The Air Force One is an icon — but we’re not talking about President Biden’s airplane.
The classic Nike shoe’s popularity has resurged within the last few years, cementing itself as one of the most well-worn sneakers of all time. In 2020, the shoe was the top-selling athletic footwear choice, according to the NPD group.
Designed by Bruce Kilgore in 1982, the shoe has maintained much of its initial design integrity. Since its release, the shoe has been the perfect foundation for collaboration, from Uber exclusive Off-White collaborations to a unique tear-away pair that reveals an exciting colorway. Over 1,700 colorways have been released over the years, bringing in over 800 million dollars in revenue.
Air Force Ones have seen a surge in popularity in the last two to three years; however, the shoe has been a mainstay in the Black community. AF1s were nicknamed “Uptowns” after their popularity with young Black kids in Harlem. Creasing one’s sneakers? A no-no for kids who grew up wearing the shoe. The crispy, clean white shoes were a certified sign of coolness.
In New York City, the shoe took on a life of its own. Rappers and R&B stars adopted the shoe into their wardrobes from Jay-Z to Fat Joe, Biggie, to P. Diddy. AF1s were a staple in any outfit. Nuyorican J-Lo wore it with an infamous pink track suit in her video for, “I’m Real.” The sneakers often accompanied the labels that were popular in NYC like Fubu, Roc-a-wear, Baby Phat, and Sean John.
The shoe was further popularized in the early 2000s by rappers like Nelly. The chorus to his number three billboard song “Air Force Ones,” “Give me two pairs/I need two pairs/So I can get to stompin’ in my Air Force Ones,” is very damn catchy.
AF1s have become repopularized and have been championed by influences on social media. Addison Rae, with 80.7 million TikTok followers, is often seen wearing the shoe. And according to the pay-installment website Klarna, the shoe is the most popular one on the site based on wishlists.
The white sneaker goes with just about anything and has almost become the default shoe of choice for everything from a slip dress to a T-shirt and jeans. However, AF1s are still popular with rappers, athletes, and influencers alike. Travis Scott is known for his collaborations with Nike.
In Louis Vuitton’s SS22 show, a new LV and Nike collaboration was revealed in twenty-one fresh colorways. The sneaker is bound to sell out as this is one of the most highly coveted of Air Force 1 collaborations.
The shoe has always been affordable, allowing people of all kinds to be able to wear them. However, the dreaded resellers have been flipping the ninety-dollar sneaker for twice as much on different platforms. The only reason it’s even remotely allowed is because of the symbolic power of the iconic sneaker.
In fact, as of September of 2019, the AF1 was the fourth most-Instagrammed shoe according to Yahoo! Finance.
The reign of the AF1 is, of course, because any white shoe’s versatility can’t be overstated. But we’re also living in a retr0 world, one where nostalgia reigns supreme. Like the repopularized low-rise jeans, baby tees, baguette bags and tracksuits, the AF1 is a nod to the late ’90s and early aughts and has a vintage-like feeling without being dated. The shoe has been easily adopted by anyone looking for a reliably fashionable footwear choice.
It’s true that the Air Force One doesn’t miss – and hasn’t since the early 2000s. Here’s to another twenty years.END
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