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Nike Air Force 1 Shoes

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Air Force 1 launched a new era in basketball tech

When the Nike Air Force 1 launched in 1982, it blazed a number of trails.

Named after the jet that carries the president of the United States, the AF1 was the first basketball shoe to carry Nike’s proprietary Air cushioning technology, which had debuted in Nike’s running shoes in 1978. With the word “AIR” embossed on the lateral (outer) side of the midsole, there was no mistaking what cushioned every step of those who would wear it.

‘Air will be sold by the box’

The names and faces of those who initially wore the Air Force 1 also set a tone. The White/Grey high-top wasn’t the first basketball shoe to be endorsed by a player, but it was the first to be endorsed by six players at once.

Initial marketing efforts included posters with the phrase “Starting this season, air will be sold by the box.” Other posters showed six contemporary pro stars wearing the Air Force 1, as well as flight suits, on a runway. As the shoe’s legend grew, these three sets of teammates would become known as the “Original Six”:

  • Moses Malone (Philadelphia 
  • Bobby Jones (Philadelphia)
  • Jamaal Wilkes (Los Angeles)
  • Michael Cooper (Los Angeles)
  • Calvin Natt (Portland)
  • Mychal Thompson (Portland)

Back again

As popular as the Air Force 1 was on basketball courts, its greatest legacy may be as Nike’s first “retro” release. The Swoosh distributed the shoe until 1984 when, as was customary in the business, it was time to move onto the next thing. But customers weren’t ready to move on, demanding through distributors that Nike reissue the shoe. So in 1986, Nike re-released the Air Force 1. But now its reputation had grown beyond just the hardwood to the streets.

Realizing it had discovered something special, Nike not only put the AF1 in continual rotation, it expanded the aesthetic options. Today, the Air Force 1 has existed in more than 2,000 styles – and counting. Nike has cross-pollinated the shoe with technologies from other product lines, given it street-smart designs, and through customization made it available in nearly countless colorways.

The Nike Air Force 1 Utility updates the standard silhouette with a strap closure that adds a secure look.

The Air Force 1 LV8 “elevates” the look of the 1982 original with modern twists on colorways and materials. Some models recall the bold color blocking of the 1980s or ’90s, while others feature the “Wheat” treatment made popular by work boots.

The Air Force 1 Sage is a female’s take on what was originally focused on the boys. Rolled edges and clean lines make for a bold yet feminine look, while the upper is pared down for a clean overall look.