A Glimpse Into The History Of Nike's Iconic Air Force 1 Sneaker Before The Shoe's 40th Anniversary

Apr 23, 2021
01:00 P.M.
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The Nike Air Force 1 sneaker is one of the most iconic designs the brand has ever made. A pair of Air Force 1s may not seem like something to celebrate, but they are vital for global street culture.


Many unworthy people and things have been praised for being ‘iconic,’ but this pair of shoes deserves it. The Nike Air Force 1 is a pair of shoes you can find on a 16-year old suburban girl to a 45-year-old father.

Few styles have stayed relevant in sneaker culture the way the Air Force 1s have throughout the years. Read more to take a glimpse into the history of the iconic sneakers for their 40th anniversary.

The History

The Nike Air Force 1 sneaker debuted in 1982 as a high-top design intended for wear on the basketball court. Designer Bruce Kilgore gathered inspiration from hiking boots to create the shoe’s unique design.


The Nike Air Force 1s were the first basketball shoe with the classic chunky sole and Nike Air cushioning. Although the design was unique and bold at the time, it retained some neutrality with the white and grey colorway.


When the sneakers hit vast scale retail in 1983, Nike had considered shelving the design for a new design. However, the low cut and team color Air Forces emerged and resulted in a spike in the shoe’s popularity.

As time went by, sneaker shops started offering the Air Force 1s in special color makeups. In 1986, Nike altered the shoe’s shape slightly, and getting rare makeups from famed East Coast stores became the trend.

Streetwear Influence

Getty Images

Getty Images


Hip hop culture, hustlers, and drug dealers were some of the most influential people in fashion for an era. Men and women who formed part of these various lifestyles could afford expensive cars, clothes, and shoes.

The lives of drug dealers, hustlers, and hip hop artists set a standard of aspiration for many people. High sneaker prices attracted them to the shoes, and in turn, they made the shoes more desirable for the public.

Although there was very little marketing for the shoe, it became prevalent among urban audiences. At some point, Nike made Air Force 1 models that were strictly sold in select inner-city stores.


Then, the leather all-white low cut sneaker was released, and references in rap music shot up sales globally. After mentions by Jay Z, Nelly, Pete Nice, and more, the Nike AF1 became a streetwear staple.

Best Seller 40 Years Later


The Nike AF1 shoes have seen a 40-year evolution that’s had failed discontinuations and surprising sales growths. After four decades, the shoes are still one of the best-selling sneakers Nike makes for a reason.

Since the sneaker culture runs on hype these days, these classic shoes are more accessible than their counterparts. This makes them cheaper to buy, and although they won’t turn heads, they will always look great.


There is also something exciting about the blank canvas the white AF1 shoes provide to the buyer. They are open to interpretation, making them one of the easiest sneakers for designers, collaborators, and fans to customize.

The Air Force 1s are so versatile, no matter the colorway. If you wouldn’t think twice as a 25-year-old woman wearing shoes that match a 13-year-old boy’s pair, then you know those kicks are here to stay.

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