Size and fit

The Nike Classic Cortez women’s and men’s sneaker has a foam midsole that provides excellent support. Its leather upper follows the natural curves of the foot for a more comfortable fit over time. Also, should there be a need to adjust the shoe snugness, its lacing system is a natural feature to use.

Nike Classic Cortez Style

The Nike Classic Cortez is often monochromatic, so it’s relatively easy to find clothing items that match it. Of course, its neat and classic silhouette makes it such an easy piece for styling and experimenting with because it effectively complements instead of overpowering the day’s outfit. Coming in a lot of colorways, the Nike Classic Cortez rarely runs out of ways to stimulate style creativity

For many of the world’s top fashion stylists, the Nike Classic Cortez has already reached the status of other iconic casual sneakers like Converse Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells or Adidas’ Stan Smith and Superstar that goes well with just about every street-style clothes one will have in their wardrobe. Some have even worn the shoes with smart casual to semi-formal clothing without anyone batting an eyelash.

  Nike Cortez vs Adidas Superstar

The street-style design and iconic look of the Nike Cortez sneakers are often compared and pitted against the bestselling Adidas Superstar. Both classic shoe designs are often leading the pack in terms of retro styling and look. But what sets the Nike Cortez apart from the Adidas Superstar can be traced back from the shoe’s early beginnings.

The main difference between the  Nike Classic Cortez compared to the Adidas Superstar is its primary use. At the onset, the Cortez was marketed as a running shoe while the Superstar was a basketball shoe. But after several decades when running and basketball footwear technology has progressed, both the Cortez and Superstar were later on labeled as lifestyle sneakers than being performance running or basketball shoes.

Another difference between the Nike Cortez and Adidas Superstar is in its silhouette. While both low-top models seem popular with several generations, the built of each shoe are reminiscent of its early functionality whereas the Cortez takes the shape of a running shoe while the Superstar takes the mold of basketball sneaker.

Different subcultures also welcomed the two silhouettes, The Nike Classic Cortez were mostly worn as mainstream pop culture pieces and athleisure wear where their early endorsers included Farrah Fawcett and were featured in the Oscar-winning movie Forrest Gump.  

The Adidas Superstar, meanwhile, was early on patronized by the hip-hop loving generation with the likes of ‘80s musicians like Run-D.M.C. sporting these kicks in their gigs and concerts.  

It is now only in late 2018 that the Nike Cortez became a popular shoe among the hip-hop community as hip-hop star and musician Kendrick Lamar, after his successful collaboration run with Reebok, jumped over to the Swoosh brand’s lot to help designs the likes of  Nike x Kendrick Lamar Cortez Basic Slip, Nike x Kendrick Lamar Cortez Kenny 1, and the much anticipated Kendrick Lamar x Nike Cortez Kenny 3.

To compare both iconic shoes like the Nike Cortez vs Adidas Superstar is a travesty. After all, both have their stylistic charms that are far different from each other. The Nike Cortez with its running-inspired shape and all recognizable contrasting Swoosh logo on the sides and the Superstar with its signature shell-toe front and Three-Stripes on the side.

Both shoes, however, are perfect everyday sneakers for those looking for classic kicks that are affordable, durable, versatile and great for everyday wear for school, work, or for a casual day out.

Meanwhile, here are styling suggestions to rock the iconic Nike Classic Cortez sneakers:

      • For men: The Nike Classic Cortez for men are easily paired with bottom staples like shorts, joggers, cropped jeans, khakis or chinos, and trousers. Men may opt to wear shirts, hoodies, and button-down shirts with a Nike Cortez classic kick in white, black, and other exciting colorways.
      • For women: The Nike Classic Cortez for women is quick to pair with street-style skirts, jeans, and shorts. Women may opt to pair these bottoms with a tank top, slim-fit shirts, and a hoodie while wearing the women’s Nike Classic Cortez casual shoes in pink, white, and other bright-colored variations.

Notable Features

Aside from the comfort that it gives, the Nike Classic Cortez is known for the nostalgia that it elicits because of its loyalty to the form of the original version. Some wearers say that it feels like they’re being taken to their high school years just by looking at this shoe. The single stripe on the midsole is also a notable feature of this pair of kicks.

Nike Classic Cortez History

A creation by Nike co-founder and Olympic-class track coach Bill Bowerman himself, the Nike Cortez was first introduced in 1972. It was not an overnight creation; it must be noted because the concept for a shoe that’s light, comfortable, and able to go long distances had been with Bowerman since the late 1950s.

  Nike Classic Cortez origins

Bowerman started to bring into fruition his dreams of a quality running shoe when Blue Ribbon Sports worked together with Japanese manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger in 1966 by developing a running shoe with an aerodynamic upper and continuous foam midsole and a herringbone patterned outsole. He called the design as the TG-24 which later became the Cortez shoe.

Bowerman and his Nike co-founder Phil Knight started distributing the shoes manufactured from Onitsuka in Japan to the US that it became even more popular among runners by the time of the Olympic Games in Mexico.

The image and silhouette of what would become the Nike Cortez running shoe did not come out until 1968, which was an Olympic year that saw the games being held in Mexico. Perhaps because of this, the Cortez would have been named Aztec to honor the greatness of the Mexican lineage. However, a competitor released a shoe called Adidas Azteca Golden, and this pushed Nike to reconsider the new model’s name.

Hernan Cortes was a Spaniard who led the team that cleverly defeated the Aztecs. His character and story became the inspiration needed to counter the competitor’s move. Hence, upon running shoe’s release in 1972, Bowerman’s creation was introduced to the world as the Nike Cortez after the Spanish conquistador. 1972 was also an Olympic year, and the games were held in Munich Germany.

The Nike Classic Cortez shoe predates the creation of Nike itself. The running sneaker was already in existence and slowly gaining fame among college athletes when Bowerman and Knight named their company Nike Inc. on May 30, 1971. Nike, named after the Greek goddess of victory, started introducing their shoe designs and decided to end their partnership with Japanese manufacturer Onitsuka Tiger. However, this resulted in a couple of years of legal battle with the Japanese firm on who gets the rights to the name “Cortez” until a US court ruled in favor of Nike. The court decision led Onitsuka Tiger to rename their version of the favorite shoe into the Onitsuka Tiger Corsair, a bestselling shoe that bears significant resemblance with the Cortez until today.

The Nike Cortez then went on to exert influence not only in the running world but also in other areas including street fashion. Some observers even say that this model is one of the most important contributions of Nike to the world of sneakers. There are also those who take their claims further and say that this model laid one of the foundations on which Nike’s global empire now sits claiming it as the world’s first modern running shoe.

Whatever the actual case is, it’s certain that the Cortez brought so much value, and it continues to do so through its current reiterations and for-the -street transformations. Aside from the Nike Classic Cortez, the modern Cortez repertoire also offers other versions such as the Nike Classic Cortez Nylon in blue colorway which was introduced in 1975 as the “world’s lightest running shoe.”

As iconic as the silhouette, the Nike Classic Cortez has also been a fixture in American pop culture amidst the cult following it has amassed through the years. It’s first highly recalled showing in American television was in the feet of model turned actress Farah Fawcett in the hit TV show Charlie’s Angels. As the Swoosh brand started to market the shoe to its growing female audience, the shoe was a fixture in Fawcett’s feet as she musters a downhill chase scene on a sneaker variant called the Nike Cortez Seniorita in 1976. The result of this appearance is an absolute giveaway – improved sales of the shoe, especially among women.

Other famous stars that have donned the legendary shoe is Sir Elton John who scored an endorsement deal with Nike in 1980. Trading more than $16,000 worth of concert tickets for Nike merchandise, the acclaimed English singer, in one of his concerts, mentioned the brand while placing his foot on the piano and showed the world his pair of Nike Cortez.

