Looking Back at the 40th Anniversary of the NIKE AIR FORCE 1

Just starting in 2022, Nike has released a number of new limited-edition Air Force 1 models. There’s a reason sports fashion companies promote these shoes. Because 2022 marks the 40th anniversary of Nike’s iconic sneaker.

Launched in 1982, the Nike Air Force 1 is one of the brand’s most popular sneakers and is often used as a creative platform by stars and artists. The shape of the shoe has changed slightly over the years as a subtle reflection of the changing times.

Let’s take a look back at key milestones in the history of the Harper’s Bazaar’s Nike Air Force 1 footwear that accompanied the wave of streetwear culture.

About the Nike Air Force 1 Sneaker Collection

The Nike Air Force 1 (also abbreviated AF1) collection was designed by Bruce Kilgore.

The Air Force collection is available in high, mid and low top designs. The original 1982 Air Force 1 was a high-end model. Low-top was released a year later. The mid-roof model came later, only 12 years later in 1994.

The Air Force name was inspired by Air Force One, a plane designed to carry the President of the United States. The name fits perfectly with the design of the sneaker — Nike’s first basketball shoe to feature Nike Air technology, creating a lightweight sneaker that won’t tire your feet during exercise.

The birth of a fashion icon

In 1982, Nike wanted to launch a sneaker that would keep up with popular basketball trends. Nike in-house designer Bruce Kilgore crafted this selection based on a combination of Nike Tailwind and Nike Approach Hiking Boots, as well as the thick soles commonly found in basketball shoes. The team calls it the Nike Air Force 1 shoe.

The Nike team’s idea was to create a shoe that was light enough so that basketball players wouldn’t feel heavy and tired after long periods of time. The sole is slightly larger than the body, which increases flexibility on the football field. The original design features a high top secured with a Velcro closure. It also has a lacing system that adjusts the width/elasticity of the shoe according to the width of the foot, making it as comfortable as possible.

“It was my first basketball shoe,” recalls Bruce Kilgore. After designing the Air Force 1, he also created other shoes such as the Air Jordan II, Air Ace, Avenger…

To test the quality of his shoes, Bruce Kilgore enlisted his colleague Tinker Hatfield (who is now Nike’s VP of Design and Special Projects). The pair drove to a nearby university and asked the basketball team to try out their new design.

The survival of the Nike Air Force 1 depends entirely on the fans in Baltimore City

Initially, Nike planned to cancel the AF1 lineup when the technology became obsolete. However, the line of sneakers has become a classic for the company thanks to its loyal fans from Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

In the city, Nike shoe retailers came together to create a new version of the AF1 line of shoes. Each month, they design and release exclusive color schemes together. The Color of the Month campaign has helped turn Baltimore into a mecca for the Nike Air Force 1, a must-see for those looking for unusual versions of the shoe.

Thanks to the help of a Baltimore retailer, Nike decided to revive the Air Force 1 line, which was released in 1982, discontinued in 1984, and finally reborn in 1986. Since then, these shoes have been updated in different colorways every year. In 2001, Nike also introduced a smaller size for women.

Streetwear and Hip-Hop Shoes

Unlike the Air Jordan line, which has had many aggressive ad campaigns, the Air Force is Nike’s “step-son”. Air Jordans are associated with basketball legend Michael Jordan’s name and are sold nationwide. And the Air Force, while present at the feet of some NBA basketball stars like Moses Malone and Mychel Thompson, is sold almost exclusively in the inner cities of major cities. It didn’t even appear in Nike catalogs in the 1980s, according to a Washington retailer.

However, the Nike Air Force 1 shoe quickly became a streetwear favorite thanks to its white-on-white colorway. AF1 creator Bruce Kilgore didn’t know how popular his design was until he visited the factory in Taiwan. “When I visited the factory in Taiwan in 1987, I didn’t know they were still making the Air Force 1. They told me ‘it’s always hot.’ It took me by surprise,” recalls Bruce Kilgore.

The commercial success of the AF1 series was officially established in the late 1990s and 2000s, when it entered the hip-hop and rap community. The most popular rappers of the time, Nelly, Jay-Z, The Wu Tang Clan… The Nike Air Force 1 was worn everywhere, even on album covers and music magazines, making the shoe more fashionable than ever. popular. Jay-Z even rapped the Air Force 1 shoe in the 1998 song Can I Live II.

The Reincarnation of the Nike Air Force 1, Via Limited Edition

In 2022, the shoe officially enters the 40-year mark. How did the Nike Air Force 1 stay popular for so long? The answer lies in limited editions, shaking hands with artists or brands that have the potential to generate hype.

These include Nike’s handshakes with streetwear label Supreme, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White; or collaborations with influential artists such as footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, rapper G-Dragon and singer Billie Eilish. To date, AF1 shoes have been produced in over 1700 different color codes.

Similar to Air Jordans, rare versions of the Air Force line also sell for several times the original retail price on the used fashion market.

Important Millions in Air Force One Shoe History

1982: The first Nike Air Force 1 shoes are born.

1983: A low stock version (AF1 Low) was released.

1984: Nike eliminated the Air Force 1. However, the shoe was saved thanks to a “Color Club of the Month” campaign by Baltimore fans and the local retail group.

2001: The Air Force 1 collection debuts in women’s sizing.

2007: To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Air Force 1, Nike released two super-premium versions. They are made in Italy in exotic crocodile and python skins. The laces are plated with real gold. With an official retail price of $2,000, they are among the most expensive sneakers on the market today.

2010s: Nike introduces new technology materials such as Foamposite, Hyperfuse, Liquid Metal and Flyknit in the AF1 collection.


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