The story of the Nike Air Force 1 is very surprising and it started in 1982, that is 38 years ago. The AF1 was the first Nike sneaker designed for basketball, because prior to this the American brand was focused on running shoes. The Air Force 1 was, therefore, the first Nike sneaker destined for basketball. Moreover, it also was the first sneaker with the Air Technology in that sport.
Along all these years, the AF1 has kept its classic line, that is it has not changed its structure which is possible to find in three different heights that were designed in succession. First, they launched the high-top design, after that the low-top, and the last one was the mid-top design. However, in spite of never changing its traditional design, Nike has collaborated with many important brands along these 38 years. This has caused that nowadays there are more than 2.000 Air Force 1 designs with different colours, prints and cloths referring to the first designs in 1982.
The first Air Force 1 sneakers were launched in 1982 with the slogan “Air in a box” and they were called Air Force 1 Hi. Nike contracted six NBA players to wear the shoes at the court. These were called ‘The Original Six‘ and they were Moses Malone, Michael Cooper, Bobby Jones, Calvin Natt, Mychal Thompson and Jamal Wilkes. They were the first ones to wear the Air Force 1 high-tops with the swoosh in grey metallic, which gives the sneaker a futuristic touch. All of this was designed by Bruce Kilgore.
The first Air Force 1 sneakers were launched in 1982 with the slogan “Air in a box”
The manufacturing of these sneakers for basketball was not an easy job for Nike because, as said, it was focused on running back then. The design had to protect the players’ ankle when they fall down, because of that the first design was high-top. Moreover, at the sole we can find the called “Pivot Point”, which is the circle that allows to the players to spin around and is still preserved.
However, these sneakers were not as popular as everyone expected because Nike did not invest much money in publicity. Nevertheless, common people started to demand the Air Force 1 and, bit by bit, the sneakers designed for basketball at first commenced to be worn in the streets. This transforms the usual Air Force 1’s use to a streetwear shoe for daily life.
The popularisation of these sneakers is caused, probably, by its innate correlation with basketball and, especially, with the NBA. It must be kept in mind that in that ages basketball was a fashion sport and its players were, and still are, idols in the eyes of the society. This correlation was not caused just by ‘The Original Six’ at the first design’s (Air Force 1 Hi) launched. It was also caused because, in ‘The Original Six’ we find Moses Malone, who wore other Air Force 1 designs to collect an award as well as playing on the court, such as the sneakers Air Force 1S.
The Air Force 1S was a design launched after the firsts one in 1982 (Air Force 1 Hi). These sneakers became very popular till today because Nike still sell very similar designs based on the originals, even in low-top. They consist on the traditional structure, that is high-top and totally white. However, the swoosh and the Velcro are in red to make them flashier, but classic as well.
Another known basketball player who also had an influence on the popularisation of the Air Force 1 was the deceased Kobe Bryant. Who, apart from having his own sneakers’ design, wore the AF1 at many important moments on his career as an NBA player. Moreover, he appears with other basketball players like Lebronn James or Tony Parker, among others, in a commemorative spot filmed in 2007 as the 25the anniversary of the Air Force 1. Additionally, Nike launched the sneakers Kobe Bryant AF1 with the Lakers’ colours (yellow and purple).
Therefore, we find that the Air Force 1 were the first Nike sneakers focused on basketball. But they weren’t the only one that had success because shortly after launching the AF1, Nike decided to launch another design: The Air Jordan.
The Air Jordan were designed due to Michael Jordan’s arrival at the NBA in 1984. The first design of these sneaker used the Chicago Bulls‘ colours (red and black) and that made them the first sneakers’ custom-designed from Nike in that moment. However, the Air Jordan were not as successful as the Air Force 1 because they didn´t meet the requirements of the NBA and they were forbidden. Furthermore, since 1985 Nike started to design new combinations and designs of the Air Jordan, and that made them become more popular.
Additionally, Nike does not stop making reference to these decades in which he started his business in the world of basketball. An example would be the range of products launched last year in which Nike rescued designs of the 80s inspired on the series of Netflix ‘Stranger Things’.
In this collection many important designs of the 80s can be appreciated like the 1982 Air Force 1, the Nike Dunk or the Air Max 1, among others. The collection was launched under the name ‘Hawkings High Pack’, which makes reference to the school where the series’ characters study. Therefore, in this collection they combine the traditional designs of sneakers with the characteristic colours of the series’ high school (orange and green).
Since its beginning, the Air Force 1 has been so successful without changing its original design. As it has been said before, nowadays there are more than 2.000 designs of AF1 because of the collaborations with other brands like, for example, Supreme. The cooperations with that brand started in 2002 with the designs of the Nike Dunk Low Pro SB Supreme. Nowadays these collaborations prolong with other designs like the Air Force 1 Supreme. Thanks to this, Nike continues recreating its traditional designs and being at the vanguard in the fashion industry.