A Brief History of Nike’s Puerto Rican-Themed Sneakers
Despite a couple of controversies surrounding Nike’s Puerto Rican–themed sneakers over the years, Team Swoosh have still managed to build a long and fruitful relationship with colourways inspired by the Caribbean island.
It all started way back in the year 2000 with an iconic Air Force 1 – a model colloquially known as the Uptown because of its close connection to New York. And it is in New York where the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade is held every year on the second Sunday in June. With the AF-1 having such a solid presence within New York’s strong Puerto Rican community, Nike decided to pay homage with that original Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico’. As rare as they come, and now over 20 years old, you’d be hard-pressed finding an OG pair these days.
Following that initial release, celebratory sneakers have become an annual June tradition. With the 2021 digital Puerto Rican Day Parade creeping up on June 13, and a special Air Max 97 drop incoming, here’s a brief look back at some of the better renditions over the years.
Nike Air Force 1 (2000)
The one that started it all: the Nike Air Force 1 ‘Puerto Rico’! The OG first appeared in the year 2000, just a week before the annual Parade. And with only a few thousand pairs hitting the market, they absolutely flew off shelves. Last year, Team Swoosh attempted to bring back the first edition, however it was cancelled due to some backlash about the orientation of the flag.
In the years following that OG release in 2000, a bunch of themed AF-1s were dedicated to the Island of Enchantment. In 2002, navy enveloped the uppers. In 2006, an enlarged flag wrapped the rear. And the 2013 edition boasted all-over prints and exposed stitching.
Nike Air Trainer 1 (2015)
The Nike Air Trainer 1 ‘Puerto Rico’ was done muy bien. Arriving on shelves in June 2015, if the supremely clean white leather base – or the coqui frogs on the tongue – didn’t sway you, those gorgeous textile overlays should have! While the drop landed shortly after the 2015 parade, we’re sure that in 2016 many celebrators were donning these while marching down Fifth Avenue.
Nike Air Max 1 (2019)
With cutout Swooshes and asymmetrical colour-blocking, this was a very 2019 sneaker release. A few years back, Nike decided to get a little spicy with their celebratory collection, creating an Air Force 1 and Air Max 1 to honour the tradition. Due to a few disputes regarding the authenticity of the AF-1, only the AM1 made it to shelves. With two flags embroidered at the rear, and ‘Pa Lante’ and ‘Mi Gente’ roughly translating to ‘go for it, my people’ under the tongue, there’s no doubt patriotic Puerto Ricans wore these with pride.
Nike Air Max 97 (2021)
2021’s Nike release celebrating the Puerto Rican Day Parade is an interesting one! Team Swoosh chose the iconic Air Max 97 ‘Silver Bullet’ colourway as the canvas, before altering it ever so slightly to represent the Island of Enchantment. Mixing in the colours of the Puerto Rican flag, the usual black outsole has been swapped for red and navy, matching the lined collar and tongue branding. Elsewhere on the tongue is a flag tag, with custom insole and outsole motifs adding extra patriotic pops.