When people talk about “all-time favorite” Nike models, the conversation usually revolves around the bigwigs. The Air Max, Air Force 1 or the Air Jordan. Today we’re changing the topic and putting the Nike Cortez on their forgotten spotlight.

The history of the shoe

Originally designed in 1968 by Bill Bowerman, Cortez made their official debut during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. They were the quintessential shoes for the long run.

Working together with Japanese footwear company Onitsuka Tiger, Bowerman developed a hungry running shoe that could eat up the pavement. Its design had an aerodynamic upper and continuous foam midsole supplemented by a herringbone-patterned outsole. In August of 1966, he ordered 300 pairs of the “TG-24/Shoe designed by Bill Bowerman w/Mexico Line”. Despite the unwieldy name, it checked all the boxes of what athletes were looking for. It became one of the best-selling runners of the year.

TG-24 CORTEZ with Mexico line

The year of the Olympics

As the year of the Olympics was coming closer, the team at BRS and Onitsuka Tiger wanted a flashier name. After deliberating options, BRS zeroed in on “Cortez”, named after Hernán Cortés who defeated the Aztecs. The TG-24 “Cortez” became an instant bestseller.

Nike Cortez at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany

Popularity goes a long way

Soon enough the Cortez became popular and had a loyal group of followers. The West Coast blew the shoes through the stratosphere. The rise of LA gangster rap propelled the Cortez into the street culture. They were known under the name “Dopeman’s Nikes” from 87’s legendary NWA song “Dopeman”. “To be a dopeman boy, you must qualify. Don’t get high off your own supply.” Colors are more than just stylistic choices here, but signal street gang affiliation. The Bloods wear red, while Crips wear blue. As a gang member from LA described the look. “White t-shirt, my Ben Davis and my Nike Cortez and somebody would know, that guy is trouble right there.”

Eazy-E wearing the Nike Cortez in the ’90s

Product placement in movies

Remember Forrest Gump? Remember what Jennie got Forrest as a gift? Nike Cortez! The movie is often called a “product placement slam dunk”. From a sneaker head’s perspective, it plays a key role. Awarded as a gift by his soul mate Jennie, it unlocks Forrest’s magic stride that powers him to run. As Forrest himself said: “The best gift anyone could ever get me!“

Jennie gets Forrest a pair of Nike Cortez

Women’s version of the shoes

Oh, and did I mention there was a women’s version of the Cortez, labeled the Senorita Cortez? That shoe hit the big time when it was worn by Farah Fawcett in the hit TV show Charlie’s Angels. In the episode “Consenting Adults,” the Hollywood star races downhill chase scene on a skateboard in the Nike Senorita Cortez. Right after the episode, sales went nothing but uphill – fast!

Actress Farah Fawcett wearing the Nike Senorita Cortez

Final thoughts

Today’s modern design of the Cortez is far from what the shoes looked like in the ’70s. They are still looking sharp and comfortable af. If you want to buy yourself a pair, check out the models available at the Nike Store.

The clever positioning of the Cortez, the quality, and the design earned Nike substantial sales from the ’70s through the ’90s. The Nike Cortez are known as the “world’s lightest running shoe”.

Nike Classic Cortez Premium Women’s Shoe 2019

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