A cult following was also established among the breakers or breakdancing community. The likes of breakdancer Crazy Legs of the Rock Steady Crew were seen sporting the shoe. The shoe also became a favorite among Los Angeles gangs who became identified as such by the mere presence of the Cortez on their feet.

But what probably catapulted the white Nike Classic Cortez with a red Swoosh and blue accent at the midsole is the Award-winning Academy film, Forrest Gump. The Nike Classic Cortez in Forrest Gump colorway remains to be the most highly sought among millions of the silhouette today. The secret to its success is product placement genius with actor Tom Hanks as Gump receiving a pair of Cortez from his childhood sweetheart Jennie unraveling his three-year running journey across the United States.

The Nike Cortez classic silhouette was also a familiar fixture on the set of hit TV series Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld’s protagonist George Costanza has been using the classic kicks for most of the hit sitcom’s season runs. Other movie appearances of the iconic Nike Classic Cortez sneakers include 1984’s The Karate Kid featuring Ralph Macchio wearing the shoe in some scenes. Even Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio has worn the Cortez in the blockbuster The Wolf of Wall Street as he plays his Jordan Belfort character trashing a Lamborghini while donning a white Cortez.

  Nike Classic Cortez colorways, collaborations

With countless colorways and iterations of the Nike Classic Cortez casual shoes, one could hardly argue that its longevity is a result of its ability to be loved by one generation of sneakerheads to another. One reason pointed out by many of its loyal fans is the strength of the Cortez to be rendered in various colorways and iterations to suit the needs of a multi-generation of fans from young adults, adults, and the elderly.

Among the most popular colorways is the Nike Classic Cortez OG “Forrest Gump” in the recognizable red, blue, and white combination. Other noteworthy colorways, collaborations, and iteration of the classic model include the Mister Cartoon x Nike Classic Cortez which started in 2005 with a black colorway with an Aztec embroidered symbol replacing the Swoosh. The white version, meanwhile, featured an integrated Los Angeles or LA logo. The collaboration was repeated in 2017 with more design iterations of the Cortez.

Other notable collaborations, colorways, and iterations of the Swoosh brand for the silhouette include 2010’s Year of the Tiger special edition with the Cortez decked in tiger stripes. Also worth noting are the collections that were released like 2013’s Cortez Asia Pack which rendered the iconic shoe in bright hues while using the Retro Nike Pinwheel logo with abbreviations of Asian cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Taipei, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. Some collections that are also worth noting include the Brothers Double Pack, Nike Cortez Los Angeles Editions, and J. Crew Vintage Collection Cortez.

Last but not the least, among the famous collaborations in the Nike Classic Cortez sneaker was the much-awaited Kendrick Lamar x Nike collaboration. Jumping ship to the Swoosh brand from his partnership with Reebok, musician and rapper Lamar is the recent addition to the Nike endorsers list releasing much talked-about designs like the Kendrick Lamar x Nike Cortez Kenny 1, Kendrick Lamar x Nike Cortez Kenny III, Nike x Kendrick Lamar Cortez Basic Slip, and Kendrick Lamar x Nike Cortez “Kung Fu Kenny.”

Nice to know

  • The Nike women’s and men’s Classic Cortez sports a large Swoosh logo on both sides of the shoe.
  • Its rubber outsole features a herringbone pattern to ensure a secure grip on almost any surface.
  • The midsole is made of lightweight foam material.
  • High-quality leather covers almost the entire upper of this low-top shoe.
  • Kendrick Lamar and Bella Hadid were recently seen wearing and endorsing this sneaker.

Facts / Specs

Style: Classic, Sporty, Minimalist
Top: Low
Inspired from: Running
Collection: Nike Cortez
Closure: Laces
Designed by: Bill Bowerman
Material: Leather, Rubber Sole, EVA

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Danny McLoughlin
Danny McLoughlin

Danny is a sports nut with a particular interest in football and running. He loves to watch sports as much as he loves to play. Danny was lead researcher on RunRepeat and The PFA’s report into Racial Bias in Football Commentary. His football and running research has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, New York Times and Washington Post.