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Air Force 1: The Shoe That Defined Sneaker Culture Celebrates Its 35th Anniversary

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Air Force 1: The Shoe That Defined Sneaker Culture Celebrates Its 35th Anniversary
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In December, Nike Inc (NYSE: NKE)'s Air Force 1, one the most iconic silhouettes in shoe history, will celebrate its 35th anniversary.

Designed by Bruce Kilgore, the Air Force 1 was the first basketball shoe to use Nike’s Air technology. The shoe nearly missed its eventual cultural impact after it was discontinued in 1984, two years following its 1982 release. The shoe had a re-release in 1986 and has been available ever since.

From The Beginning

One of the very first wear-testers was Tinker Hatfield, who joined Nike in 1981 as a corporate architect. Hatfield began to think his design skills were better suited for shoes and not office buildings, and the legendary designer’s career was launched after designing the Jordan 3 years later.

While original wear testers didn't like the ankle strap on the mid- and high-top versions, some liked the shoe so much that they refused to return the samples.

“It was one of the first shoes that Nike really realized the power of unrequited demand. For many years it was the top selling shoe for Nike even though the shoe was sold out,” NPD Group Matt Powell told Benzinga.

“When it first came out, it was unheard of for NBA players to all be wearing one shoe. They had a great campaign of athletes in space suits, it was a very clean shoe,” said Powell.

Resurgence

Air Force 1’s influence really stemmed from its popularity on the East Coast initially. Ironically, Under Armour Inc (NYSE: UAA) home city of Baltimore, is responsible for the Air Force 1's resurgence, where retailers in the city went to Nike encouraging them to bring the shoe back after seeing huge demand.

Decades later, the shoe saw a nationwide appeal after Nelly’s record "Air Force Ones" hit No. 3 on the Billboard chart in 2002.

“Hip hop really brought it into the mainstream. It’s a shoe that’s been done a million different ways, and they haven’t managed to make it old yet,” said sneaker enthusiast Drew Cohee.

Changed The Culture

Although not quite as influential as it once was, it is still in the Top 10 Nike shoe sales.

“After bboyys and hip hop with the Puma clydes and Adidas superstar, the Air Force 1 is the shoe that changed sneaker culture," said Chris Burns, founder of arch-usa.com.

"Bboys created the sneaker culture, the Air Force 1 solidified it. It goes away and comes back, but it never dies,” Burns said.

Related Links:

Nike Gets A Boost During Investor Day; Sees Mid-Teen Earnings Growth Over Next 5 Years

The Nike-Under Armour Pair Trade Remains Intact, For Now

Photo courtesy of Nike.

Posted-In: Air Force 1 Chris Burns Drew CoheeEducation Sports Exclusives Interview General Best of Benzinga

 

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