Those familiar with Nike’s history will know that co-founder Bill Bowerman crafted some of the brand’s first sneakers using his wife’s Belgian waffle iron. (The iron was trashed in the process, but we’re guessing she forgave him when Nike went public in 1980 — and his 26 million shares were valued at $9 million.) The first such shoe was the Nike Cortez, but a much-improved later model was the fittingly named Nike Waffle Trainer.
Whether you know them as Nike’s first-ever running sneakers, the iconic shoes in which Forrest Gump ran across the country, or as a staple in West Coast fashion, the Nike Cortez is undeniably a classic.
The Cortez sneaker has a deep history that actually pre-dates Nike as a company. The very first iterations of the shoe came about in the mid-1960s when famed track coach and Blue Ribbon Sports (the company that would later become Nike) co-founder Bill Bowerman teamed up with Japanese footwear brand Onitsuka Tiger to design track sneakers.
After several name changes, they landed on The Aztec, but that named turned out to be too similar to Adidas’ Azteca Gold track shoe. It is rumored that the sneaker was then renamed for the final time after the Spanish conquistador who defeated the Aztec Empire, Hernán Cortés, to one-up the Three Stripes.
When Blue Ribbon Sports went on to design its own footwear and change its name to Nike, the Cortez sneaker went along with the brand and officially released as we know it in 1972.
Ever aware of its past — and the public’s appetite for it — Nike has reintroduced this iconic shoe. The latest version features the classic moccasin-like upper, wedge midsole and of course that waffle outsole, but it’s also got some modern touches, including a memory foam sockliner and dual-density foam midsole. Pick up a pair today for a timeless look that’ll take you from the track to the bar in style.