The Iconic Sneakers That Started a Movement
Tracing the birth and evolution of modern sneaker culture is enough to fill a book (literally), but here's one place to start: the Nike Air Force 1. Originally released in high-top form in 1982—the low followed a year later—the shoe was almost discontinued in 1984. But enthusiastic fan support, plus a bevy of colorways pushed by local retailers in Baltimore, Maryland, helped save it from the discard pile. And while other models from the era certainly hold a hell of a lot of sway in the sneaker world (ahem, the Air Jordan 1), the AF1 not only predated them but also introduced, early on, an artistically iterative model that's become a staple of the culture.
If you're a sneakerhead, you're probably ready to do one of two things. 1) Nod in tentative agreement with my truncated but not entirely dumb take on the subject, or, 2) Throw your phone/computer/internet connected Tamagachi across the room, hunt me down, and tell me exactly what an idiot I am. That's cool! Either way, you've got to admit: The Air Force 1 isn't just a sneaker—it's an icon. Here's why you should have it in your rotation.
Okay, okay. Bear with me here. Because while the hype machine is arguably the most powerful force in the modern sneaker game, there's something kind of perfect about a shoe that has bona fides—and doesn't require lining up if you want a pair. Will a clean white AF1 low break necks at a convention? Will it rack up likes on Instagram? Maybe not. But it's a damn good shoe that everyone—from high-school kids to their moms and dads—can appreciate. And considering the ever-shortening hype cycle, there's something to be said for rising above the fray and simply wearing a pair of sneakers because they're classic. Just saying.
It's built for new ideas.
There's a very good reason all those OG Baltimore retailers pushed for more and more colorways of the Air Force 1: the shoe is a canvas. The number of iterations since then—some mind-blowing, some misfires, and some middle of the road—boggles the mind. And while not every one is an unqualified winner, that's not really the point. The AF1 is open to interpretation. Whether from fans or designers or influencers, new versions are always cropping up. That's exactly what keeps it exciting.
It's versatile as hell.
While I'm never going to scoff at a good one-off colorway or collab, I'm also a big fan of something simpler. A basic white pair shows off just how well the lines have aged over the years, and it works with everything in your closet. Plus, while low-profile kicks have their place, the AF1's bulkier silhouette feels especially relevant right now, as our hems are getting wider and we need to balance things out. As our outfits shifts, white AF1s are a no-brainer. Of course, you might not feel the same way—though I urge you to see the light and give 'em a try. But if it's not your thing, that's fine! Just find one of the many, many other versions and wear in good health. That's the beauty of the Air Force 1.
Prop styling by Summer Moore
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.