.

  • [funky music playing]

  • At the same time that the Air Max came out,

  • I realized that nobody was in the right shoe most of the time.

  • Everybody was trying to play basketball in running shoes

  • or trying to run in basketball shoes,

  • and you would see people getting hurt, rolling their ankles.

  • I thought we needed to design a shoe, and that became their first cross-trainer.

  • It needed some lateral stability.

  • There was a mid-foot strap to strap down that part of your foot,

  • so then you could participate in all sports in the same workout,

  • and not have to change your shoes.

  • We didn't think that it was going to sell all that well,

  • but John McEnroe was having trouble with his tennis.

  • [shouting] This is absurd!

  • I can't believe this!

  • [shouts]

  • He decided to wear 'em, and liked them so much that he wore 'em on television.

  • That sort of solved the problem of people,

  • sort of like, "Whoa, that shoe's so weird. It's so different."