To celebrate 2016's AFL Grand Final between the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs, we teamed up with local shoe artisans BespokeIND to create two pairs of custom Nike Air Force 1s. The game was one of the most emotional and dramatic in living memory. The Bulldogs are based in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne, a traditional working class area. In 1954, the club won its only premiership, so it had been a long time between drinks for the Doggies. If their young team could pull off a win, it would rank as one of the great romantic ‘underdog’ moments in local sporting history.
We Created Bespoke Nike Air Force 1s From Sherrin Footballs!
Date: September 28 2016
‘Aussie Rules’ is one of the most obscure and anarchic team games in world sport. The rules are inexplicable to outsiders, and since there is no offside, players are free to roam the field in random 360-degree strategies. The undoubted highlight of any game is a ‘speccie’, where a player launches themselves into the air on the back of an opposition player’s head. Players wear zero padding and the potential for violence and huge collisions is always present. It’s a unique Antipodean game for endurance athletes, who do battle through high-intensity half-marathons in each game.
Titled ‘Melbourne Rules’, this project was a creative collaboration between Sneaker Freaker and BespokeIND, a custom footwear workshop also based in Melbourne. I'd dreamed of making a pair of Air Force 1s from Sherrin footballs for several years, but no one in Melbourne had the expertise to pull them off until BespokeIND opened their doors.
The leather was sourced from genuine Sherrin footballs, the same used in the AFL grand final. The red pair uses the ‘daytime’ ball, while the ‘night-time’ edition makes for a striking yellow and black combination that is used under lights. Each individual shoe utilises all four panels of a game ball, which are still made in Sherrin’s Melbourne premises. With more than 135-years experience in the business of balls, Sherrin is an iconic name in Australian manufacturing. Hometown pride was definitely a huge factor here!
To continue the local theme, both shoes are fully lined with black kangaroo leather — one of the softest hides in the animal kingdom — while waxed cotton laces recall the white lacing on the AFL ball.
The Air Force 1’s uppers were deconstructed and manually restitched by hand at BespokeIND, a process that took over 40 hours per pair to complete. The new uppers were then reattached to the original sole units. The detailing is insane. The hand-lasted shape is sculpted to perfection. Air Force 1 purists will also detect some of the enhancements added to the shoe’s profile, which has been slightly raked at the toe and sharpened in the heel area. The insoles are carved from hand-cut vegetable-tanned leather that has been laser-etched. The tongue labels are also lasered and beautifully stitched.
Shoes this good deserve deluxe packaging, and both pairs are presented in custom acrylic boxes complete with turf inlays, AFL goal post graphics and a golden ‘Melbourne Rules’ logo that references the iconic Sherrin game ball design.
The shoes are not an official Nike collaboration. They are true ‘one-of-one’ customs made to my personal specification and will not be available commercially. As you can see, they’re way too good for a game of kick-to-kick at half-time but they are totally wearable — and that’s what I’ll be doing. I ain’t too scared to get ‘em dirty!
I have to personally thank Damian, Chase and the crew from BespokeIND. Their vision and commitment to getting these shoes finished on a crazy tight deadline is fair dinkum unbelievable. They are both true sneaker artisans who have gone way above and beyond the call of duty. Consider this a loving tribute to the Air Force 1, my all-time favourite sneaker; and also to Aussie Rules, the world’s greatest and craziest game.
– Woody, Sneaker Freaker Founder