The rise of the world wide web has made the sharing and consumption of information so vast and accessible that there are very few true enigmas from the classic Nike archives that have yet to be unearthed, analyzed and discussed at length. There are only a handful of mysterious models left that have slipped through the cracks and left us with little to no traces of their existence. Like dinosaurs, we know they once walked the earth, but it’s pretty rare that any physical evidence ever surfaces despite extensive digging. Most of these forgotten relics are assumed to be lost in obscurity forever, but every once in a while, we get pleasantly surprised with the return of a shoe we never thought we’d see again.
When it comes to Nike urban legends, 1987’s Air Python sits in the uppermost echelon of the intriguing lost treasures category. Every few years we see it pop up from a fortunate vintage collector or on overseas sneaker forums, but for the most part, there’s still not a whole lot known about it. Obviously, the number one reason that the Air Python sat at the top of the obscure Nike classics list is its unmistakeable similarities to the Air Jordan II, which released the year before in 1986.
It was common at the time for multiple shoes to share the same midsole tooling, but it was pretty rare to see an upper swapped instead. While there are a few minor differences, the luxuriously Swooshless Python is almost a mirror image of the Jordan II, quite understandably making it a source of intense fascination for sneaker historians. Aside from the Python’s shimmering snakeskin upper panels and tongue, the other major difference is the midsole, which comes not from the second Air Jordan model, but from another classic Nike sequel, the Air Force II.
In addition to its enigmatic mystique and loose ties to the Air Jordan family, the Air Python also holds a special place in sneaker history in that it was one of Nike’s first lifestyle oriented releases. Before 1987, Nike’s catalog was almost exclusively focused on performance footwear, but the growing popularity of their shoes and shifts in the world of popular culture at the time opened up new lanes for shoes like the Air Python and Air Safari to exist. The Python also holds the distinction of being one of the brand’s first limited edition releases – a detail that helps account for why so few of the original pairs ever managed to show up over the years.
Now 26 years later, Nike has thrown us an unexpected curveball with the out-of-nowhere retro return of the Air Python in its original colorways. Thanks to the power of the internet, we get very few sneaker surprises like this. In the case of most high-profile releases, we get wind of them way ahead of their drop date and see a variety of preview photos along the way, but it’s clear that the sneaker brands have made a concerted effort to bring the element of surprise back into the equation and the Air Python is certainly one of the most shocking examples to date.
Here on Sneaker News SELECT, we’ll be shining some extra spotlight on significant releases that manage to sneak through and drop without the kind of extensive looks that sneakers of their stature deserve. These SELECT Cop segments will give you a better look at some recent releases that made it to retail shelves and disappeared before we even knew what hit us – in this case last weekend’s White/Silver Air Python Lux SP. It’s a safe bet that these have cleared out from stores by now and a lot of people missed out, but at least you can get an up close look at them here while we await the OG White/Brown installment that’s on the way for October.