What is Nike ACG?
ACG stands for All Conditions Gear. As the name implies, Nike ACG is Nike’s outdoor shoe and apparel line. Nike ACG products are made to take a beating and look good at the same time.
The ACG line was launched in the 1980s as a way to provide mountain-worthy swoosh products. ACG products are meant to handle rough terrain and all types of conditions.
ACG officially launched in 1989, but Nike played with the idea of mountain-ready Nikes for years. In the 1970s, during a boom in hiking and rock climbing, a sports subculture was born around the mountain hippy. Easy-going, long-haired mountaineers were revolutionizing the sport by taking on massive climbs, pushing the boundaries of ‘free-climbing’ (scaling massive cliffs without ropes). They were reckless, but with a unique attitude and style. One giant element of that style was the footwear.
Climbers threw out old, heavy leather boots and strapped on lightweight approach and running shoes. There’s actually a famous image of Rick Ridgeway and John Roskelley halfway up K2 rocking some trashed yellow Nike LDVs. This image hugely influenced this new, trendy mountain trekking lifestyle.
In response to all of this, Nike launched Nike Hiking in 1981, the precursor to ACG. The first models that Nike Hiking put out were the Lava Dome, the Approach boot, and the Nike Magma.
These first models were clearly not classic hiking boots and that was reflected in the marketing for them. These innovative boots were lighter, sleeker, and prettier with vibrant colors and elegant lines. Nike’s flashy new footwear was also equipped with high performance features. The Nike Approach, in particular, featured a new (at the time) waterproof fabric: Gore-Tex.
When 1984 rolled around, Nike was going through tough times. Sales were down and they laid off about 400 employees. Things began to pick up slowly after that and in 1988 they broke through in a big way when they launched their uber famous “Just Do It” campaign.
Riding this wave, the Nike Hiking line went through a revision. The term “hiking” was too limiting. The company wanted to cater to rock climbing, mountain biking, kayaking, snowboarding, and pretty much every other outdoor activity. Then infuse those product categories with a fresh, edgy Nike style and spirit. With renewed vigor, they re-launched Nike Hiking in 1989 as Nike ACG.
An all-terrain version of the Air Pegasus launched in 1988, under the ACG moniker, but the line was officially renamed in 1989 and Nike dropped a ton of heat under the new sub brand.
Nike ACG in the 1990s
During the 90s, outdoor activities became more accessible and gained popularity thanks to the boom in skateboarding and other “extreme sports”. Nike struck while the iron was hot.
In 1991, Tinker Hatfield, the design mastermind behind the Jordan Brand designed a shoe for ACG that would become the most famous model in the line: 1991’s Air Mowabb. The Mowabb was a mix of the Wildwood and Huarache (recently released at this point). Hatfield claimed that they were inspired by Native American moccasins and the Martian landscape of Moab, Utah. The shoe became an overnight hit and an instant classic.
In 1993, ACG dropped the Deschutz Sandal, an airsoled, odd-looking action sandal designed for kayaking. And in 1994, they released the Air Moc, a sort of Yeezy-before-Yeezys. ACG also came out with a series of excellent, and now highly-nostalgic ads during this period.
Since ACG was never as popular as, say, Nike Basketball, it became a haven within Nike. A place where the brands best designers could go wild and freely produce some very edgy products. The project even attracted Peter Fogg, who previously designed aircraft interiors.
Fogg was behind the creation of a hybrid model that is still considered to this day to be one of the best ACG shoes ACG. The 1997 Air Humara trail runner was released as part of the Nike Running line, even though it is technically an ACG model.
Nike ACG in the 2000s
As outdoor performance gear gained popularity in the fashion and streetwear market, Nike revamped ACG in 2014 as NikeLab ACG. This was done under the supervision of designer Errolson Hugh (known for the Berlin Based brand ACRONYM).
Errolson bought a whole new image to ACG, making it sleeker, younger and edgier. He also reorientated the line toward modern techwear.
With Hugh’s departure from ACG in 2018, Nike returned the line to its heritage under new creative director James Arizumi. In 2018, ACG brought back two of its most beloved classic models: the Okwahn II and the Air Revaderchi. Then in February of 2019, they rereleased the Wildwood.
Now, Nike ACG is a great place, that same magic space it made for itself between fashion and performance while balancing innovation and nostalgia. Nike ACG is one of the coolest and wackiest brands under Nike’s umbrella. It consistently provided funky looking, resilient gear just odd enough to attract the attention of sneakerheads and hypebeasts. And, of course, sturdy enough to conquer K2.