Nike Celebrates 35 Years of Air Force 1 with AF-100 Collaborations


Nike AF-100

Boomers had the Corvette. Millennials have Nikes. And just as Boomer popularity made the Chevrolet’s Corvette designs iconic and lasting, so have Millennials celebrated Nike’s Air Force One.

air force 1

Now, to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the shoe’s introduction and at a time when the Nike corporate brand is transforming its DNA, Nike is looking back at its storied rise by releasing the AF-100 — collaborating with design visionaries to reintreprent its iconic shoe, including one design (by rapper Travis Scott) that literally rips off the iconic swoosh.

For the big anniversary, Nike is offering a special collection of AF-100s designed by some influential names in contemporary athletic wear design and art: Scott, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, Don C, Virgil Abloh and Errolson Hugh all offered Nike a take on the AF1 with the design guidance for a white-on-white theme. (In the early 1980s, NBA rules required players shoes to be mostly white.)

Nike’s Senior Creative Director of Sportswear and Lead Designer, Al Baik, said each design aims to “connect to each collaborator’s life personally.” Travis Scott’s “Cactus Jack” design includes tear-away Nike swoosh logos. Other AF-100s include zippers that run the length of the shoe. And then there is the zany new attention-grabbing “Winter Camp” AF1.

Introduced in 1982, when Nike was still an up and comer and Michael Jordan was still in college, the Air Force 1 was cutting-edge tech. It was marketed as having a “concentric circle outsole,” an “air midsole” giving “30% more cushioning,” a “permafoam sicklier,” “variable width lacing system,” “proprioceptus belt” and a “dipped achilles pad.”

The AF1’s star spokesman was big man rebound specialist Moses Malone. The Air Force 2 (1987) and wildly popular Air Force 3 (1988) followed—and the rest is sneaker lore.

The Air Force 1’s history is tightly woven with the history of sneakerhead culture. When Nike brought the AF1s back for a encore in 1984, it was at the behest of three popular Baltimore sneaker shops.

Limited editions and planned scarcity created a consumer frenzy and what we recognize today as the “hypebeast” era of modern specialty shoe retailing was more or less born. When the Air Jordan 1 hit stores that same year, the high demand was thanks in part to the culture AF1s had created.  As part of the celebration, Nike recently published an interview with designer Bruce Kilgore, who created the first AF1.

Meanwhile, back on the court, Nike is celebrating its eight-year partnership with the NBA as the league’s season kicks off. As part of this promotion, Nike sent newly-retired NBA icon Kobe Bryant to Paris and London on the brand’s behalf—no surprise, since Bryant’s signature shoe, the Nike Kobe AD, is the most popular shoe for NBA players.