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The Life & Work of Tinker Hatfield

Tinker Hatfield is considered a genius in the world of design. He has crafted some of the most important shoes of all time. In honor of Hatfield’s birthday, learn more about the legendary creator.

School of Architecture

The sneaker resume of Tinker Hatfield is impressive - to say the very least. He designed the Air Jordan III, IV, Air Max 1 and even a shoe from the future – the Nike Air Mag from Back to the Future II. Tinker got his start with Nike in 1985. In 1987 he crafted the Air Max 1. The Air Max 1 started the trend for Tinker of bringing new elements and technology to Nike products.

The Air Max 1 was the first Nike sneaker to have a translucent bubble sole displaying the air bag unit. The air bag unit has been a part of Nike’s technology since 1979. Hatfield’s idea to expose it was a design flair that resonated with consumers. The inspiration came from the architecture of the Centre Pompidou. On a visit to Paris, Tinker Hatfield became enamored with the building’s inside-out style. The structure of the Centre Pompidou was wrapped around the building’s exterior. The idea of exposing the inner workings of a shoe was exciting to Tinker, and it was exciting to sneaker fans also.

Tinker graduated from the University of Oregon School of Architecture. His interest and background in architecture allowed him to look at sneakers differently than other designers. He would pull from sources of inspiration that were unique and surprising.

The Jordan Years

The Air Jordan III is one of the most popular sneakers from Jordan Brand. Tinker Hatfield got his start with the Jordan franchise by designing the Air Jordan III. Hatfield’s genius helped to shape the direction of Jordan Brand early on. Tinker and Michael Jordan discussed what MJ wanted to see with the Jordan III during the design process. Michael made it clear that he wanted a lighter and sleeker shoe than the Jordan I & II. The Mid Top design of the III was the first for the line and the first for a basketball shoe. Another first was the appearance of the now iconic Jumpman logo on the back of the shoe. It is hard to imagine the franchise without that famous logo, the III introduced the Jumpman to the world. The III also introduced beloved elements like elephant print and a visible air unit to the Air Jordan line. Those elements are considered iconic pieces of the franchise today. Tinker made such an impact on Jordan Brand, and was so trusted by Michael Jordan, that he would design the Air Jordan 3 through 15.

tinker hatfield jordan 3


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 at the time. The filmmakers wanted to create a fictional sneaker that was aspirational and exciting. Tinker was the perfect man for the job.


Tinker Hatfield is one of the most important names in sneakers and fashion. His work with Nike is unparalleled.


- Adam C. Better

tinker hatfield Back to the Future II