Nike’s Secret Archives House Sneakers You’ve Probably Never Seen Before

The Department of Nike Archives. Portland, Oregon.

By: Noah Lehava
Photography: Mikola Accuardi

We have a substantial history of documenting archival collections of the likes of Hermès, CHANEL, Tom Ford-era and Hedi Slimane-era (part 1 & 2) Yves Saint Laurent (to name a humble few) in the homes and spaces of some of our very best friends. But rarely have we been invited into the ~official~ archives of mega athletic brands like Nike, whose legacy runs over five decades long, to peer into their super-secret warehouse, The Department of Nike Archives (aka DNA), which houses its artifacts. The building itself is inconspicuous and lies somewhere on the outskirts of Nike’s HQ in Portland, Oregon. But like we said, that’s top secret.

What we can talk about, though, is the inside, where all the good stuff has its very special place. Think timelines of sneakers, from the first-ever Cortez to the waffle maker that created the inaugural waffle sole we’re still seeing today, and the toy teddy bear that spearheaded a change in running-shoe manufacturing altogether, to the Air Max innovation that is credited for making Nike a brand. Another wall, dedicated to pieces from legendary collaborations and moments in sports history. And a corner exclusively for Nike’s latest technological creation, the self-lacing HyperAdapt shoe. Crazy, right? Each shoe, which was carefully placed, tagged, and only handled with soft white gloves (as all delicate artifacts should be), across the wall represented a nucleotide in Nike’s DNA helix—hence the space’s name.

As you can imagine, it was pretty damn cool to get such an exclusive look at what *really* makes up Nike. So we documented it and took the opportunity to get the stories behind all the iconic models from a few Nike execs. Click through to get the full story.