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Michael J. Fox And His Surprising Impact On Sneakers

The Back to the Future Trilogy is one of the most important film trilogies of all time. There are so many iconic props, like the DeLorean Time Machine, in the series. For sneakerheads, the most significant prop from the time traveling franchise is the Nike Mag. Much of the allure of the DeLorean Time Machine and the Nike Mag is tied to the brilliance of Michael J. Fox.

Back in Time

Back to the Future was released in 1985. It was a box office smash. BTTF made Michael J. Fox a movie star. The sci-fi film would be followed by two sequels. The Trilogy would focus on Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) traveling through time and going on adventures in their Time Machine.

Back to the Future


Back to the Future II took place in the future, 2015 to be exact. In 1987, the filmmakers behind BTTF II met with Nike about designing something special for the sequel. Tinker Hatfield was chosen by the makers of Back to the Future II to design a shoe for Michael J. Fox to wear in the film. Hatfield was a rising name at Nike, and today he is considered the greatest shoe designer of all time. The filmmakers wanted to create a fictional sneaker that was aspirational and exciting. Marty McFly showed a liking for Nike when the character wore a pair of Bruins in the first Back to the Future film. Tinker would produce the Mag for Marty McFly to wear.

The highlight of the Mag was that they were self-lacing. When Marty McFly put them on, they laced on their own. Which in 1989, when BTTF II premiered in theaters, was mind blowing. The light up features and self-fastening laces were unlike anything you could buy in 1989. The design of the shoe, the high cut, and colors, captured the futuristic aesthetic of the film perfectly.

Long after the release of the final Back to the Future film, Part III in 1990, the franchise was still remembered and celebrated. Sneakerheads remained fascinated with the Mag for years after its debut. In 2005, fans started an online petition for Nike to make the Mag a reality. In 2006, Nike started working to bring the Mag to life.

Back to the Future  Mag

For The Culture

As Nike began working on the Mag, the shoe was getting increased attention in popular culture. In 2007, Kanye West had the Mag make an appearance in his “Good Morning” music video. Kobe Bryant showed up to a sneaker launch in a DeLorean, and in a pair of the Nike Hyperdunk inspired by the Mag. The Back to the Future silhouette was not only remaining relevant, it was gaining popularity. In 2009, Nike got a patent for the Mag.

kobe bryant Nike Hyperdunk DeLorean

Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox became a television star on the sitcom, Family Ties. His role as Alex P. Keaton is one of the most iconic performances of the 1980s. Michael J. Fox reached a new level of celebrity when Back to the Future was released. Fox had a boyish charm that allowed him to be a heartthrob. But Fox was much more than a cute young actor. He was a gifted comedic performer. His timing, and knack for physical comedy, was masterful.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at the age of 29. In 1998, the iconic actor made his diagnosis public and committed himself to working for Parkinson’s research. He gave up being a performer to launch The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

michael j fox Family Ties


In 2011, Nike decided to make the Mag for the benefit of the Fox Foundation. Pairs of the shoes would be auctioned off and 100% of the proceeds would go to the foundation. The auction would end up earning $10 million in 10 days. Back to the Future fans, sneaker enthusiasts, and pop culture buffs were all excited to see the futuristic shoe finally brought to life.


In 2016, Nike partnered again with the Fox Foundation and another auction took place. This Mag auction was limited to just 89 pairs. But, unlike the 2011 pair, the 2016 Mag came with self-lacing technology. Once again, Nike and the Fox Foundation stirred up buzz, excitement, and a hefty donation for Parkinson’s research.

nike mag fox foundation

The Impact Of Fox

Michael J. Fox is easily one of the biggest stars of the 1980s. He is an icon. It was decided that Marty McFly would wear the Nike Bruin in BTTF because they were actually Fox’s personal shoes. Back to theFuture was a phenomenon in 1985, and Marty prominently wearing Nike shoes in the film helped Nike as a brand. Nike in 1985 was not the powerhouse it is today.

Hatfield saw the Nike Mag as a shoe that could serve as an inspiration for Nike when he designed it. That goal has worked. Nike has released self-lacing shoes with the Nike Adapt. The Nike Mag has changed sneakers. The shoe would not have been so successful without the involvement of the icon, Michael J. Fox.

Before influencers and social media, TV & movie stars were often looked to for fashion trends. Michael J. Fox was a TV and movie star simultaneously. His fashion choices, including his support of Nike, was emulated by his millions of fans around the world. It is rarely discussed, but Michael J. Fox has played a major part in helping sneaker culture become what it is today.


- Adam C. Better