In the sneaker world, there are very few styles that have the Western world in a chokehold like the Nike Air Force 1s – worn by everyone from fashion’s elite to those just looking for a footwear staple. Known for its signature simple style, swoosh and silver hardware on the laces, the AF1 has transcended trends and time – but unfortunately not inflation. Regardless though, people can’t get enough of them, and this includes luxury fashion houses, too.
But how did they ascend to the top? Well, as hinted at, they’re an incredibly versatile footwear option. Whether you opt for the black or white, hi or low top, they just seem to go with everything. However, their simplicity also lends itself to customisation, too – there are over 2000 styles of the humble AF1. Taking its name from the Presidential jet, the shoe was first conceptualised in 1982, with minimal changes being made to its design since then. In fact, the only difference is that the mesh side panel of the originals is no longer there, and the lace medallion changed from circular to rectangular.
Originally made as a basketball shoe, the AF1s proved to be a turning point in sports and sneaker cultures for its previously unprecedented use of Nike Air technology. Using pressurised air in a tough, flexible bag, the air tech added to the sole’s flexibility, elasticity, and durability while keeping the shoes lightweight and in a distinct shape. Everything we love about the style.
Since then, the shoes have become a signifier of popular culture – embroiled in the worlds of art, fashion, streetwear and music as time went on. If brands collaborate with Nike, it’s all but guaranteed that they will remix the AF1 – it would almost be weird not too. Perhaps most prominently though, SS22 saw Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton place the iconic style on a pedestal – releasing no less than 21 pairs of the shoes.
From low to mid-top, colourful to monochrome, this was a comprehensive offering that demonstrated both the interest of luxury in the shoe style, but also its ability to become a blank canvas for LV’s creative expressions. We got embossed monograms, “AIR” detailing, seemingly endless colour options and a homage to the AF1 wearer who does it best, Dapper Dan.
Elsewhere, other luxury houses have released their own versions that are, ahem, seemingly inspired by the OG. Most recently to drop the luxury / fugazi Air Forces is Prada – releasing a ‘Downtown’ sneaker that bares more than a slight resemblance to the classic Nikes. Coming in bright colourways, we must note that there are no obvious associations here – Prada would argue that they’re just a basketball sneaker – but the style’s aesthetic and name (AF1s are sometimes called Uptowns) points to a close association. Coming in at 10x the price of the classic ‘forces though, things start to get sticky.
Other examples of luxury tapping the AF1 vibe include Gucci’s ‘GG embossed’ sneakers, CELINE’s ‘sneakers in calfskin’ and Valentino’s Garavanis to name merely a few. And while not all of these bear the same striking resemblance or could be directly attributed to the original Nike design in, say, a court of law, we can’t help but wonder if the lux houses would have released them if the AF1 didn’t exist. A thought not even worth pondering, maybe.
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