Extracted from Mexican history, the name "Cortez" comes from Hernán Cortés, a famed Spanish explorer who conquered the Aztecs — a true namesake for a sneaker that has stood the test of time. Nike's Cortez is a classic running shoe that was first introduced into the market back in 1972. It was one of the first shoes to use modern manufacturing techniques — like a fully rubberized waffle sole — and it helped to popularize the minimalist running trend of that era. The silhouette of this model was designed by Nike’s co-founder Bill Bowerman, who had a goal in mind to format a lightweight running shoe with long-distance appeal. First crafted solely for track and field, its debut landed the sneaker in the Summer Olympics of that very same year. Gaining traction as an athleisure staple of the ‘70s, the general public took to the Nike Cortez with great demand post-Olympic debut, further cementing the sneaker into Nike’s early roster of soon-to-be classics.
Spanning through an array of subcultures, the Nike Cortez continued to plant its roots as a shoe driven by authenticity, representing the masses in various forms. Whether it was Whitney Houston performing at half-time during Super Bowl XXV in 1991, or Sir Elton John sporting his very own Cortez editions at his iconic 1975 Dodgers Stadium tour, the legendary impact of these sneakers have been able to carve out its own place in history. No stranger to collaborations, even acclaimed rapper and artist Kendrick Lamar, has been able to concoct and create four different renditions of the Cortez, some even including a colourway to fit the release of his 2017 album DAMN. A true pop culture icon through and through, the Nike Cortez’ status was also solidified beyond its origins when they appeared in the 1994 film Forrest Gump as a “product placement slam dunk.” This feature exponentially created a new demographic of cult followers, as the movie showcases the coveted sneaker as a powerful force in exceeding your running potential.