The Fascinating History of the Iconic Nike Air Force 1 Sneaker
If you know anything about fashion, you’ve probably heard of Nike Air Force 1 sneakers. The Air Force 1 is one of the most iconic and best-selling sneakers of all time.
Air Force 1s are a staple sneaker for athletes, hip-hop heads, and anyone just who loves fresh looks.
However, the history of the Air Force 1 has a bit of mystery surrounding it. Nike has long been secretive about how the shoe has stayed so successful after being out for decades.
If you’re intrigued, keep reading. The history of the Nike Air Force 1 is an essential lesson for anyone who cares about sneakers, fashion, or the hip-hop industry.
A Historical Bestseller
The Nike Air Force sneaker was first released in 1982. The iconic all-white model was sold as a basketball shoe.
The Nike Air Force 1 for men was revolutionary in the field of basketball shoes because of its springy step and chunky sole. There was no other shoe on the market like it.
One year later, Air Forces were released to the general public, including the Nike Air force 1 for women. As soon as the Air Force 1 was unleashed upon the world at large, the shoe started selling and didn’t stop.
Even as recently as 2015, the classic Air Forces were Nike’s second bestselling shoe.
Though the classic model is the all-white low-cut sneaker, many variations on the Air Force 1 have also sold well. That is one of the reasons that the style has managed to stay on the market for so long.
The Mystery Behind the Shoe
Despite its flawless design and comfortable features, it is still mysterious that the Air Force 1 has been able to survive for so long. The cultural influences that made the shoe famous have long remained murky; until now.
Although Nike might not tell the full story of how the Air Force 1 rose to the top, it is clearly visible if you look closely.
The story of the Air Force 1 is a story of basketball, hip-hop culture, drug dealing, proto-streetwear culture, and some of the most unique marketing tactics that a sneaker has ever used.
The Fashion Underbelly
In order to delve into the first hidden piece of Nike Air Force 1 history, we have to talk about something unsavory; the world of gangs and drug deals.
To this day, “trapping” (a.k.a. bringing in tons of money by slyly dealing drugs) has an undeniable influence on fashion. Perhaps the most notable instance of this influence is the popularity of the Air Force 1.
As their popularity grew, Air Forces became the sneaker of choice for rappers and those who wanted to imitate rappers.
In many instances, this meant that the people wearing Air Forces were dealing drugs, or was enchanted by the glamor of dealing drugs.
Though dealing drugs is unsafe and illegal, there is no denying the hold it has on American popular culture. The celebrities who wore Air Force 1s were rich, successful, and carried with them a dangerous sex appeal.
One of the most influential celebrities to wear Air Force 1s was Jay-Z. Jay-Z is famous for being a hustler turned rapper.
While he once made his money in the dangerous career of drug dealing, he is now one of the most successful rappers of all time and lives on the straight and narrow.
Jay-Z was one of the first rappers to mention Air Forces in a song. On “Can I Live II,” the Brooklyn rapper pays tribute to those with “all-white Air Force 1s and black guns.”
The shoes undoubtedly would not have seen so much lasting success if it weren’t for Jay-Z and those who have been inspired by him. Even in 1998, when the song came out, Jay-Z was a tastemaker in East Coast hip-hop.
Jay-Z went on to appear at press releases and awards shows sporting his all-white Air Force 1s with a pair of baggy jeans. This look was iconic in late ’90s and early 2000s fashion.
A Unique Marketing Strategy
Jay-Z was far from the only rapper to shout out Air Force 1s. After the release of “Can I Live II,” many other artists followed his lead.
G-Unit, Lox, Shyne, and other ’90s East coast rappers mentioned Air Force 1s in their songs. Dame Dash, who co-founded Roc-A-Fella with Jay-Z, talked about the shoes extensively on television appearances in the early 2000s.
Keep in mind: the classic Air Force 1 sneaker was released to the public in 1983. The fact that rappers were still referencing the shoe in the late ’90s is, on its own, pretty amazing.
What’s even more amazing is that this continued to happen well into the 2000s. In 2007, the rapper Nelly recorded a song called “Air Force Ones,” and sneaker sales spiked yet again.
Nelly famously stockpiled as many colors of the shoe as he could.
Even today, artists still mention the Air Force 1s in their lyrics. On his 2016 album “Warlord,” alternative rapper Yung Lean sings, “Air Force 1s / I got Air Force on.”
The list of rappers who have dedicated a song to these sneakers could go on and on.
An Everlasting Style
Nike Air Force sneakers owe their longevity to more than just hip-hop and trapping culture. They are also simply a genius design.
The minimal, all-white, low-cut style has been imitated for decades. However, no other brand has managed to combine this look with spring technology as advanced as Nike’s.
For this reason, Air Forces are now worn by everyone; Dads, athletes, casual wearers, and sneaker addicts alike.
The Nike Air Force 1 Reigns Eternal
Now that you know more about the fascinating history of the Nike Air Force 1, find the perfect pair! If you don’t own a pair of these classic sneakers yet, you should.
All the history and hype aside; they are comfortable, durable, and go with any outfit.
For more fashion tips and industry scoops, check out our other blog posts!