Sneaker Wave

This Portland Shop Is the Holy Grail for Vintage Nike Gear Collectors

The Culture PDX is a vintage wonderland of 750-plus Nike pieces.

By Jordan Michelman October 16, 2019 Published in the Design Annual: 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

A collector’s pair of 2002 Nike Air Max Dolce sneakers sells for $300 at the Culture PDX.

The rarest T-shirt I have ever seen is hanging inside a shop in Goose Hollow. Its pride of place is subtle; it’s one of many T-shirts and shoes from yesteryear on display in this store, commemorating bygone marathons and long-retired sports heroes. The shirt says, simply, “Hike Nike,” and it depicts a shaggy-haired and heavily bearded character with the iconic swoosh logo emblazoned on his person. He’s wearing a backpack—he’s headed out on the trail.

For vintage Nike collectors this shirt is the equivalent of a Babe Ruth rookie card or a cherry Model T Ford in working condition. It dates to the mid-1970s and has been bootlegged and reissued endlessly. An authentic piece like the one I’m staring at sells for thousands of dollars—if you can find one.

This is The Culture PDX, a vintage store like no other: a wonderland of 750-plus Nike pieces across 1,000 square feet of gallery space, overseen by 24-year-old Newberg High grad and ex-Nike employee Tanner Gimbel. Launched in March 2018 following Gimbel’s departure from Nike’s visual marketing department, the Culture is both a web store and a brick-and-mortar location in Southwest Portland, a few blocks from Providence Park. The shop is 100 percent dedicated to Nike apparel, merchandise, promotional art, and ephemera—a living archive stretching back to the 1970s. “This collection started out of true brand passion,” Gimbel says. “Shirts like that Hike Nike piece are a kind of holy grail for people.” (The shirt can sell for up to $2,000.)

Image: Michael Novak

As a young collector growing up in the Portland area, he started first with Nike as a seasonal sales associate, working his way up and making contacts along the way as he developed his stock. Part curator, part archivist, Gimbel has a collection that runs the gamut of Nike’s history, from pre-swoosh pinwheel logo gear from the 1970s to pieces from ’90s Nike sub-brands like Challenge Court, Jordan Brand, Aqua Gear, and Nike International.

But the most significant part of his collection is called ACG—or All Conditions Gear—a line of outdoor gear coveted by Nike nerds. Launched in 1989 by a legendary team of Nike designers (including Tinker Hatfield and Steve McDonald), ACG includes pieces like “Air Revaderchi” hiking shoes in birch and mulberry, “Snowpatch Spire” coats in electric pink and yellow, and “Beo Beo” shorts in swirling aubergine, each designed with fashion-forward outdoor lifestyle in mind.

At least at first. In the years that followed, multiple generations of musicians, stylists, and tastemakers from Tokyo to Brooklyn to Manchester embraced ACG as streetwear, pulling it out of the forest and taking it to the asphalt. Mixing rare, flawless-condition vintage Nike pieces with the work of contemporary clothing designers like Virgil Abloh (Off White) or Teddy Santis (Aimé Leon Dore) has emerged as a major fashion trend in 2019, seen in videos from style influencers like Travis Scott and Lil Yachty to events like Paris Fashion Week and the Met Gala.

Genuine ACG pieces from the 1990s are among the most sought-after items in the Nike catalog, rabidly hunted down through online markets like eBay and DePop. Appropriately enough, a significant portion of the Culture is dedicated to ACG, sourced from a range of private collections and fellow ex-Nike employees. “We’re selling pieces that are comparable to new condition,” says Gimbel, “which means you can pair it with new styling. Anybody can wear this stuff—it’s so versatile.”

The Rarest Nike Vintage Pieces at the Culture

1989 ACG Huascaran jacket Nike’s ACG line was established in 1989, and pieces from this year are highly sought after, especially in good condition. “This jacket has so much technical detail,” says Gimbel, pointing out the groundbreaking dual-entry zipper pockets and an interior stitched tag depicting the namesake Huascaran mountain in Peru.

1987 Air Max sneakers A pair of influential Nike sneakers featuring a promotional “bigger air” bubble on the sole to highlight the brand’s then-new “Air” sneaker technology. “This is a great story piece for anyone coming in the shop,” says Gimbel, “from serious collectors to people seeing vintage Nike for the first time.” These shoes are part of the archive collection at the Culture, and not currently for sale, although “we’re always talking and willing to listen to serious collector inquiries.”

1981 Portland Marathon set (shirt and visor) The Portland Marathon was an early sponsor partnership for Nike under Phil Knight. “The visor was likely given to volunteers,” says Gimbel. The T-shirt itself is a lovely shade of clean camel beige, with a full black back swoosh. The set is not currently for sale. 

1999 Air Tuned Sirocco One of Gimbel’s favorite pieces in the shop this summer, Nike’s “Tuned” series (designed as a training shoe) is mostly unknown here in the United States but has ardent fans in Europe, Australia, and Asia. “It’s awesome to be able to see enthusiasts come in from around the world and see something they remember from childhood,” says Gimbel.

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