Crossovers between big fashion brands and video game franchises aren't a new thing, and when it was announced that Nike planned to release a pair of custom Air Force One sneakers based on Capcom's Street Fighter, few eyebrows were raised – but more than a few wallets were opened.
The plan was to release a pair of shoes that celebrated 2004's iconic 'Evo Moment 37' – which saw Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong take part in an epic Street Fighter III semi-final, with the former winning after parrying 15 consecutive attacks, despite being on a sliver of health.
The story of Nike's Evo Moment 37 sneakers actually begins a decade ago, when Mark Julio was working at peripheral maker Mad Catz, which happened to sponsor Daigo. Julio reached out to Nike about a potential collab, telling Kotaku:
I got a few replies. We had a few calls over the years. It wasn’t until many years later in 2019 when I met with Nike’s Hayden Walling and we brainstormed/planned a sneaker that celebrated the fighting game community; in particular Evo Moment 37. Hayden pitched it internally at Nike and we were off to the races.
While Evo Moment 37 was the inspiration, the sneakers would celebrate the whole fighting game scene, boasting references to Tekken and Marvel vs. Capcom 2, as well. Things were looking positive, then Covid-19 happened. No release date was ever officially announced, and a planned launch at Evo 2020 fell by the wayside when that show was canned following abuse allegations. It was assumed Nike had simply quietly cancelled the sneakers, but then something odd happened.
Wong himself was alerted to the existence of a pair of sneakers which had Daigo's moves stitched into the tongue – something that was planned for Nike's Street Fighter shoes:
Julio also found out about the sneakers this way, explaining:
I found out about the sneakers being in the wild just days before Evo 2022. A tweet to Justin Wong, with the inputs of Evo Moment 37 on the sneaker’s tongue tag, went viral. I saw the photo and freaked out. I wasn’t told that the sneakers were made or even released.
I found out very quickly that they were hitting outlet stores and there were a few sales of them already online. Aside from Nike outlet stores, you could also find them on resell sites like StockX, GOAT and eBay as well. So I did what any sneakerhead that wanted a sneaker would do. I wanted them. Wanted to wear them at Evo. Wanted to make sure Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong got a pair.
Guess what? He got his wish:
It ended up being fun and worked out. Both Justin Wong and Daigo knew I was working on something with Nike, as we needed their blessing. Even Capcom had a heads up. So it was a bit bittersweet that we didn’t get to really pay the moment and those involved tribute. At the very least they were able to get their pairs.