The Shoes That Virgil Debuted at Coachella are on Their ...sneakers
Nike's Dream Team Collaborates on AF-100 Collection
Date: October 26 2017
By: Rob Marfell
In the 35 years since the Air Force 1 first hit the hardwood, the sneaker has seen more than 2000 iterations — three-and-a-half action-filled decades of cuts, colourways, technological tweaks and subtle redesigns. And so you might have expected Nike to struggle when deciding which AF-1 would lead the birthday charge. You’d be wrong.
When it comes to picking a favourite, sneakerheads know there is only one option: the ‘White/White’ Air Force 1 Low. The classic, the OG, the sartorial staple.
And so to honour the stalwart sneaker, Nike assembled an all-out dream team and tasked them with creating the AF-100 Collection. Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke, Don C, Errolson Hugh, Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott have each reinterpreted and imbued the ‘White/White’ Air Force 1 with their own style, story and flair.
Read on for a first look at each unique colab, and insights from the minds behind them.
KAREEM 'BIGS' BURKE —Rocafella Records
For Kareem ‘Biggs’ Burke, the ‘White/White’ Air Force 1 runs deep. From growing up in Harlem – where the Uptown got its nickname – to co-founding Roc-A-Fella with Jay-Z, Burke has long epitomised the AF-1’s hip hop hustler attitude.
Before the model was universally beloved, the Roc rode hard for it. It was the uniform of Biggs and his coterie, inspiring Jay-Z lyrics like ‘Specially when you're sittin on 20s they get nauseous/Standin’ in the Azure with the white Air Forces.’ The love for untarnished white leather was so strong that Biggs wouldn’t even wear an Uptown twice, instead procuring truckloads of fresh pairs regularly for red carpet commutes.
In 2004, Nike eventually loved back, inviting Roc-A-Fella to make their own white Air Force 1. Now to celebrate the sneaker’s 35th anniversary, and the Roc’s 20th, Burke and Nike have linked again to release a retro of the OG colab. A crisp white AF-1 Low remains virtually untouched, save for Roc-A-Fella’s logo on the heels and tongues. To do the shoe full justice, pair with a grey tracksuit and red carpet.
DON C — Just Don
Don C is man who treasures family. So much so that the notion of unshakable familial bonds inspired his contribution to the AF100 collection. With his highly personalised Air Force 1 Hi Just Don, the fashion mogul says ‘hi’ and pulls us up a chair at his dinner table. Don’s understanding of family is that it ‘doesn’t always mean blood, but you have to keep them close and respect the ones that are looking out for you… I want to make sure kids really appreciate what it means to stick with your family.’
To Don C, the Air Force is family – ‘the OG, the grandfather, the one that started it all.’ In tribute to the first AF-1s he ever owned way back when, he’s cooked up a fresh, premium leather high-top that incorporates the Air Force 2’s heel counter and the Air Force 3’s tongue.
Aiming to ‘bring a very high-end feel to a respected silhouette in sports culture,’ the sneaker features snakeskin textured leather, gold dubraés accents and straps for a touch of that true baller lifestyle.
ERROLSON HUGH — ACRONYM
For his label legendary ACRONYM, veteran of streetwear Errolson Hugh once collaborated with the manufacturers who make equipment for Germany’s elite special forces. Now he’s rolling deep in the barracks with team Air Force.
The designer’s fascination with tactical warfare gear is obvious in his Lunar Force 1 Acronym ’17, the chief feature of which is a chunky zip running parallel to the laces: ‘We went with a zipper because it’s visually interesting and just makes putting on your shoes that much easier.’ Form and function: check.
While Hugh might be best known for his Burton AG Clone Snowboarding Jacket – it had a Sony MiniDisc player sewn into its sleeve and was named by TIME Magazine as one of 2002’s best inventions – this crisp Low shows he’s a master of simplicity.
VIRGIL ABLOH — Off-White
While Don C’s AF-1 draws from the court, Virgil Abloh’s strays from it: ‘The Air Force 1 means something beyond basketball,’ says Abloh. ‘I’m not designing it as a basketball sneaker, I’m designing it as a cultural signifier.’
It’s a fitting approach for the man behind one of 2017’s most memorable releases. Abloh’s ‘The Ten’ took Swoosh icons and peeled their layers right back. His custom-feel colabs encourage sneakerheads to play with their shoes, to ‘edit’ and mould them to the quirks of their personal style.
‘What I’m interested in is finding new ways of editing. You don’t get to Tinker status by having one idea. [Design is] a treadmill; you must continually get on it and run.’
And so this AF-1 is Abloh on that treadmill. His white-on-white Low features exposed foam, overt stitching around the metallic silver Swoosh, and the designer’s signature lettering. Abloh said he made his black AF-1 for himself, but hints this creation is his ‘universal, wearable, signature shoe.’
Travis Scott told Nike’s designers that he was ‘the acid of rap.’ And it stuck. In fact, it went on to inform the design of his AF100 collaboration.
Nike’s senior creative director, Al Baik, remembers being struck by the statement and thinking, ‘How do we take a classic, but then really trip it out?’
The resulting design isn’t rinsed in kaleidoscopic colours, but trips in other, subtler ways. The canvas features reflective detailing that shoots back a rainbow of colours in the light. La Flame doubles-down on the wild approach by giving his gum-soled AF-1 a bunch of detachable adornments such as interchangeable Swooshes. Toothy-grill inspired dubraés sit prime on the laces to round out a design that, according to Scott, ‘looks different every day.’