Continuing the recurring Air Force 1 theme of the last few months, I threw together an attempt at a history of the ubiquitous white Air Force 1 for Complex. I would love to know how many pairs that specific iteration of the AF1 has shifted since its debut, but one thing is for sure — contrary to reports, it definitely debuted several years before 1997. Right now, brands are falling over themselves to force a footwear phenomenon on young people with their pop ups, event spaces, panels, careful drip feed of numbers and blood advertorial onslaughts. It makes sense, given that the social media herd mentality, plus hundreds of thousands of new converts to resell, generally makes creating hype far easier. But the white Force never had that push initially (though later down the line, its numbers were deliberately reduced to increase their demand). You can read it right here.
As much as few would like to admit it, the most important endorsee for most types of athletic footwear is drug dealers. Expensive Nike Epics in Amsterdam, Fila tennis shoes and Gucci in New York, the mighty Forum in Boston back in the day or the prevalence of New Balance in D.C. and Baltimore are rooted in expendable income from illicit activity. That state-of-the art performance runner or basketball shoe that broke the 100 dollar mark or that silhouette in 20 different colours to match your outfit and/or car all flourished from wedges of dirty cash. I’ve rarely seen a brand acknowledge that alpha consumer, but the 2007 Air Force 1 documentary definitely made a mention of that I-95 craze circa 1984 and the type of dudes making big buys. Continue reading D.C. SET TRENDS→
There was once a time when, between Complex’s staffers and a squad of freelancers, every conceivable list that could be written was written. People complained about clickthroughs/orders/decisions and all of that other stuff. Post 2014, there were a lot less in favour of more features, opinion pieces and interviews. In fact, the only people still peddling that click-through thing are those “You won’t believe what XXXXXXX looks like in 2016!” clickbait sites that, curiously, Mike Tyson seems to be paid to promote on Facebook. I vowed never to write another, but my friend Matt asked if I wanted to write the top 35 Air Force 1s, which then became the top 21 Air Force 1s of the 21st century. No matter how much crap is thrown at that shoe (and those laser etched ones with players’ faces on and the majority of the 2007 anniversary rollout hurled a lot at them), it’s a design with a very special place in my heart. You could write a top 35 co.jp release only list, or simply put together a hit parade of Euro exclusives — since 2000 there’s probably been a couple of thousand variations worldwide, and the shoe was already 18 years old by that point. This was a personal list with a slight prejudice against some sacred cows (for instance, a lot of patent versions have aged appallingly and Entourage was a TV show for dickheads). Looking back, it’s bizarre to think that something as simple as a familiar shoe made to look a bit like a Timberland boot could blow my mind conceptually once upon a time. But blow my mind it did, hence its high-ranking on the list which you can read here or by clicking the image above.
We watermark crew members might be too cheap to pay to get our Getty shots unlabelled, but some images need to be shared. I won’t apologise for my relentless sports store nostalgia, and these 1984 shots of respected investigative reporter Armen Keteyian posing in a branch of Athlete’s Foot for a Sports Illustrated story photographed by Lane Stewart. There’s a beauty to those early 1980s walls, seeing as the majority of the stock has made multiple comebacks, but this one is a real beauty — 990s, Campus, Lavers, Air Forces, Grand Slams, Equators, Internationalists and Challenge Courts all seem to be present. As far as ageless design goes, it never got much better than this era. Flawless stock. Thousands of great shoes followed, but they were never future proofed like this display of masterpieces.
On the subject of watermarked imagery, this footage of skaters at South Bank from the 1970s via The Kino Library is gold. It’s devoid of audio, but you can open up another tab and play Back Street Kids by Black Sabbath or something similar to give it extra energy. Given the close call this historical area had over the last couple of years, this kind of thing is extra important. Plus, it was Go Skateboarding Day this weekend, which makes this extra timely.
Music videos get mentioned here a lot as an inspiration and introduction to brands for a sheltered Bedfordian back in the day. Big up Ronan at Nike for pointing me in the direction of this one: with the M-O-B-B being the party house band of choice this year (with both Supreme and KITH drafting them in), Havoc and Prodigy (who, despite claiming he invented everything a few years back, is one of the original heavily tattooed east coast rappers, back when MCs were showing off a solitary piece on their shoulders) are getting some coin to compensate for their contribution to hard rock style. With the recent ACG relaunch (and the eventual arrival of some proper winter weather in the UK), the 1992 Peer Pressure video deserves some retrospect. Not only is it the track where P reveals his George “It’s called a T-square” Costanza style dream of becoming an architect, the gear being worn is notable too. In a discussion with Ronan from Nike, he pointed out that Puba isn’t the only Air Revaderchi king — Mobb Deep rocked matching pairs of the 1992 classic in this promo, back when they were on their sickle and teen thug rap wave. The Blink-and-miss Raids, that yellow Carhartt sweat and Air Force 1s with tucked in socks and faded denim were huge looks too. Now, hip-hop videos are cheap again, but this era of getting a crew into a couple of locations and doing a lot of walking towards the camera and behind fences is golden. The sickle (which, if my memory of the Prodigy autobiography is fully operational, was referring to his sickle-cell condition as well as their bleak outlook — though it may have been coincidence) and zip up Champion hoods to give them grim reaper looks is a nice, Queensbridge gothic touch.
I’ve been obsessed with basketball shoes since I was a kid, despite being completely incompetent on a court. I spent hours staring at new additions to Champion and Olympus Sports, but I assumed I might grow out of it — I certainly never expected Nike to ever come calling to contribute to a project based around them. Over the last couple of years I’ve had the privilege of doing just that. To coincide with the Basketball World Cup in Spain I got to work with London’s own Magdi Fernandes, Nike and the kind contribution of some serious collectors to create an exhibition that, selfishly, featured some of my favourite shoes ever. Taken down from a collection of 240+ shoes and after making those emails cry, we took it down to 86 shoes to coincide with the whole Search for the Baddest/Come out in Force campaign in Madrid. Nike and Rosie Lees created six custom cabinets (here’s a better shot of one) to deliver an overview of Nike Basketball, Air Force and Air Jordan from 1972 to the present day. Getting the Franchise, Air Force STS, Alpha Force Low and the 1996 Python AF1 alongside the crowdpleasers in there was indulgence on my part, but there just aren’t enough exhibitions with those things in them these days. I don’t think this one is going to go on tour, so I’ll hunt some more professional shots, but in the meantime, here’s some hastily shot iPhone snaps of some of my favourite shoes. Shouts to Nike for getting me involved.