Air Force One Too Many?

Bruce Kilgore is a genius. If you didn’t know, Kilgore designed the Nike Air Force One, and was also instrumental in the advent of Shox technology.

But that’s now why I’m writing this.

Nope – it’s just the preamble before I tell you about the AF1 25th anniversary – and why it pisses me off.

In 1982, Swooshie dropped the Air Force “Zero”, a pseudo-prototype identical to the AF1, except with no perforations in the toe box, and mesh side panels. Twenty-five years later, the “Zero” returns – in Toronto, the “Zero” is selling at a quick-strike “Air Force One” store just above Good Foot sneaker boutique. What’s more, Nike has also released the Air Force 25 – an updated AF1 replete with air max 360 technology, clear sole plates and newish design.

Two issues here:

1. Why?
Did cats really want a performance version of the AF1? If so, why not ball in regular ol’ AF1s? I know ‘sheed (NBA baller Rasheed Wallace) wuz rocking his AF1s with custom double-stacked zoom insoles during the playoffs, but he’s been quoted numerous times saying that plain old AF1s are his favorite to ball in – without any special additions or considerations.

I myself spent one summer balling in (and subsequently killing) a pair of AF1 mid’s on the playground. No complaints here.

2. Why update the look?
Okay, so technology has advanced since ’82. Judging from the AF25’s appearance, one can’t necessarily say the same for design. The AF25 is essentially an AF1 – and that’s precisely the problem. It’s TOO similar, and ends up looking like a slightly higher-tech knockoff, instead of the heir to a king. The sole looks cool – as visible technology always does – but it begs the question, why not then just replace the AF1’s sole? It can obviously be done – peep the air max 360 “One Time Only” collection for proof (old air max models with the air max 360 sole).

Swooshie tried this neo-retro shit in ‘97/98 with the Air Force Lite. It, too, was a modern hoop shoe “inspired” by the AF1. The Force Lite, though, seemed like a logical progression from the AF1, instead of a str8-up bite. To say it wuz a connoisseur’s shoe is an overstatement – not too many cats bought ‘em. And if you did, you were likely a baller in the basketball sense, not the Jim Jones variety (though Mos Def rocked a pair, and they got some play in NYC).

I used to give Nike props for not trying to revitalize classic products with “updated” designs like their comp (adidas and Converse, most flagrantly). Generally, these “Millenium” updates are uber-weak – the exceptions being the adidas Top Tens, Forum and Concord Supremes. But the worst of the bunch is likely the Chuck Taylor 2000 – front-runner for ugliest sneaker ever. And now the Swoosh has joined its brethren in the Bad Ideas department.

When the AF1 dropped in ’82, it was the apex of technology in a sneaker. It didn’t quite kill Chuck Taylors as a performance shoe (that wuz the adidas Top Ten’s job) – but it certainly helped dig the grave. Back then, the AF1 wuz the ipod and Blackberry of sneakers – a truly innovative product benefiting from new technology. Twenty-five years later, and we’re still rocking AF1s – or just pretending to, in the case of the AF25. It’s 2007 – shouldn’t we be moving forward just a li’l?

Rick Kang

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  1. I personally love the 25s…the design that is and the fact that Nike is going back to its roots, performance basketball. I haven’t played ball in them yet but have heard good things. I don’t think Nike is trying to recreate the AF1 at all they’re just trying to continue that tradition of state of the art cushioning, support and comfort. Playing ball in a pair of AF1 today is like going back in time, after you’ve played with recent ball shoes…theres just no comparison. The AF1 is def a classic and was light years ahead of the competition in ’82 and I think Nike is trying to do that with the 25s now with their Airmax + zoom cushioning. Oh and I heard that the AF25 lows look pretty good for off the court wearing…not so much the highs.

  2. The AF25 commercial is str8t bananaville station, no doubt — especially the part where Chris Paul swipes the rock from Amare from behind… wish there wuz a long-form of that whole game — on sum new skool Swooshie Dream Team ish!

    But the AF25 is just too much like the AF1 to me. I’ve no beef with progression — but regression ain’t gangsta!

    Also — why they had to attach the strap to the shoe? AF1 highs are far superior to the mid’s for that very reason — the removable strap. Straps are a gimmick, and making them removable at least gives the wearer a say in the equation. Same reason why the LBJIV suffers — that stupid-ass non-removable strap (also cuz it weighs a ton, like my uzi)…

  3. The Juelz joint with Blaze is the hottest shit. Nike’s designers are straight out to lunch, all they’ve been doing in the 2000’s is retro’ing old fire, and all the new shoes are stealing from old Jordans & Forces.

    The 25 is lame, I’d cop XX2’s instead. Gimme some ‘Sheeds and I’ll be aight, no new school forces for me. Bad idea

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