The mythical Nike Mag — the futuristic, light-up, athletic shoe from 2015 that has captured the fascination of sneakerheads and movie fans ever since Marty McFly donned a pair in “Back to the Future Part II” in 1989 — is finally a reality.
The footwear, which was unveiled by Nike in Los Angeles on Thursday, comes with a couple of caveats. First, the shoes lack the self-lacing mechanism depicted in the film. Second, there are only 1,500 pairs in existence. Third, they can be bought only via auction through eBay.
But the good news is that the auction of the shoes will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation to fund Parkinson’s disease research. That will amount to no small chunk of change given that a small ceramic replica in a box signed by Tinker Hatfield, designer of the shoes that appeared in the original film, brought in $3,500. And a pair of the Nike Mags packaged in a bright yellow packing case (which will be personally signed by Michael J. Fox) fetched $37,500 in just eight minutes of frenzied bidding at a live auction Thursday night at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood.
The centerpiece of that event — which included appearances by actor Christopher “Doc Brown” Lloyd and Hatfield (Nike’s vice president of innovation, design and special projects) — was the reveal of the shoes themselves in all their glowing LED and electroluminescent glory.
The shoes were designed to be precise replicas of the film version, right down to the contour of the gray fabric upper, the speckled Zolatone sole and glowing Nike logo strap. The astonishingly light 2011 Nike Mag (the name refers to “magnetic levitation”) is the company’s first rechargeable shoe, and can glow for five hours between charges.
While technology hasn’t advanced far enough to satisfy the most hard-core movie fans and sneakerheads who’ve long hoped for the self-lacing feature depicted in the movie, Hatfield dangled a shoelace of hope.
“We’ve got some prototypes that work but they’re not ready for prime time yet,” he said during an interview earlier in the day.
So, if a self-lacing version is in the works, why release a non-lacing version now? Nike’s Chief Executive Mark Palmer and Michael J. Fox Foundation co-founder and executive vice president Debi Brooks point to the opportunity to leverage the enthusiasm for the Nike Mag in hopes of doubling the amount of money raised.
“Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki have pledged a matching grant of up to $50 million to the Michael J. Fox Foundation through the end of 2012,” Brooks said. “That’s the kind of thing that can really help us envision a future without Parkinson’s.”
Each day, for 10 days (through Saturday) 150 pairs of the 2011 Nike Mag shoes will be put up for auction at nikemag.ebay.com. Bids for the first round of shoes ranged from $4,000 to $8,100. [Nike Media via Vancouver Sun and Design Crave]