Nike ACG: A Brief Retrospective

First born more than 30 years ago – the concept of Nike ACG (short for all conditions gear) began as the idea of providing reliable protection and performance in all conditions and locations outside of Nike’s realms in the track and field sporting worlds. The earliest elements of the Nike ACG range can be seen […]

First born more than 30 years ago – the concept of Nike ACG (short for all conditions gear) began as the idea of providing reliable protection and performance in all conditions and locations outside of Nike’s realms in the track and field sporting worlds. The earliest elements of the Nike ACG range can be seen dating back to the early 1980s with the Nike Hiking range.

1981 saw the introduction of Nike Hiking – the often forgotten predecessor to ACG, this small range featured the tough Lava Dome trail shoe, alongside both the Magma and Approach boots. The range was suitable for the mountains, but much lighter than anything else on the market as highlighted through Nikes genius marketing for this foray into a new category as a brand. Nike participated in an era of boundary pushing detailed tech within the outdoors field with innovations like quick drying wick-able linings and the now legendary new waterproof fabric on the market known as GORE-TEX.

It wasn’t until 1989 that the ACG concept was formally announced, Nike then hit the ground running (literally) with new branding, new footwear and apparel styles and the continuation of market leading advertising that broke the mould within the outdoors realm. Thanks to key players in the design department such as Tinker Hatfield, Toren Orzeck and Peter Fogg, ACG was able to create its own path towing the line between producing wearable performance gear and slowly creating a unique cult-worshiped archive with casual fans and collectors quickly taking to the brand.

During this period ACG was able to push into new territories with product by innovating in ways other outdoors performance brands has been afraid of or thought wasn’t the right thing for them. Footwear started to be vastly much more youthful and performance-driven, but the key aesthetics started to be informed by trends happening in the marketplace to find the perfect sweet spot for Nike. Many consumers were hungry for products that embraced color and new materials in a bold way like ACG did – during these key early years, ACG was leading the outdoor industry from a youth and culture standpoint opposing traditional hiking designs and creating their own lane. Nike weren’t afraid to use their bold colour palette of bright orange, green, pink, yellow and more to help differentiate themsleves from an otherwise dull and drab market of dark leathers and overly sensible black outerwear – it helped them literally stand out in the crowd. Now iconic shoes like the Air Mowabb paved the way for ACG designs such as the Ashiko Boot and the Lunar Macleay, both made for the mountains but quickly embraced on the streets.

During the 90s, outdoor activities were becoming more and more accessible with mountain bikes, climbing walls, staycations and kayaking to name a few becoming more accessible to the average person. Enjoying the ‘great outdoors’ had gone from a boring past time for some to a desirable and exciting lifestyle, which Nike ACG helped shift the image of. The evolution from Nike Hiking to ACG was able to push rules and blur the lines in a way only Nike could between rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and snowboarding whilst using the rich Nike sportswear archive as a design blueprint. As always with Nike ACG, each collection is as functional as it is good looking – now merging the normal and expected offering of tees and crewneck sweaters is a line of all-terrain sneakers, boots and pants, perfect for hiking, climbing and biking. Whilst outdoors and tech wear continues to grow in popularity, the future for the ACG line is looking exceedingly bright.

The Nike ACG Fall ’20 footwear and apparel collection is online now.


Published by Oliver Jackson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *