A conversation with Max Hanke
21-year-old Max Hanke is the multifaceted creative bringing back 80’s sneaker culture with his innovative replicas of original Jordan ones. His 1 of 1 models of 1985 Jordans recreate not only the sneaker but the nostalgia and culture behind the shoe. We sat down with him to talk through his sneaker journey, what his design process looks like, and the inspiration he draws from the late Virgil Abloh.
YMM: So first of all, how did you get into sneakers
I got into sneakers from moving to the USA, I was born in Korea, and grew up in Sweden but eventually moved to Connecticut at like 10 years old. In the US I was very into basketball and always wanted that next pair of Jordans. The first pair I ever wanted was the Infrared Jordan 2s but I ended up getting the flight SC3's because it was the closest thing in color. The first pair of retros I get were the 11's and I thought I was the shit until I walked into school with them on and the first thing I saw was someone else wearing the exact same pair. I was also always interested into like the marketing behind sneakers. Those old classic advertisements like Spike Lee ads are such a big part of pop culture and always felt super classic to me.
YMM: When did you start making pairs?
I made my very first sneakers in my senior year of high school as an art project. I was staring at my shoes, looking at the retros I was wearing and comparing them to pictures of the OGs. They’re so different. I made a pair of Jordan 1 lows focusing on the ‘85 shape. I was very curious whether it was possible or not so I deconstructed my personal shadow lows and learned how everything was constructed. I even made my own shoe last, carved out of wood because it would be too expensive to buy. After my success of making that pair, I became obsessed with trying to improve the shape and continue learning.
YMM: What does your design process look like?
My first design process started with the question, ”how do I make a pair of sneakers” and I didn’t even know if it was possible. It was all about following my curiosity, continuously asking myself questions, and learning from trial and error. As soon as I got more practice it became more about micro details which capture the essence of the OGs. All these small nuances are what really makes it feel like an ‘85 Jordan. I believe there were like 5 factories that produced Jordans in 1985 and each one of those factories produced a slightly different shape, so nailing down just one was super difficult as a perfectionist.
YMM: You sell patterns for the shoes you design. Have you seen a lot of people making shoes with your patterns?
Yeah, it’s amazing to see so many people use them. It’s cool to see hundreds of people all over the world make them. The thing about my patterns is that I don’t give step-by-step instructions, rather I provide videos which I feel like is just enough guidance; allowing each person to interpret it differently and add their own unique touch.
YMM: Why don’t you sell shoes?
I do some commissions when I have the time, however, I’m a full-time student and I don’t have the resources or desire to make a bunch.
YMM: Who inspires you?
My biggest inspiration was Virgil. Especially looking back to 2017 seeing his original “The Ten” Nike collaboration for the first time. The transparency of his design process and that DIY look at such a high level in the fashion world gave me and my friends the idea that we could do that too. His design process and approach to design was something I always admired. I was fortunate enough to have met Virgil exactly one month before he passed. I stumbled upon him outside of Dover Street Market in New York and had actually asked whether the shoes I made were real or fake, and to that, he replied, “Everything is real.” I don’t like to idolize people but he was an exception. Earlier that summer he’d followed me on Instagram and complimented one of the Off-White customs I made. It was a full circle moment and very gratifying having someone I looked up to notice my work.
YMM: Who are some of your favorite creators in the sneaker space?
One of my favorites has been Foxtrot Uniform. They’ve been supportive from the jump and really put their trust in a 19-year-old who made shoes in his bedroom. Working with them has allowed me to reiterate and improve my making skills and attention to detail with each commission and is part of what has allowed me to grow in so many ways. We shared interests and our visions aligned.
YMM: How about present-day sneaker culture? How does it compare to early sneaker culture?
I love/hate it. I’m not a fan of resellers, although I get it because I was into that when I was younger. I find sneaker culture has become very mainstream now and I gravitate more towards the niche subcultures such as vintage because it seems more genuine. I feel that many people today are just buying for the resale value or hype and not because they actually like the shoes in the first place. But I guess that’s always been a part of it.
YMM: The favorite sneaker of all time?
Jordan 4 white cement.
YMM: What person or brand do you want to work with?
I would love to collaborate with Nike and Jordan one day but also I want to be able to work with my friends on something we love at a professional level.
YMM: What are some of your ultimate career goals?
I would say being able to design and create freely while supporting myself. Similar to Virgil, I want to be like a renaissance man who expands their work across any medium whether that’s fashion, furniture, movies, and so on.
YMM: Do you see yourself making sneakers like 10 years from now?
Why not, I stopped it for a bit and I’m fine with that but you’ll always see me with sneakers. I'll be 60 and rocking a pair of Jordans. Right now though I get tired of ones and I would love to make my own models.
YMM: Message to younger self
Do more, try more, focus on what you want to do.
Thank You, Max
Keep up to date with Max Hanke on Instagram @maxio6
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