The Mac Attack, a cult classic
When the Nike Mac Attack first debuted in 1984, it went against the norm of traditional tennis footwear design. During this era, on-court models were usually fashioned with a minimal approach that mirrored the sport’s simple style sensibilities: predominantly white presentations with minuscule splashes of color. Unlike the era’s other silhouettes, the Mac Attack dared to be subversive. It was engineered with a slightly higher cut and formed with multi-paneled uppers, gray and navy color-blocking and checkered tongue banners that set it apart from a sea of plain shoes.
For playing a sport that’s characterized by its decorum and sportsmanship, McEnroe’s cantankerous attitude shook up the establishment. Despite his controversial behavior, McEnroe’s exceptional skills kept audiences on the edge of their seats, which made every match that he played an unforgettable spectacle. The Mac Attack embodied his rebellious spirit, making it a symbol of his larger-than-life presence in tennis.
In 2021, LeBron James and Travis Scott catapulted the Mac Attack back onto the sneaker community’s radar as they were spotted sporting vintage pairs. The four-time NBA champion borrowed a retro iteration from vintage sneaker collector Jon Migdal, and the Cactus Jack rapper snagged his from consignment shop RIF LA. Given that these were (and still are) two of Nike’s biggest brand titans, the shoes instantly generated buzz, and resell prices of original pairs skyrocketed. This serendipitous moment carved out room for vintage pair owners, McEnroe stans and die-hard tennis heads to reminisce on the silhouette’s glory days while simultaneously starting the process of garnering new admirers thirsting for a retro release. “The reality is that the general public doesn’t know much about this shoe, so you need a cultural catalyst to create an audience for it,” vintage sneaker collector Dennis Mazur, better known as @sneakerdenn, told Hypebeast. “Scott’s influence, especially when it comes to fashion, is powerful enough to drive a new trend.”
The Swoosh then officially announced the model’s return with a campaign that featured Scott and McEnroe (even though his name has been stripped from the retro release). Tennis purists got a kick out of the lookbook’s motto “Rebel like the OG” as it hearkened back to McEnroe’s retro “Rebel With a Cause” poster ads, while modern-day rap fans acknowledged Scott’s briefcase that he’s been using to promote his forthcoming album Utopia. Positioning these “rebels” side by side bridged the gap between audiences from the past and present, the courts and the streets and the shoe’s heritage and its future.
Despite it being two years since Scott sparked this new Mac Attack narrative, now couldn’t be a more opportune time for its return. Jordan and Nike’s lifestyle line are embracing a revival of ‘80s performance-turned-lifestyle classics and letting them soak up the residual energy of shoes like the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1s. That’s how silhouettes like the Air Ship and Terminator fit in and how the Mac Attack is aiming to follow suit.
The reincarnation of the Mac Attack also provides Nike with a strategic platform to reinvigorate its tennis category. Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal have been quiet in terms of their initiatives with the brand and as the former has retired and the latter is nearing the end of his career. Nick Kyrgios — who is often compared to McEnroe because of his similar temperamental attitude — is also part of the Nike family, but doesn’t have as much star power as Williams or Nadal to the point where he can drastically increase product sales. So how does the Swoosh shine a light on its tennis line? Dig into the vaults and amplify the present by promoting the past.
The Mac Attack’s throwback appeal has the potential to captivate the sport’s community and generate renewed interest by tapping into the wave of tennis-inspired trends like pickleball. “The only people that care about the current, high-tech Nike tennis products are the people who actually play,” vintage footwear enthusiast Andrew Ng, better known as @sneakerpreservationsociety, told Hypebeast. “While it’s still a lifestyle-focused shoe, I can see the pickleball crowd picking this up, especially because the game’s audience ranges from younger kids to elderly folks. It’s such a historical sneaker that represents the golden era of American tennis and it has the potential to drive more energy to the brand in a way that models like the Air Ship and Terminator can’t.” Taking into consideration the high-profile figures that brought them back into the spotlight, amplified energy from collectors, aforementioned marketing Scott and McEnroe campaign, as well as teasers of clean inline colorays and collaborative renditions with the likes Social Status and Travis Scott, the Mac Attack has enticed sneaker fans both old and new in ways that the Air Ship and Terminator never did.
Nike is determined to reestablish the Mac Attack’s place in sneaker culture and pave the way for a new era of appreciation for its historical importance. You can’t forecast how the Mac Attack will perform in today’s sneaker zeitgeist, but the fact that it will finally be more accessible and consumers won’t have to break the bank when paying resell for a pair is worth celebrating. Now would be an appropriate time to play Mark Morrison’s most popular tune, because the return of the Mac (Attack) is here.
The Nike Attack OG is slated to launch on June 23 via Nike and select retailers for $120 USD.