How to tell if Nike is vintage


How to tell if Nike is vintage

Nike has been providing athletes with the optimal sportswear for athletic performance for over 50 years. It’s emergence as a powerhouse in fashion began in the mid 80s with its partnership with Michael Jordan. This helped propel Nike into a brand that you would wear as fashion instead of just sportswear.

Even though Nike was only really considered as a fashion label after this time, some of the original vintage Nike clothing is simply astounding in terms of its quality and design. Vintage Nike really is special, and the popularity of Nike’s vintage clothing has been booming over the last few years. So, to make sure you don’t let a vintage Nike sweatshirt slip through your fingers, you’d best become wise in the ways of vintage identification.

How to tell if Nike is vintage from the tags

The best place to start when it comes to identifying vintage Nike is the tags. Essentially every piece of Nike clothing will have a tag at the time of its manufacturing, and because Nike regularly update the design of these tags, we can assess the design to work out which era a vintage Nike piece was made in. It should be noted that due to the nature of global manufacturing all the timelines of when tags were used are estimates. Even Nike themselves would have a difficult time of pinning down an exact date of production based purely on tags.

The Nike Pinwheel Label

  • This label was used from 1978 to 1982
  • This was one of Nike’s very first mass manufacturing labels
  • The logo used on these labels is almost unrecognisable when compared to today’s logos and labels
  • Nike used a pinwheel design which is a repetition of the Nike swoosh in a circle to create a pinwheel effect
  • Nike’s font was so different to the modern font, that you would be forgiven for mistaking a Nike item with these tags as fake

Nike Pinwheel Tag (1978-1982)

The Nike Orange Label

  • This label was used from 1978 to 1983
  • This tag design laid the foundation for the future of Nike tags
  • Nike’s now famous font was combined with the swoosh for the first time on tags
  • Tags from this time uniquely use an orange swoosh

Nike Orange Tag (1978-1983)

The Nike Blue Label

  • This label was used from 1984 to 1987
  • Nike continued combining the swoosh and the Nike spellout
  • Tags from this time were monochrome
  • Measurements were also used on tags around this time

Nike Blue Tag (1984-1987)

The Nike Grey Label

  • This label was used from 1987 to 1992
  • A grey rectangle set against a white label with a red Nike logo in the centre
  • These tags often have a thicker and higher quality feel to its predecessors
  • Measurements were also included on tags from this time

Nike Grey Tag (1987-1992)

The Nike Grey Label

  • This label was used from 1987 to 1994
  • Most features of the design are the same
  • The main change from the last tags is the removal of the measurements
  • The logo and font appear slightly stretched when compared to its predecessor

Nike Grey Label (1987-1994)

The Nike White Label

  • This label was used in the mid to late 1990s
  • An all white background is offset by the red swoosh and Nike spellout
  • Whilst it’s hard to capture in photos these tags often have a slight sheen/shine to them and are thick
  • They don’t include the measurements but began using the size lettering of other languages (“G” standing for “Grande”)

Nike White Label (Mid 1990s - Late 1990s)

The Nike White Label

  • This label was used in the late 90s to the early 00s
  • White was the primary colour of these labels
  • The quality of them is much thinner
  • And some didn’t use the Nike spellout

Nike White Label (Late 1990s - Early 2000s)

The Nike Two Tone Grey Label

  • This label was used in the early to mid 00s
  • The two tone grey was a significant departure from previous designs
  • Removed the Nike spellout entirely in favour of the swoosh symbol

Nike Two Tone Grey Label (2000-2004)

Vintage Nike tags through the years

Vintage Nike tags through the years - OneOff Vintage

How to tell if Nike is vintage from the design and colours

During its early years (the 70s and 80s), Nike tended to use primary colours for its apparel and used simple toned-down graphics. They would include their logo on most of the clothes they produced at this time but would usually made it a discreet chest or sleeve logo. They also liked to use the pinwheel logo at this time which was essentially a concentric circle of Nike swooshes with alternating colours.

Into the late 80s and early 90s the designs started to become bolder and more eye catching. The huge boost in Nike’s popularity meant that people were often keen to showcase that they were wearing Nike, and in line with this Nike started to use bigger logos and slogans that represented the companies’ values.

How to tell if Nike is vintage from the materials used

One indicator of the age of a Nike item is the materials to create them. Most Nike vintage clothing such as t-shirts and sweatshirts used a 50 50 cotton polyester blend. Nike did not debut it’s drifit material until the late 00s, so if the wetsuit materials are used on a Nike item its unlikely that its vintage.

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide on how vintage Nike fits differently to modern Nike, click here.


For more fashion news and updates, stay tuned to OneOff Vintage.

Also, our collection of vintage Nike is unlike any other, featuring some of the best the legendary brand from Oregon has to offer. We usually stock a mix of Nike, Ralph Lauren, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and much much more.


  • Posted on by kate
    Whereas I don’t particularly like Nike shoes I love the Logo and status that comes along with it. Thanks for the great tips on fit. I love finding vintage for the style and the price!
  • Posted on by Dona

    I am bookmarking this page! This has been super helpful. I had no idea you could tell just by looking at the tags. I have been doing a lot of thrifting locally and online so knowing for sure I am getting something pre-1992 is what I am after. I like items that are 30+ years old. Thank you for sharing this. It has made my shopping a whole lot easier when it comes to this brand.

  • Posted on by Jasmine Hewitt
    I can remember the old Nike tags, vintage Nike is pretty cool stuff!

Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing
The cookie settings on this website are set to 'allow all cookies' to give you the very best experience. Please click Accept Cookies to continue to use the site.
You have successfully subscribed!
This email has been registered