The Profound, Transcendent, Enduring Legacy of The Nike Air Force 1
Few other sneakers carry the sort of cultural weight that the Nike Air Force 1 does, and no other sneaker has stood the test of time quite as well. Not only is it a beloved icon that transcends the sport for which it was intended—it also happens to be the best-selling athletic shoe of all time. We still wear and recognize the Air Force 1 today, but its roots go deep.
The Air Force 1 was first released in 1982, then the first basketball sneaker by designer Bruce Kilgore. He would go on to design the Air Ship, the Air Jordan 2, and the Nike Sock Racer, but none of them would ever surpass enduring legacy of his first creation.
As a basketball shoe, the AF1 had its moments throughout the ’80s, worn by some of the NBA’s big centers. But it will always be remembered as an icon of the streets: a status symbol within and beyond American hip-hop culture, and a shoe that defined ambition and aspiration.
In its most basic all-white colorway, the Air Force 1 famously recurred in East Coast hip-hop anthems—notably in Jay Z’s “Can I Live II”, in which he rapped, “For all my n---as with the all-white Air Force Ones and black guns.” The AF1 was also the subject of Nelly’s infamous rap anthem, “Air Force Ones”, which was reportedly banned on MTV for excessive product placement (even if it was likely a sincere ode to a beloved shoe):
To date, there are over two thousand different colorways and permutations of the Air Force 1—a testament to its influence and adaptability. Serial AF1 collectors like DJ Clark Kent, who has over 6,000 pairs of AF1s, maintain that it is Nike’s perfect sneaker.
Such is the influence of the Air Force 1. So it’s only fitting that Nike marked this year—35 years after the Air Force 1 was originally released—to celebrate one of its greatest icons. They’ve kicked this celebration off with the NBA collection of Air Force 1 Lows, which are classic renditions of the shoe:
But they’ve also paired that up with a more contemporary rendition: the SF Air Force 1 High:
Nike will be continuing the AF1 festivities throughout the holiday season, so look forward to more releases in the coming weeks and months, including collaboration projects with Jay Z and designer Riccardo Tisci.