The most-worn, revolutionary, iconic pair of trainers which age like fine wine, Ladies and Gentlemen – please be upstanding for Nike Air Force Ones.
We have Bruce Kilgore to thank for what he described as “The greatest basketball sneakers of the 80s and lifestyle sneakers of the 2000s”. The coolest of kicks creator started his career as a product designer, then becoming and engineer, later finding his metier as a high-performance sports shoe designer. Kilgore’s approach in designing shoes was noticeably different from any shoe at the time.
A self-described minimalist, this has always come through in Kilgore’s preferred plain aesthetics like his white on white leather Air Forces. Kilgore invested time and understanding the movement of those who wear the sneakers, creating a silhouette-shaped cut around the ankle: with comfort being his number-one priority. The small change he introduced to the shoes basketball players wore would in time practically redefine how the game was played. The silhouette-shape intended and succeeded to create maximum flexibility and support for basketball players during games, his newly defined shape similar to Air Forces mid-boot style was an incredible milestone.
Bobbito Garcia, NYC Sneaker Connoisseur commented “Sneakers made in the early 70s + 80s were really hard on your feet…you had to wear Three, four or even five pair of socks for guaranteed comfort…All of a sudden comes Air Force Ones and you can wear one pair of socks”.
But this success story has a shaky start. As often happens, the painstaking process an innovator goes through often remains unsung; and Kilgore’s perseverance to create Air Forces as we know them today is a tale worth telling. In 1972, Air technology in shoes was something at the time, has not been done before. Through repeated prototypes the shoe fell apart when worn.
Spring 1982, after several attempts to make Kilgore’s idea work, Nike bailed.
A year later of Kilgore playing around, and perfecting the sole, time paid off. He discovered that adding a tiny spring underneath the sole could keep the heel intact. Kilgore returned to Nike’s HQ, and they accepted his refined design. Soon after he called Nike’s icons-to-be, the Air Force One. Named after the plane that carries America’s presidents, the commander-in-chief of sneakers had been born.
“You can be bummy from head to ankle but on your feet you needed to be fresh”- Dawson Thomas
Early 1983, Air Force Ones were still in high demand but not being sold anywhere. After constant customer persistence 3 key shops in Baltimore “Charlie Rudo Sports, Cinderella Shoes and Downtown Locker Room” had a meeting with Nike to resurrect the Air Force Ones. With Nike granting their wish, each shop was provided with 1,200 pair of 2 colours such as; White/Royal blue and White/Chocolate Brown. This then gave Air Force One’s the nickname “Uptowns” as word of mouth spread like wildfire over America, people came from downtown Philadelphia and New York to get their hands on a pair of these Air soles.
Advertisement was no issue when you had word of mouth and stars like Moses Malone from the 76ers’ wearing the shoes, winning the most cultural game of America and being named an MVP (Most Valuable Player) for the season. Course everyone wanted a pair of Air Force Ones.
After 46 years, Nike Air Force Ones still serve their community pure sauce. Reaching and collaborating with Organisations, Charities, Fashion Designers and Artists. Kilgore provided trainers to how we know them and feel in them today.
Keep locked in for my pt 2 showing the evolution of Nike Air Forces 🙂
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