Everything you need to know about the Nike Air Force 1.
Nike Air Force 1 history and background.
While today the Nike Air Force 1 is looked at with great pride by Nike and collectors around the world, its origin story is much more intricate and contains plenty of ups and downs - especially in its early years. Designed by Bruce Kilgore in the early 80s with hiking boots being the inspiration for the high-top iteration, the AF1 was eventually released in 1982 and became a cult favorite for select ball players in the North East of the US. Even if the model received love from a small group of people, it wasn’t considered a success at the time and was almost shelved entirely in 1984 until a few retailers in Baltimore, Maryland sparked interest in the silhouette through “Color Of The Month” releases that still go down to this day. During this period, the model was available in its original high-top form and the favorite low-top, however, the 90s introduced the world to the mid-top AF1 that still captures a cult following for serious collectors.
As time passed on, the humble Air Force 1 grew in popularity and hip-hop played a pivotal role in its expansion into mainstream fashion through artists like E-Z Rock and Nelly (who wrote his famous AF1 tribute anthem “Air Force Ones”) as well as labels like Rocafella Records and Terror Squad. No longer were the sneakers considered basketball shoes but a representation of street fashion, and the introduction of the now-iconic white-on-white low-top GR that was continually in stock continued to cement its status in the history books. Depending on where you’re from, the model carries a different name. For New Yorkers they’re known as “Uptowns” while those in the south spoke of “Flavs” and “G-Nikes” when referencing the kicks.
The entire history of the AF1 deserves its own multi-hour documentary as there are plenty of marquee moments in sneaker history that trace back to this silhouette, however, an abridged version would go something like this. Thousands of colors, a multitude of collaborations and classics, and a constant demand across the world have led to the AF1 being a staple piece in the wardrobe of celebrities and the average person. Further in this Buyers Guide, we’ll cover some iconic colorways and releases that played a pivotal role in both the AF1s story and sneaker history in general.
If you’ve been eyeing a pair of Nike Air Force 1’s for yourself, you’re in luck as the Sole Retriever Nike Air Force 1 Buyers Guide should answer all the questions you have about the Nike Air Force 1.
What are the best Nike Air Force 1 colorways?
Over the four decades the Air Force 1 has graced the feet of millions of sneakerheads, the color palette in which the AF1 would receive makeovers extends well past the rainbow, however, staple pairs typically stick to a simple script. Of course, we’re talking about the “Triple White” AKA “Cocaine White,” “White-On-White,” or the other dozens of names for the iconic everyday sneaker. You can never go wrong with this pick while the inverse “Triple Black” has garnered a negative connotation in recent years even if it's still one of the most popular iterations of the model.
You can’t talk about the Air Force 1 without its LONG list of collaborators who have graced the silhouette over the years. Going back in time, the aforementioned Terror Squad pairs will forever hold a place in the hearts of hardcore collectors and are expected to make a return come 2023. Other hip-hop labels like Jay-Z’s Rocafella Records had their own pair crafted in 2006 with the logo of the company stamped on the heel. Originally only given to those signed and working for Rocafella, 2017 saw the pair make it to retail shelves for the very first time as a part of the AF100 series.
Continuing in the realm of hip-hop, a more modern-day example would be Travis Scott's work on the silhouette - in which he has done three colorways. Releasing in a “White,” “Sail,” and "Cactus Jack" colorway, we didn’t get the introduction of the backward Swoosh motif he is so famous for now, but he did include unique details with the first two releases. Removable velcro Swoosh’s and the inclusion of three distinct logos, custom chenille patches on the tongue, and a lace dubrae replicating Travis’ grills truly helped launch La Flame into sneaker stardom.
Other notable collaborations include Carhartt’s workwear take on the model, Stussy bringing LA vibes to a canvas-covered AF1, and Supreme’s consistently restocked AF1s in White, Black, and Wheat. Although these collaborations were technically limited, the following are some of the rarest pairs in existence, like the Playstation AF1s that were sampled in 2006. This sample contained premium leather across the upper with Playstation’s logo attached to the heel and a color scheme reminiscent of the gaming system, however, most samples were destroyed and the few that have found their way onto the market fetch insane prices on the secondary market.
