Legendary Artist Mr. Cartoon Joined Forces With Nike Again To Bring Us A New Set Of Nike Cortez

World famous artist Mr. Cartoon was on hand at Nice Kicks in Downtown Los Angeles for the release party of his new collaboration with Nike.

Courtesy of Nike

For the 45th anniversary of the Cortez, Nike tapped the Chicano artist famous for his graffiti and tattoo art.

His graffiti mural was on display, as well as his lowrider cars. Mr. Cartoon was credited as a producer in the 2017 film ‘Lowriders.’

Mr. Cartoon designed these exquisite Nike Cortez using premium leathers, nubuck and inspiration from his cars and LA street culture.

It’s been over 10 years since Mr. Cartoon’s first collaboration with Nike, which resulted in the release of an extremely rare and coveted pair of Air Force Ones, but, Mr. Cartoon told mitú, he insisted on also releasing a pair of Nike Cortez as part of that initial release.

When first presented with designing for Nike, Mr. Cartoon knew he had to bring some Los Angeles flair to this classic LA street shoe.

These were part of the original 2005 pack, which included the Cortez and Air Force 1.

Mr. Cartoon talked with mitú about the connection between the Cortez and the Latino community, one of the reasons he wanted to initially work with the shoe.

“Latinos stick together out here, you know what I’m saying? We have big crews mixed up of everybody, but we do got to help our own people, a lot of times you hear about our own people hating on us, but that’s not true we got a lot of support. We got a lot of love. We go everywhere, we show respect, so we get respect and it’s really about the art. The low riders out there, the cars unite all cultures together. The shoe game does the same thing.”

The Cortez has become synonymous with Los Angeles street culture, specifically within the Latino community. For many, the dickie pants wearing, gang banger stereotype wasn’t complete without a pair of Cortez.

Mr. Cartoon went on to talk about the cultural impact of the shoe itself in the ’80s, saying:

“These are our shoes, this is us right here, we want everyone to wear it, but in the 80’s it was a lot harder to wear these shoes. You had to be down to wear these shoes. You know what I mean? You wore these shoes in the 80’s and it let people know what music you listen to, what you eat, what kind of woman you would date and that you’re down at that moment, for whatever.”

To a guy born in LA, during a time when “being hard” was important and your attire had to precede you so fools wouldn’t step, wearing the right shoes meant everything. That’s why when given the opportunity to work with Nike in 2005, Mr. Cartoon chose the AF1, arguably the most important shoe at the time, because of Nelly’s “Air Force One,” which was playing on every radio. But, he said, he had to also choose the shoe that was the on the streets when he was coming up, the Cortez. Both shoes have gone on to ‘holy grail’ status.

The Cortez is one of Nike’s very first shoe designs and a flagship of the company, and has made its mark on popular culture.

Credit: Forest Gump / Paramount

The Cortez was originally designed by Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, when Nike wasn’t even called Nike. Back in 1966, when they were “Blue Ribbon Sports,” Bowerman was, as the story goes, destroying his wife’s waffle maker to create the iconic “Waffle Runner.” During the process, he designed one of the best-selling and iconic silhouettes in shoe design with the Nike Cortez. One of the most well-known colorways of the Cortez is the classic white with red and blue, made famous by Tom Hanks in the classic ’94 film “Forrest Gump.”

The shoes have been rocked by just about everybody.

The Cortez was created for runners but was adopted by the streets. Throughout the years, the shoe has been popular with sneaker heads, gangsters, and rappers like Eazy-E, The Game, Lil Wayne and, of course, Kendrick Lamar — who brought the shoe back in a big way a few years ago after rapping about them on Big Sean’s “Control.”

It is unfortunately ironic that the shoe became such a symbol for the Latino community considering who it was named after.

Credit: History Channel

According to Nike co-founder Phil Knight’s biography, “Shoe Dog,” Nike chose “The Aztec” as the name of the original prototype of the shoe. He had to change directions when Adidas threatened to sue — they already had a shoe named “Azteca Gold” for the upcoming Mexico City Olympics in 1968.

Frustrated, Bowerman asked “Who was the guy who kicked the shit out of the Aztecs?” To which Knight replied, “Cortés. Hernán Cortés.” Bowerman replied, “Okay, let’s call it the Cortez.” And with that, from its inception, the Nike Cortez became associated with Cortés, whose violence against the Aztec people shaped Mexico, Central, and South America for centuries to come. To this day, although the gang banging associated with the Nike Cortez worn off a bit, it is still seen as a shoe deeply tied to Los Angeles gangs, especially in the Latino community. Knowing all of that, Mr. Cartoon says he’s trying to change the way people look at the Cortez, as well as the community associated with the shoe.

Mr. Cartoon once symbolically removed the Nike Swoosh and replaced it with the head of an Aztec warrior.

NIKE colabo "Aztec 2000"

A post shared by Mister Cartoon (@misterctoons) on

After researching and learning the history of the naming of the sneaker, the next time Mr. Cartoon was given the opportunity to work on a pair of Cortez, as if to reject the imperialism of the Conquistador whose name Nike adopted in naming the shoe, he replaced their Swoosh with the head of an Aztec warrior and called these the “Aztec 2000.”

Mr. Cartoon sees the importance of history, and of the future, while hoping to inspire others as well.

“I grew up wearing these shoes. So to design them, I don’t take that lightly. Even the first time I did it ten years ago… truly blown away for this opportunity… I want the past to be involved, but I also want the future when it comes to technology the leathers and the nubuck and the hangtags, everything about it from the sole, we want to use the new technology plus the old school – new vintage, that’s what I’m talking about… This stuff, we do to inspire the youngsters, if they see me do it, they go “if this fool can do it, I can too,” you know?”

Word, Mr. Cartoon. We know exactly what you’re talking about. ✊?

The shoes have already sold out on Nike’s website, so make sure you call up your plug and if they have a pair in your size — do like your boy Forrest Gump:

Credit: Forest Gump / Paramount

Run, Forrest. Run!

READ: This Major Brand Is Standing Up For People Of Color And The LGBTQ Community In Sports

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