The All-Time Greatest Nike Air Force 1s: Part 1
'A shoe so revolutionary, the game of basketball may never be the same.'
That's what Nike said about the Air Force 1 when it originally dropped. The Bruce Kilgore–designed kicks changed the game for both Nike and basketball when they were introduced by the Swoosh back in 1982. While the Tailwind debuted Air-Sole cushioning three years earlier, it was the AF-1 that brought the technology to the hardwood. And it's been a staple ever since.
Despite its impact on the court, the AF-1 has arguably been even more influential off it; maybe Nike should have been saying 'sneakers may never be the same'. Demand for the kicks almost single-handedly created the retro market that dominates footwear today, while the shoe's clean lines and undeniable swagger have made it a go-to for limited-edition drops and coveted collaborations ever since.
In honour of the AF-1's place at the pinnacle of sneakerdom, we're taking a look back at some of the greatest Air Force 1s to ever come in for a landing. Peruse our picks and stay tuned for Part Two.
Nike Air Force 1 'Linen' (2001)Nike Air Force 1 'Linen' (2001)
There’s a reason Ronnie Fieg helped to resurrect these to celebrate the opening of Kith Miami in 2016. First released in 2001 as a Japanese exclusive, the ‘Linen’ Lows have been an all-timer since day one thanks to their buttery tan leather upper and smooth ‘Atmosphere’ accents.
Sony x Nike Air Force 1 'PlayStation' (2006)Sony x Nike Air Force 1 'PlayStation' (2006)
The PlayStation 3 was hotly anticipated in 2006, and Nike added fuel to the hype by teaming up with Sony for a collaborative take on the AF-1 ahead of the console’s official drop. Limited to just 150 pairs, the patent leather kicks were only given to select Sony employees and hand-picked celebs, making the promo one of the most-coveted and hard-to-find Friends and Family creations of all time. Sony and the Swoosh came together to offer a follow-up in 2018, taking cues from the PS4 for an all-new black and blue design – one that gamers and sneakerheads could actually cop.
Off-White x Nike Air Force 1 (2017)Off-White x Nike Air Force 1 (2017)
Virgil Abloh’s Air Jordan 1s may be the most-coveted silhouette of ‘The Ten’, but the designer’s Air Force 1s may actually be the best of the bunch. We’re particularly fond of the shoe’s ‘ghosting’ effect, which employs translucent overlays across a deconstructed, experimental build to reduce the 80s classic down to its core components. Future colourways of the collaboration were cool and all, but none came close to approaching the unique execution of 2017’s original.
CLOT x Nike Air Force 1 (2009)CLOT x Nike Air Force 1 (2009)
As part of the limited-edition ‘1WORLD’ releases, Hong Kong–based streetwear giants CLOT teamed up with Nike to take on the Air Force 1 back in 2009. A nod to prosperity, the low-top not only featured a translucent midsole that showcased visible Air-Sole cushioning in the heel, it also came swathed in embroidered bright red silk. The best part, though? With a little wear and tear, that silk layer revealed luxurious brown leather construction beneath. CLOT and the Swoosh followed up the coveted drop with a white version of the kicks in 2018.
Mark Smith x Nike Air Force 1 'Cashmere Laser' (2003)Mark Smith x Nike Air Force 1 'Cashmere Laser' (2003)
Way back in 2003, Nike’s own Mark Smith put his stamp on the Air Force 1 in style, covering the low-top icon with laser-etched designs throughout. While a lucky few were able to cop the ‘Medium Brown’ colourway of the special kicks, far fewer were able to get their hands on the clean ‘Cashmere’ version, which was supposedly limited to just 200 pairs.
Supreme x Nike Air Force 1 (2012)Supreme x Nike Air Force 1 (2012)
2012 marked the 30-year anniversary of the Air Force 1 and, to celebrate, Supreme dropped a special trio of military-inspired low-tops. Not only did the kicks come in classic camo, olive and black looks (each with contrasting white midsoles and gum rubber outsoles), but they even featured water-resistant NYCO construction – not to mention little red bogo tags.
Nike Air Force 1 'Ueno Sakura' (2005)Nike Air Force 1 'Ueno Sakura' (2005)
Japan has had a legendary stable of exclusive Nike releases over the years, and the ‘Ueno Sakura’ is definitely one of the leaders of the pack. The 2005 drop was covered in beautiful bone-coloured suede and featured gold laser-etched cherry blossoms throughout. Other details included a bright cherry red outsole, while the ‘Ueno’ moniker alluded to cherry blossom-filled Ueno Park in the Taitō ward of Tokyo.
Acronym x Nike Lunar Force 1 (2015)Acronym x Nike Lunar Force 1 (2015)
Errolson Hugh has a long and storied history with the Swoosh and, as much as we love his Presto rework, his original take on the Air Force 1 will always be what we consider the pinnacle of Acronym x Nike colabs. Released in 2015, the collaboration featured everything from patent leather heels and perforated leather tongues to partially detached Swooshes and Lunarlon midsoles. The highlight, however, was undoubtedly the addition of a lateral zipper that spanned the length of the eyestay for easy on/off. The black suede version was also easily the best of the trio that released, thanks to its juxtaposition of forward-thinking design with a tried-and-true colourway.
Busy P x Colette x Nike Air Force 1 (2008)Busy P x Colette x Nike Air Force 1 (2008)
Yet another 1WORLD drop, these Forces were designed by Busy P, aka Pedro Winter, French DJ and Ed Banger Records head honcho. Originally released at beloved Parisian boutique Colette (RIP), the black leather kicks featured pink lining and stitching, blue patent leather Swooshes, a rainbow gradient across the midsole, and custom sketches from Winter.
Nike Air Force 1 'Lux Crocodile' (2007)Nike Air Force 1 'Lux Crocodile' (2007)
2007 marked the 25th anniversary of the Air Force 1 and, to celebrate, Nike dropped a number of commemorative takes on the 1982 original. One of the best was a Lux Anaconda version of the classic white-on-white colourway, which reimagined the fan-favourite with scaly anaconda skin on the upper. Even better, though, was the individually-numbered Lux Crocodile, which was crafted in Italy from Italian leather and croc skin, and finished with real gold lace tips and dubraes. The kicks even came in a silver box with gold hangtags, cedar shoe trees, and suede dustbags.