Nike has had some peculiar categories throughout the years. We tend to think of sportswear brands in terms of the obvious activities — football, tennis basketball, football, training (and, of course, posing), but there was a time when they dipped their toes into anything that looked like potential profit. The 1980s led to some forays that deserve a brief spotlight, though any dip into adidas’s spectacular archives reveals pieces for any conceivable thing decades earlier, with particular care given to lines for some niche European activities.
For a few years, between 1986 and 1988, Nike took the plunge into boating, signalled by some campaigns that used the familiar Futura Bold font in publications like Yachting and Boating. As I understand, the collection of apparel and footwear was led by early employee Geoff Hollister, who was key in launching the Windrunner jacket as part of a rainproof running suit back in the late 1970s, as well as the cult Aqua Sock silhouette. The Aqua Sock was joined by some more sensible siblings around its launch — the flagship KA-15 (available in four colours), with its chunky performance sole and the canvas and synthetic suede Swiftsure, which looked like a union of Sperry, visvim’s Hockney and the Air Jordan II. In subsequent seasons they seemed to get a little more conservative with the Comfort Rose and Auckland for women and men respectively, plus some boldly coloured Pile-lined lightweight and waterproof jackets.
I’m not sure how connected the Nike boating line and equally short-lived Aqua Gear line were, though Hollister’s excellent autobiography Out of Nowhere discusses race sponsorships and the development of the line on the back of the Aqua Sock’s popularity, plus the eventual recruitment of a former Sperry Topsider man in a top management position.
While we’re talking noble failures, I’m not sure how long the Nike Bowling line ran for (I suspect it was as brief as the boating project), but it launched in 1986 with sponsorship of ten-pin rebel and son of Oregon, Marshall Holman. There was apparel and footwear, but, to the best of my knowledge, no attempts to put the swoosh on a ball. Shoes like the 818, 828 and 827 seem to be some of the only footwear pieces on record.