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How Nike '110s' Became Liverpool's Favourite Shoe

The Air Max 95 has been credited with turning the adidas stronghold into a Nike city.

by Marta Bona
12 February 2020, 12:19pm

Photo via Sole Supplier

It's not hard to spot a Scouser. While Londoners might go for Trapstar or Palace headwear, people from Liverpool are more likely to opt for Under Armour. While women in Essex, Manchester and Leeds know how to plump an eyebrow, generally they have nothing on the iconic Scouse brow.

But perhaps the biggest giveaway that someone's from Liverpool is what's on their feet. If it's over 12 degrees, look for the adidas Adilette. In any other climate, it's always Air Max 95s.

Known locally as 110s – because they used to cost £110 (they're now £130) – it's a joke among the city's trainer sellers that Nike shifts more 95s here than anywhere else in the world. But you don't need to do a stock take to get an idea of how prolific these shoes are in the city: cast your eyes to the ground at any home game, city centre bar or pub and you'll see them.

To understand why 1110s have developed such a cult following in Liverpool, I spoke to Lewis Earle, a trainer expert with an Instagram account dedicated to his growing collection.

The 23-year-old has over 100 pairs of trainers meticulously stored in his home, all of them bought with money saved from his job in digital support for LUSH. In his collection are two pairs of 110s: the classic green neon you'll spot everywhere in Liverpool ("Scouse staples"), and a rarer No-Sew pair, without any stitching.

"You have to have a pair. It's just a classic Liverpool shoe, do you know what I mean?" said Lewis. "It doesn't feel right to have so many trainers and not have a pair of 110s – they're just classics."

Launched in 1995, the appeal of 110s – according to Lewis – lies in the number of different versions available, meaning there's always a new pair to covet. "One of the main things with the 110s is that the price is attractive, because £110 for shoes when I was 12 or 13, I couldn’t afford. My mum wouldn't spend that – and it was a statement," he added. "Scousers like to show off – not in a bad way; it's a pride thing. And the price proves that you've got shoes worth £110 on."

But it's not all about status: "They're actually comfortable. They have the full length air bubble, toe to heel, they're durable and it's quite a simple design," Lewis explained. "They were designed by Sergio Lozano, based on the human anatomy. It's the skeleton, [represented by] the waves up the side. The rib cage [represented by the lacing] and then the mesh near the laces [representing muscle fibres]. That's the inspiration."

Jay Montessori, 49, is the co-owner of Transalpino, a Liverpool-born brand founded in 2015 to hunt down and sell deadstock or super-rare trainers. He told me 110s have always had a cult following in Liverpool, and could be cited as the shoe that turned the tide from adidas to Nike in the city.

"Scouse lads have always had their own insular look," he explained. "The 80s saw the birth of what is now known as the 'football casual' in Liverpool. In the 90s, it was the shell suit and white trainer thing, but the latest is lots of outdoor walking and mountain wear, with either wedge or long hair styles among the younger crew.

"I could go anywhere in the world and spot a kid from round here who's into his clobber, and 110s are a key part of that uniform. I couldn't say that for any other UK region."

Jay has custom 110s that he wears on a daily basis, for "knocking around in", and Transalpino continues to get requests for special imports, declining to stock the "run of the mill versions" that trainer stores in Liverpool are "swamped with".

But with so much love for 110s in Merseyside, is it a status symbol that's become over-hyped? Jay doesn't think so: "The 110 thing on Merseyside is not at all over-exaggerated. They're worn by primary school kids, firms of scallies and successful businessmen of the street alike, with no sign of that changing anytime soon."

@emiliabona

Tagged:
liverpool
nike
Sneakers
scouse fashion