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Bruce Kilgore Reflects on Designing the Air Force 1

Date: October 25 2017

By: Anna Crews

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Architect of 1982's OG Air Force 1, Bruce Kilgore, sat down with Nike recently to speak about the design process behind the legendary sneaker. 

The AF-1 was Kilgore's first basketball model, and it was also the first time the Swoosh used slip-lasted construction (a process wherein the upper is pulled tightly over the shoe last and is then affixed to the midsole, making for a more flexible upper). 

After having AF-1 samples made up in a New Hampshire factory, Kilgore and a colleague piled the creations into the back of a pickup truck. The pair then drove around to US colleges, getting basketballers to try on the samples and tell the designers whether the shoe would be a viable basketball performance model. 

An early make-up of the Air Force 1.

An early make-up of the Air Force 1.

As we know, the AF-1 turned out to be an on-court hit. After Kilgore finalised the design, Nike rolled out an impressive campaign to introduce the shoe to the NBA. Six of the biggest names in 80s basketball – Moses Malone, Michael Cooper, Jamaal Wilkes, Bobby Jones, Mychal Thompson, and Calvin Natt – were given their own custom AF-1 Lows to wear on court. The basketballers were dubbed by Nike as the 'Original Six', and they were responsible for throwing force behind the release. 

The 'Original Six' Model their Custom AF-1s.

The 'Original Six' Model their Custom AF-1s.

Despite the Air Force 1's popularity, Kilgore apparently didn't realise the model had remained in circulation until he visited a Taiwan factory in 1987 and spoke to its workers. As Kilgore tells it, 'I said, "I didn't realise we were still making it." And they said, "Yeah, man, we're always making the Air Force 1." I was completely clueless.'

Kilgore remains pretty detached from his famous creation. He doesn't have any OG models in his collection and rarely even wears the AF-1. Check out the rest of the interview with Kilgore here

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