Born in 1982, Nike’s Air Force 1s are a true icon of the sneaker world. Designed by Bruce Kilgore, they were the first basketball shoe to use Nike Air technology. The sportswear brand has since made leaps and bounds in the world of sneaker innovation—including the introduction of Flyknit in 2012. Nike Flyknit employs an ultra strong yarn knit to create a lightweight, flexible and breathable material with minimal waste product. 34 years after the launch of the Air Force 1, Nike sends the OG sneaker hurtling into the future by combining old shapes with new tech. Mastermind between this exciting partnership, Jonathan Johnsongriffin, Senior Footwear Designer for Nike Sportswear, shares on how the AF1 got its upgrade.
What makes the union of Flyknit material and the Air Force 1 so innovative/important?
Pairing the Air Force 1, a shoe iconic to sneaker culture, with Flyknit is sport style technology innovation in action. Firstly, Flyknit technology is a zero waste innovation. Adding Flyknit to Air Force 1 really launches Air Force 1 into a conversation of the modern sport style innovation. The iconic DNA of Air Force 1 is really the other side of that modern union; there really isn’t another shoe in the world as iconic and as versatile. The Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit makes people think—that’s not my dad’s Air Force 1, that’s my Air Force 1: it is a shoe that belongs to the young and fast.
Can you talk a little bit about the early conversations of applying the Flyknit technology to the Air Force 1 shoe?
The whole idea took off during a team trip to Paris. We challenged ourselves to only pack one pair of shoes to represent the best of footwear. We chose to wear the OG Air Force 1 in our chosen styles, and wore them from sun up to sun down every day, whether we were eating at restaurants or attending a streetball tournament, or enjoying the Paris night life; the OG Air Force 1 was versatile enough for all the events we had planned, which was a true testament to why Air Force 1 is such a staple in sneaker culture: it’s democratic, aspirational, and iconic all at the same time.
Beyond witnessing the Air Force 1’s versatility and resonance in multiple cultural communities, the team gathered some key learnings. After walking around in Air Force 1s for 12 hours a day, they were certain that they could make the shoe lighter and more flexible. They also realized the importance of having a perfect fit, especially to avoid creasing near the toe vamp. The Air Force 1 is heavy compared to a Nike running shoe. Adding Flyknit technology lends a new level of lightness and comfort to the iconic shoe while staying authentic to the classic silhouette.
We took some of the best things about Nike footwear and modern comfort and built them into Air Force 1 for the young and modern consumer today who wants a classic, amazing look, but wants to wear it from the train station in the morning to the train coming home at night.
The Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit will be available from January 28 at selected retailers worldwide. It will debut in multicolour and University Red for Nike Sportswear and a classic all-white for NikeLab.
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