0 Comments History and original sketch of the Nike Air Max Goadome aka The Nike Boot

Posted by The Elitaste on 30 Jan 2008

Image courtesy of Carl Blakeslee

Carl Blakeslee, a former Senior Designer in the Nike ACG division from 1998 to 2005, reached out to us on MySpace, letting us know he was the original designer of the Nike Air Max Goadome and appreciated the song, “Nike Boots.” We hit him back asking for the story behind the Goadome. Here’s what he had to say:

Around June of 1999, well no, before that, was the official date the Goadome was conceived or i guess more accurately, born.

I was a senior designer at Nike in the ACG division at that time. ACG had been in a state of moderate decline during that period after losing some of our big money business to other divisions during a Nike “re-org” which always effected the smaller business categories within the Nike house.Nike politics pushed our leadership into a wild spin, not knowing or being able to visualize how to get some of those lost numbers back on the books. The other issue that probably assisted in the downward spin was that big Nike leadership (above the food chain from our division leaders) were seasonally busting our balls over why the “boot market” was growing and yet ACG numbers didn’t reflect this growth…”ACG” or better known as “those hippie hikers who climb mountains and shit” were not getting after the business. Enter Timberland. Our worst nightmare.

I’ll skip ahead a bit. As a designer I was being told by my leaders to just knock out a boot. No way, not me. Get someone else to do it. I’m an artist, not some knock-off boy.

I had to get out of town and think. We traveled to NYC to have a chat with Udi (training camp). Udi is a rad dude. He always has something to say. His words are written in my sketch book, “if you want to TAKE a category, you have to MAKE a category”. That’s some pretty damn profound shit. My take on that was, you have to create a reason for your customer to go there, not just make another product. We went out that night with Udi and a few of his boys; somewhere in the meatpacking district. Udi wanted to show me the consumer that spends $160 on a pair of
fly boots and the kind of “hiking” they do on the dance floor. Nice. That hurt Udi, but he was right.

From NYC it was onto Italy. I always liked Milan. As an art student studying design in Switzerland for a term, I would get on the train and go to Milan every weekend. Sometimes I would ride in an empty boxcar because all the seats were taken. I don’t know why that city is so special to me but it gave me energy and inspiration. Maybe it was all the models walking around, the amazing fashion, the scooters, the coffee, the food and the wine. It’s like paradise in a certain cosmo way. So I spent a few days in Milan and then went to Paris. Some of my friends played a joke on me and changed my room reservation to this shit hole next to a brothel in Pigialle. Dirty, shitty room. It was so bad that I didn’t want to lay in the bed, so i got some wine, bread and cheese and got crazy fucked up.

More corporate pressure had been piling up at Nike headquarters and I even got a phone call while in Milan from my boss. He TOLD me that I
needed to get on a plane and get to China ASAP. There was a new factory that i had to see…and “by the way, are those boots done yet? Hope so, cuz you are taking the designs to china to get those samples started”.

New factory? Cool! But now i needed some designs.

Back to the shit hole hotel room…

After a bottle of wine or two and some food I started to sketch out the “Pulse Collection” of boots and shoes intended to get after some of that
urban business. The Goadome came out of that pile of sketches which i attached for you. The idea was to take some of the heritage Nike sneaker design language that we all know very well and make it work on a boot. An athletic boot. One that fits like a sneaker, is light enough to run or dance in it and equally important, to look stylish and cool. An easy equation really, but we hadn’t done it yet at Nike in a form or silhouette that really felt boot-like and not like a sneaker trying to be a boot. My whole motivation for this direction was from time spent with Udi and hanging around in NYC, seeing how important the Timbs were and how it would not be a smart move to try and knock them off the shelf. Rather, I wanted to provide an alternative or better yet, a second pair of boots at the register. Timbs and Goas should both be in my boy’s closet. Not one or the other. It’s not an option to pick one. You gotta have both.

This new factory “Stella” in China made the first samples for me and they continue to make the modern Goa’s and most of the other casual or lifestyle product for Nike. This factory is not like any other. Jack and Buddy (owner and manager) are, to this day, very close friends of mine and I could not have made these boots without their help. Jack has an amazing eye for good shoes and Buddy knows the world of trends, music, art, fashion and knows how to help create and build brands at the factory level.

Finally, we had some great looking samples and what I thought at the time was some great design work. It was totally appropriate and linked to
Nike’s core values. We created a collection of boots that were different, had a point of view and a solid reason to exist. Phil agreed. We showed him the designs in a private meeting in his office. There were no more roadblocks from management after that meeting.

DC and Baltimore were the first cities to truly embrace the Goa, so big props to them them for having the courage to bring something new to the market.

The name “Goa” came from the music I was listening to that night in the ghetto Paris ghetto hotel. “Dome” comes from one of the sneakers that
inspired the design, the original ACG Lavadome. Hence the Goadome.

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