Design Moment: Nike Air Force 1, c 1982

The shoe became an influential and enduring item of streetstyle

The Nike Air Force 1. It was a technologically advanced basketball shoe, marketed initially to basketball players

The Nike Air Force 1. It was a technologically advanced basketball shoe, marketed initially to basketball players

 

The exhibition “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”, which opened on October 1st in MOMA in New York, features more than 100 items of clothing and footwear that have impacted on history and society in the 20th and 21st centuries. An Aran jumper, on loan from the National Museum of Ireland, is one of the exhibits.

The show’s title is revealing – there’s the provocative question mark, and it’s “fashion” not clothes to signal, according to the museum, “the complex relationship between the design of garments and contemporaneity”.

In an era when “athleisure” is the dominant streetwear aesthetic it’s not surprising the Nike Air Force 1 is one of the items on display.

Designed in 1982 by Bruce Kilgore and launched with the slogan “Air in a Box”, it was a technologically advanced basketball shoe, marketed initially to basketball players.

Also the sole, which instead of the herringbone pattern found in other hightops, had a circular outsole pattern for players to pivot on

The air pocket in the heel offered cushioning and support. Other features included the sloping hightop, tapering from front to back, which Kilgore copied from a Nike hiking boot. Also the sole, which instead of the herringbone pattern found in other hightops, had a circular outsole pattern for players to pivot on. The name was borrowed from that of the US president’s aircraft.

The Air Force 1 was discontinued in 1984 – a normal pattern for Nike as the brand’s usual model cycle was to launch a shoe then discontinue it a year or so later when it had a more advanced model to offer.

But by then it had already become an influential and enduring item of streetstyle and so it was relaunched in 1986, and has since become available in hundreds of variations, including multiple colourways. The white-on-white version is regarded as the classic.

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