Designed by Bruce Kilgore, the Air Force 1 was first released in 1982. Originally named after the Air Force One presidential plane, the sneakers were also known as “uptowns.” They gained popularity quickly, even though no one anticipated the immense success and influence these sneakers would have.
Then and Now
Basketball wasn't the same after the Nike Air Force 1, and as if revolutionizing basketball footwear wasn't enough, the AF1 would go on to change the face of casual sneakers as well.
These shoes were cushioned, comfortable, and durable. Playing intense pick-up games or spending an entire day dedicated to hoops was no longer going to shred your sneakers or your feet. Unlike the Chucks that were widely popular on the court, these shoes kept your feet feeling fresh, supported, and were almost impossible to blow out.
You rarely see a player wearing these icons on the court now, but you do see them every day as casual kicks. Athletic shoes didn't usually transition to the streets, but the AF1 did. Its comfort and durability were one aspect of its popularity, but the shoe also has universal appeal. A clean upper and silhouette made nearly any color or pattern look good. So many options meant it was easy for people to find a style that worked for them.
What It's Made Of
Besides clean style and sleek lines, the Nike Air Force 1 is made of leather, rubber, and air. As the first shoe to feature Nike's Air technology, it was the most comfortable sneaker anyone had put on their feet up to that point.
Over the years, the materials and tech have stayed consistent. Quality leather uppers and durable rubber soles still give the shoe its classic look, along with the strap featured on some high tops. The Air cushioning has moved from the heel to be a full-length air bag for even more comfort than when the shoe first released. Along with some updates in midsole cushioning, it's safe to argue that the Kids' Air Force 1 is even more comfortable than it was in 1982, but its style remains uncompromised.
The First Retro
Nike never planned on releasing the Air Force 1 after it was initially discontinued. Like all shoes in the mid-80s, retro versions or re-releases of shoes were not created. But the AF1 was different. People wanted more versions and different colors. Without hype or marketing efforts, the shoe gained enough popularity organically that Nike decided to release it again.
Today, there are around 2000 versions of the Air Force 1 in different heights and styles. The high top was the first version ever made, but low and mid versions are prevalent now. If not for the popularity of the Air Force 1 and demand for its re-release, we might not be able to buy the kids' Nike Air Force 1 and other wildly popular retro sneakers worn today.