The year was 1982. The designer Bruce Kilgore began a journey that would change the shoe trends for all time. He decided to try to reconcile the basketball culture of the fashion world – to create a shoe that was both functional and had a precise sense of style. The shoe Nike Air Force One became the bridge between the two and the shoe that worked both on and off the pitch. This year, 25 years.
Air Force One became the first basketball shoe that had real attenuation. This is to reduce the risk of injury when the basketball players (weighing a lot) landed after their jump. But simply presenting a technological innovation would not convince very many buyers. Instead it was the distinctive shape and a smart marketing move that decided. With the help of six selected basketball player, it launched the shoe in a variety of color combinations.
The link to the basketball player has been persistent over time. One of my old childhood heroes, Charles Barkley , is one of the most famous faces who represented Air Force One and its successors until the Air 180. In homage to these players, Nike has released special editions – one for each of the original six players (Michael Cooper Moses Malone, Calvin Natt, Jamaal Wilkes, Bobby Jones, Mychal Thompson) – but also six contemporary basketball heroes (Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, LeBron James, Tony Parker, Amare Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace) and six future ditto (Carlos Boozer, Al Harrington, Emeka Okafor, Jermaine O’Neal, Nate Robinson and Amare Stoudemire – again). Watch the slideshow to see a selection.
Besides basketball, Air Force One always had a strong relationship with hip-hop culture. The name often appear in the reference in the lyrics, and the all-white mid-model is a modern classic. A lasting memory of me is when Fat Joe is interviewed in MTV Cribs and he shows her shoe collection – “Of course I’ve got my unsecured blancos. Never rock the Sami pair twice”. New shoes every day that is. This year, Kanye West, Rakim, Nas KRS One and DJ Premier has jointly made a song in conjunction with the anniversary.
From tomorrow, Sunday, you can see all the variations on the shoes, and make your own color combinations on Nike.com/AF1. And this also includes the new Air Force One . An updated version with both new design and new technology.
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