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Nike Air Force 1

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Air Force 1 flying high since 1982

It begins and ends on a runway, always ready for flight. But it was the hardwood that was the birthplace of the Nike Air Force 1. Named for the airplane that carries each President of the United States, the shoe came to life on basketball courts in 1982 and remains a streetwear staple.


Why then?

The scene had been dominated by the storied Chuck Taylor All Star. But into that space burst the Air Force 1, due in part to a nationwide ad campaign that featured the “Original Six” wearing flight suits on a runway:

  • Moses Malone (Philadelphia)
  • Michael Cooper (LAL)
  • Jamaal Wilkes (LAL)
  • Bobby Jones (Philadelphia)
  • Mychal Thompson (Portland)
  • Calvin Natt (Portland)

And since it was the first basketball shoe to include air cushioning, a technology that Nike debuted in 1978 and encapsulated in the midsole, the AF1 was clearly built to soar. While we think of the Air Force 1 as a legendary success today, Nike actually discontinued it in 1984, turning its attention to other Air-cushioned basketball styles. But it returned in 1986, the first true “retro” release of what would be many for Nike.


Why now?

Simple; it’s simple. That’s the easiest way to describe the Air Force 1. The silhouette is as clean as can be while still being interesting. And with the exception of adaptations involving different cushioning options over the years, that look has remained consistent.

Available in three looks – low, mid, and high – it’s most popular as a low. That keeps it versatile because you can wear them with shorts, jeans, whatever. The mid and high come with an ankle strap that, in most models, is removable. It gives you other style options; strap it up, wear it loose, or maybe take it off all together.

While simple White/White and Black/Black are the hottest sellers, they’re built for color blocking. Stitching sets the heel portion off from the midfoot area, and more stitching sets off the perforated toe box. The midsole is embossed with “Air” on the lateral (outer) side. Mix and match countless color combinations of each piece, and it’s easy to see why AF1s are always top of mind.

In fact, the shoe inspired two hit singles, “Air Force Ones” by Nelly in 2002 and “Classic (Better than I’ve ever been),” a 2007 collaboration with Kanye West, Nas, Rakim, and KRS-One.


One franchise spawns another

Designed by Bruce Kilgore, the AF1 is said to have launched the career of now-legendary designer Tinker Hatfield. Originally hired by Nike as an architect, Hatfield was asked to wear-test a prototype of Kilgore’s “Air Force” project. It interested Hatfield so much that he turned his attention to sneaker design and eventually designed more than 20 Air Jordan models.


A customized legacy

AF1s are even popular among sneaker customizers. The White/White colorways serve as a canvas for street artists to tell their own stories, their way. Some will create colorways reflecting their hometowns, TV/movie heroes, or favorite teams.

Graffiti, super heroes, or modern-day dunk artists. There’s no question which shoe gives you a look that’s uniquely you.