The best Nike Air Forces available right now
The Air Force range is a pillar of the trainer world. What's the state of play in 2020 when it comes to Nike's famous line?
Nike may now be the largest sportswear brand in the world, but they have fairly humble beginnings. Founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports, they were originally just a distributor for Onitsuka Tiger, the Japanese sportswear brand that would eventually go on to become ASICS. This was the extent of BRS’ activities until 1971 when the partnership came to an end, and with business prospering, BRS decided to carry on under the new name of Nike. They commissioned the famous Swoosh design, and began focusing on the manufacturing of their own shoes - some prototypes had already been developed by this point but never on an organised scale.
Eleven years later, the Oregon-based brand released one of the most iconic shoes of all time, the Air Force One. Nike had already released basketball shoes at this point, but the AF1’s were revolutionary because they were the first to feature Nike Air technology - which you can read about further here. Named after the presidential aircraft of the same name, they were somewhat of a hit amongst Basketball players but were not so popular amongst the general public, even being discontinued in 1984 before being re-issued (ironically due to demand) in 1986. The original pairs were high-tops which featured the ankle straps, but whilst the high-tops are still available, nowadays the low top versions are much more popular.
Why are Air Force One’s still so popular?
In the 90’s and early 2000s the AF1’s exploded in popularity with inner-city youth in the US, and as such became synonymous with hip-hop culture; this is a surefire marker that a shoe is going to become successful. This culminated in Nelly releasing a song named after them in 2002, and Kanye West releasing the song ‘Classic (Better than I’ve ever been)’ in collaboration with Nike in 2007 to honour the shoe’s 25th anniversary. Since then they’ve been a regular smash-hit, and still are today - Business Insider reported in February that they were the number 1 selling trainer in the US in 2019. This is thanks to a number of factors, including the simplicity of the design and its ability to be matched with most outfits, the reasonable price point of the shoe, and the long-list of high profile collaborations.
What's the difference between the original Air Force Ones and the 07 version?
Aside from subtle updates to the quality of the materials, and the implementation of the latest in 'Air' technology - which made the shoe slightly higher - the biggest visual difference is the shoelace medallion. This small piece of metal sits at the bottom of the laces, and is known as a 'Deubré', a word that was actually coined by Nike (it was originally unnamed so was initially referred to as a Doobrie, which is a Scottish term for 'thing', and the name just stuck). Original Air Force 1s did not have these, but they began being added in the late 90s. The 2007 remastering saw the shape move from a rounded piece to the more rectangular version you see today.
How can I prevent my Air Force from creasing?
Due to their design, and the leather material used to make the most popular versions of the shoe, the toe-box area becomes exposed to potential creasing very easily. This is every sneakerhead's worst nightmare as it compromises the clean cut look of the shoe. To prevent this, the best method is to insert plastic or foam ‘crease protectors’ into your shoe, which cost around £10.
Top 5 Air Force 1’s in 2020
1 - Nike Air Force 1 '07
The classic and OG of the game, available widely in it’s 2007 remastered form. The two most popular iterations are the all white and all black versions, which feature a leather upper and a grippy, synthetic sole. They start from £80 and are a true staple of any wardrobe.
2 - Air Force 1 Type
In this article we spoke about the rising trend of ‘deconstructed’ type footwear which features added materialing or intentionally out of place design points - the ‘Type’ is the Air Force answer to this. These are a really unique take on a classic design, and start at £120.
3 - Air Force 1 React
This is another update on the classic design, that employs a much larger swoosh, and enlarges the word ‘AIR’ on the midsole. Alterations have also been made to the sole, and the side panel is now made of mesh. Overall this creates a much more bold look, and amazing levels of comfort. They can be picked up from £90.
4 - Air Force 1 Gore-Tex
Gore-Tex is known as a material for its impressive durability and waterproof-nature, so it’s no surprise that Nike called on it for this winterised version of the Air Force One. Designed to stand up to the elements, these feature an inner Gore-Tex sleeve to keep the feet as dry as possible, a heavy duty gum rubber sole for increased traction and durability, and Gore-Tex branding on both the tongue and heel. They are available in four different colourways and start from £125.
5 - Air Force 1 Essential Jewel
In recent years Nike has created ‘Jewel’ versions of many of their most popular shoes, and the Air Force Ones are no exception. These are very similar to the OG version but feature a much smaller bejewelled swoosh to the side for a more subtle and sleek look. They cost £115.
Nike Air Force Special Editions
You'd expect one of best selling shoes in history to have an unbelievable number of special editions, unique pairs or collaborative efforts wouldn't you? Well you'd be right. The simplicity of the Air Force design means that they provide an almost entirely blank canvas for designers to work with, leading to some rather creative pairs. Here’s some of the most famous pairs released in the past few years.
Nike has a list of collaborative efforts with Supreme that is as long as your arm, and that includes a couple of great Air Force 1s - the most recent of which were the Box Logo pairs that dropped in the past fortnight, which are due to become a season regular. A couple of really unique Commes Des Garçons pairs have also dropped for the New York skate brand, as have a pair that involved the NBA.
Some of Nike’s most successful and iconic collaborations in recent years have been with American superstar Travis Scott, and that includes three brilliant pairs of Air Force 1s. The first released in 2017, and featured interchangeable swooshes and a gum outsole. The next pair came in August 2018 and again featured removable metallic swooshes, that this time hid loud designs underneath, with reflective detailing and removable velcro tongue tabs. The latest pair released last October and were far less reserved - the chaotic, patchwork like design features a range of materials including corduroy, suede and leather, with a removable zip-up lace cover.
OFF-WHITE - ‘The Ten’
Arguably Nike’s most high profile collaboration of the past few years is ‘The Ten’, a joint effort with industry powerhouse Virgil Abloh. This project involved Abloh reworking ten classic Nike silhouettes in his signature style, to create some very visually striking trainers. The Air Force 1s were part of this ten, and were released in white, black, volt green and blue.
Jeff Staple x Mr Sabotage x Air Force 1
Jeff Staple, of New York streetwear brand Staple Pigeon, has collaborated with Nike a whole host of times, but his latest offering towards the back end of last year was a real special one. Joining forces with renowned trainer customiser Mr Sabotage, Staple produced a pair of Air Force 1s that were limited to just thirty pairs. Hopeful customers could chance their arm at purchasing them in a raffle but they probably had a better chance of being struck by lightning. 6 sales have been reported on StockX, with 5 of them being over £2000 - the first one was £774, with the seller probably not fully aware of their huge value. If you would like a pair then - at the current time of writing - the lowest ask is £5946, in a US 8.5.
Where can I buy cheap Nike Air Force 1s?
Due to their already fairly reasonable price point, and the fact that they appear to be a timeless classic that will seldom go out of fashion, it is rare that you find the regular white or black versions lower than RRP. During seasonal sales though, they can drop in price to around £50 at the likes of JD, ASOS, Footlocker and Office - you can also regularly find the less popular iterations or colourways on sale at these particular outlets.
To make sure you are getting the very best deal though, make sure you compare prices to find cheap Nike trainers at FOOTY.COM.