THE SNEAKER SHOULD COME ALIVE. Tinker Hatfield was sitting at a drafting table in his office in Beaverton, Oregon. He and another young designer at Nike named Mark Parker had just returned from a brainstorming session in Hollywood with film director Robert Zemeckis, who was storyboarding the sequel to his sci-fi comedy hit of three years earlier, Back to the Future.
It was 1988, and Zemeckis and his creative team were on the hunt for futuristic sight gags for the film, set in 2015. They had tasked Hatfield and Parker with dreaming up some seriously 21st-century sneakers. One idea that came up in the meeting involved magnetic levitation, but to Hatfield that seemed a little too Jetsons.