Reaching the Summit: The History of Nike ACG

REACHING THE SUMMIT: THE HISTORY OF NIKE ACG

For a company like Nike, being on top in every category is almost expected. From lifestyle, to sport, Nike’s innovation often reigns supreme. Surprisingly enough, their venture into outdoor recreational products wasn’t necessarily part of their plan originally. Nike All Conditions Gear, or Nike ACG for short, had more of a natural beginning.


As the 1970s rolled around, the hiking scene began to see a shift from its traditional look. With clothing slowly changing from tame neutrals to loud, bold colours. The footwear took a drastic change as well, with big brown leather boots being gradually phased out for vibrant, sleek sneakers becoming the new wave.


With this transition taking place, it wasn’t until Nike noticed the now iconic picture of Rick Ridgeway and John Roskelley on K-2 both sporting some yellow Nike LDVs that they would finally decide to dabble in the idea. Their reasoning: if they could elevate other world class athletes in their respective sports, why wouldn’t they venture out into hiking? Thus, in 1981, Nike Hiking was born, ACGs predecessor.

  

 

The initial focus for Nike ACG was to to provide hikers with a fun, albeit innovative take on hiking apparel. Nike was able to incorporate unique features to their products such as quick-drying linings and tons of exciting colors to contradict the drab looking hiking gear of the past. Another unique feature that was slowly introduced into their hiking line was the addition of the then new waterproof fabric, GORE-TEX. These technologies saw the release of Nike Hiking's three debut products, the Lava Dome, Approach, and the Magma.

Nike Son of Lava Dome (1981)
NIKE SON OF LAVA DOME (1989) — ONE OF NIKE'S FRONTRUNNER DESIGNS DURING THE OFFICIAL NIKE ACG LAUNCH 

 

Prior to the launch of Nike ACG, the sub-label had a bit of a teaser one year prior to it’s introduction with the ACG Air Pegasus that dropped in 1988. While the ACG designation first started appearing on Nike products in 1988 with the Nike ACG Air Pegasus, a runner designed for cold, wet and off road conditions, the Nike ACG line itself wasn't founded until 1989. However, when it did, All Conditions Gear hit the ground running. Seeking to expand past their focus solely hiking, ACG would create products that could co-exist across all outdoor activities. From hiking, to kayaking, to snowboarding and everything in between,  Nike would go on to ensure that all of their ACG apparel and footwear would live up to their name and perform in all conditions. 

 

NIKE AIR PEGASUS ACG (1988)

THE NIKE AIR PEGASUS ACG (1988) — THE FIRST TIME A NIKE PRODUCT HELD THE "ACG" DESIGNATION

 

To coincide with the array of unique new outdoor models being put out by ACG, the Nike team assured that the adverts would be just as distinctive. With the help of long time partners Wieden + Kennedy, ACG’s adverts were over the top, creative, and focused more on being fun rather than informative compared to other sportswear brands. These ads are often attributed to part of the success of the Nike ACG line, as their comedic take vastly set them apart from competitors.

 

 

With outdoor activities on the rise in the ‘90s, this meant one of ACG’s most iconic shoe silhouettes would also be introduced to the public. The Tinker Hatfield designed Air Mowabb arrived in 1991 and  would blend the Nike ACG Wildwood, one of the sub-labels debut sneaker, with Nike Air Huarache which had recently been released. This trail sneaker would draw inspiration from Native American moccasins and the landscape of Moab in Utah, hence the name of the shoes.

 

 

In the years that followed, ACG's popularity as a performance outdoor gear line eventually lead it cross paths with the streetwear realm. In 2014, the heritage outdoors line saw a relaunch under the name Nikelab ACG. Based in Berlin, the new Nikelab ACG was helmed by ACRONYM® founder Errolson Hugh, who introduced a new aesthetic to the brand. The relaunch saw massive amount of popularity and introduced a whole new audience to the ACG line as techwear and ACRONYM® fans alike rallied to the new GORE-TEX driven, urban ninja aesthetic Hugh was presenting. 

 

ERROLSON HUGH'S FINAL 2018 COLLECTION FOR NIKELAB ACG

 

After a short tenure of 4 years, news broke in 2018 that Hugh's tech-oriented take at Nikelab ACG was coming to an end. Enter, James Arizumi. Best known for his work at NIKE SB, Arizumi would eventually take Nike ACG out of the city and back into the wild outdoors.

Looking to take the brand back to it's outdoors-y roots, Arizumi's relaunch of it's heritage-driven 2019 collection saw the re-introduction of loud retro colors and designs, including the addition of more womenswear. In true Nike fashion, Nike ACG would eventually look turn their attention inwards to their heritage archive to inspire their new offerings. All Conditions Gear would deliver several iconic models from the ‘93 Air Deschütz, an ACG sandal, to the ‘94 Air Moc, Nike’s version of an all-terrain moccasin.  All of ACGs signature models would eventually see revivals, with the Air Deschütz+ reappearing in 2020 and the Air Mocs having already received a 3.0 update.

 

 

Following the trend of reintroduction, the all time ACG classic, the Air Mowabb, has received another rebirth in 2021. For it’s 30 year anniversary, the OG outdoor sneaker is back in it's OG "Rattan Birch" colorway alongside the “Twine” colorway as an ode to the All Conditions Gear icon, albeit with a few minor changes. 

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