The Nike Huarache Almost Never Existed

The remarkable story of a rogue employee who dared to dream

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An ugly trainer that gained massive popularity long before Balenciaga, Vetements and Raf Simons sunk their gilded teeth into the trend, the Nike Huarache has sold millions of pairs since its debut in 1991 - despite its peculiar make-up.

Bu it almost never existed.

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A near-buried piece of sportswear lore, a new book called Sneakers (by journalists Howie Kahn and Alex French and designer Rodrigo Corral) explains that when legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield first showed buyers the prototypes for his radical new shoe, they were so unenthused that essentially zero orders were placed.

A lot of people thought the concept was "nuts", Hatfield says of the trainer that was inspired by the neoprene boots attached to water skis. With no orders, Nike decided against releasing the Huarache to the general public, which should have been the end of the debacle.

Luckily for Tinker, one disobedient manager had other ideas.

Quoted in the book, Hatfield says: "One of our product managers actually thought it [the Huarache] was awesome, and without proper authorisation, he signed an order to build five thousand pairs even though there were no orders.

"He stuck his neck way out there. He saw what I saw. And he took those five thousand pairs to the New York Marathon, not a place you typically went to sell shoes, and he sold them all in like three days at the exhibition hall right there near Times Square. Word got out. They went like hotcakes. In a month, we went from zero orders to orders for half a million pairs."

Thanks to one rebellious manager (an oxymoron if ever there was one) the Huarache is now Nike's most-popular shoe.

"This past fiscal year, we will have sold over four million pairs," Hatfield states in the book. "We're planning to sell a similar number this coming year. It's our number one shoe and at one point it had zero orders."

Moral of the story: know when you're big time enough that you won't get sacked if you disobey your boss at work.

A classic allegory.