Yes it is true, Batman fights crime wearing Nike. Back in the late 1980’s, when the original Batman motion picture was in production, costume designer Bob Ringwood had an issue, Warner Brothers wanted Nike to contribute to the design and look of the bat-suit, and given the 80’s sport fashion at the time, Bob didn’t think Nike could pull it off. He was quoted saying, “80’s sportswear isn’t going to fit with our 1940s look”. But, what looked to be a dead-end in the design, turned into an inspirational challenge for Nike, as they were tasked with designing the “Bat-Boots”. The boot ended up being more of an integrated piece of the armour, merging with the shin sections to look more like the design Ringwood had intended and less like the iconic Nike shoe most people would recognise.
In the original 1989 Batman, Nike at the time used their Air Trainer III for the basic structure of the boot. Both Michael Keaton and the many stuntmen grew very fond of it due to how comfortable the boots ended up being to wear given how awkward and uncomfortable the rest of the suit was. Nike brought some relief to what was a very rigid and uncomfortable costume for the performers. This first experience ended in such a manner that Nike was enthusiastically brought back for the sequel, 1992’s Batman Returns. For the second instalment, Nike customized their Air Jordan VI adding a boot collar which would hold the shin armour Batman needed.
Since then these famous boots have been part of various private collections, including the collection of Ray Rohr. Whose particular toy collection was big enough to fill a warehouse, that took Rohr himself many years to build!
Unfortunately in 2009 Ray passed away and his entire collection was brought by an estate buyer and over the last 4 years his collection has been slowly released. The distinction between the items of extraordinary value and every day pieces is a long and complex process for the current owners. It was throughout this process that they stumbled on a box with what originally looked like an old worn out boot. But, just when it was going to be sent into to the trash, they noticed something different.
Something special, although aged and faded was paramount. A description written on the side of the boot, ” Michael Keaton Batman Returns”. This wasn’t the old worn out boot that was heading to the bin. It was the boot that Michael Keaton wore as the Caped Crusader in Batman Returns! Signed by Michael Keaton himself! The seller posted the item on eBay with the back story of how it was found which included the idiom that “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure.”
Luckily I was able to talk directly to the winner of the eBay auction, James Sawyer, myself; ” I watched this puppy until the very last second making a hopeful bid at the end and walking away with the win.” He says. “I didn’t think I had a chance of getting this… but I think my success had a lot to do with the lack of “Nike Air Jordan” in the auction title. Had it been listed with that included, I have no doubt I would have lost out to the INCREDIBLY passionate shoe collectors worldwide”
When looking at the pictures, the most amount of damage to the boot is where the connection was to the protective armour at the front. The Nike part of the boot is still in a decent enough condition due to how it was looked after. The sole has some wear and tear, this is because of the air pockets inside the boot.
Both shin and boot armour are separate aspects to the boot but are held together by Velcro over the front hiding the laces. These aspects are made of urethane foam, which over time doesn’t last, leading to their current condition. You can tell from the pictures. With this boot, it seems like Batman has taken them through their, paces, and really kicked the living daylight out of those in Gotham who pray on the innocent.
James Sawyer expresses his passion and gracefulness of now owning this awesome piece of history, “Even given its current condition, this is now without a doubt the prize piece of my Burton Batman collection. The Michael Keaton signature is like icing on a cake… but owning an actual piece of one of the Burton Batman suits is a childhood dream realised. And to think that this almost ended up in the trash bin? Well, that gives it a story worth sharing.”