In the world of ultra-hyped collaborators, Off-White stands out amongst the pack. As a part of “The Ten,” Virgil Abloh deconstructed the sneaker to its most essential form and kept the classic white-on-white color scheme for the first iteration, however, many more colorways hit the scene in the years following. From the MCA, and ICA to the latest Brooklyn colorway, Abloh created one of the most sought-after AF1s in modern times.
We’ve also got pairs like the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1, a recent collaboration that saw the fusion of sportswear and luxury fashion thanks to the late-great Virgil Abloh. A wide range of colors and materials were made and retailed upwards of $2,000 for the low-tops and nearly $3,000 for the mid-top version. If the AF1 wasn’t already cemented as a legendary sneaker, this moment is definitely the marquee moment in its history as the likes of Dapper Dan had created fantasy colorways with their custom designs that actually came to fruition decades later
While all of these collaborations are so sought after and prevalent in the present day, taking a look back the model has had some cult hits in the early 2000s. One notable endorsee of the AF1 is former NBA player Rasheed Wallace who was (and still is) the only player to rock the 80s basketball sneaker in the modern-day NBA. Thanks to this, The Swoosh honored Sheed through a series of AF1s with his logo placed on the lateral heel. Other colors during the early oughts that generated buzz include pairs like the 2006 “All-Star” colorway that came fully covered in patent leather and a patriotic color scheme with stars placed throughout.
What material is the Nike Air Force 1 made of?
During the original run of releases in the early 80s, the AF1 came mostly constructed out of all-leather, though there were a few releases that came with some mesh thrown into the mix. Nowadays your typical AF1 still sticks to the classic leather build with plenty of options for select colorways like suede, nubuck, patent leather, canvas, and more.
Wild takes on the silhouette have introduced translucent materials to the upper, like the infamous Nike Air Force 1 Low “Fantastic 4 Invisible Woman” from 2006 ,which came in a women’s exclusive purple color and a men’s pair that came in sky blue. If materials exists, they’ve likely been seen on the AF1 at one point in the history of the sneaker
How does the Nike Air Force 1 fit?
It’s well known that the Nike Air Force 1 runs slightly larger than an average sneaker, so it is recommended to go up down half a size from what your normally wear. Those with wider feet may be able to squeeze into their TTS, though with how widely available the model is the best way to find out is to try a pair on at a local retailer to ensure you’re selecting the right size.
How much do Nike Air Force 1s cost?
Inflation running rampant has caused prices on just about every product to rise in the last few years and AF1 Lows are no exception. Now running you back $100 for a standard GR colorway while the mid-top and high-top versions cost $125 and $120 respectively. Collaborations and premium editions of the model vary in price with some only adding an extra $10-20 to the retail price and others creeping above the $200 price tag like the upcoming AMBUSH x Nike Air Force 1 Low.
Where do I buy Nike Air Force 1s?
Just about every single sneaker retailer will carry Air Force 1s, though it wasn’t always the case. As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, only select retailers used to have access to the model due to its cult popularity in certain regions of the country. Nike consistently keeps the simple “White” and “Black” colorways in stock while there are plenty of colorways that can be found via retailers like Finish Line, JD Sports, Champs, Foot Locker, and more.
What’s the hot take?
Sneaker history and the modern-day sneaker culture would not be the same if it wasn’t for the Bruce Kilgore-designed Nike Air Force 1 as it still sits atop the pedestal for many collectors even 40 years into its existence. Its simple construction, comfort, and versatility to match pretty much any outfit with its range of colorways have made it the go-to sneaker for millions on a daily basis. Even if the debate between “cooked” AF1 wearers and those who throw out their pair after one wear rages on, we can all agree that the Nike Air Force 1 deserves to hold the crown as one of the kings of the sneaker realm. If you’re looking to secure a pair of AF1s in the future, keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app as we’ll keep you updated on the latest releases, raffles, news, and more in the sneaker and streetwear world.