Twenty-two years ago a film about time travel gave us a glimpse of the now not-too-distant future. The 1989 Back to the Future sequel looked forward to 2015, capturing the imaginations of kids like us who dreamed of one day riding their own hover board in self-lacing sneakers like Marty McFly. Those sneakers, a concept created by Nike's own design head Tinker Hatfield alongside the film's production team, went on to provide fodder for millions of clicks worth of Internet speculation, a petition and even DIY mock-ups. Today, this past vision of the future becomes a reality as Nike launches the Mag. Continuing to push the boundaries of limited editions, auctions and charity, 1500 pairs of the shoes will be available by auction only with the potential to raise $100 million for The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research through a matching donation by Google's Sergey Brin.
As Nike's guest, I was present for the launch of this project in Los Angeles' Universal Studios. A tour of the lot reminded us about the magic of movies, a point Hatfield reinforced by describing the original Mags' oversized battery pack that bulged out of Fox's back pocket—off camera, of course—to light up the LEDs in the shoes.
Nearly identical to the ones Fox work in the film, the shoes even include the LED panel in the sole and electroluminescent logo in the strap. Today's version has a small internal battery hidden in each featherweight shoe. The glowing features last up to five hours per charge and the plug port neatly tucks away under the cuff.
Unfortunately, despite Nike filing the Automatic Lacing System patent back in 2009, the power laces detail from the film shoes didn't make it to the production model. Given that feature shows a poetic respect for the needs of people suffering from the limited muscle control Parkinson's Disease inflicts, Hatfield simply commented, "It's not 2015 yet," alluding to a future refresh of the Mag.
Back to the Future fans, sneaker-heads and philanthropists are invited to bid on the Mags in a series of one-day auctions that starts tonight at 11:30pm EST at nikemag.ebay.com and will run until 18 September 2011. To box out the typical reselling bonanza and ensure maximum dollars are contributed to to the cause, no pairs of shoes will be shipped until all 1500 pairs are sold. All proceeds will go to The Michael J. Fox Foundation and will be matched by Sergey Brin.
All photography by Josh Rubin
Update: 19 September 2011
It looks like the total raised on eBay alone was $5,695,190.53 (before live auctions and matching grants)!