Why? Because they are perfect matches with of-the-moment hip-hop trends, from Adidas tracksuits to eightball jackets to throwback jerseys to today's wild-hued hoodie.
“I've been wearing Air Force 1s probably since I was 3 years old,” Keenan Harris, 17, says as he perused the Air Force 1 display at a local sneaker store. “I usually get about three pairs a year. Even more in the summertime.”
This month, the Oregon-based sportswear giant is continuing its yearlong celebration of the sneaker by introducing novelty shoes commemorating AF1's sports history.
Can you blame Nike for wanting to celebrate? The shoe, as reported by Susquehanna Financial Group analyst John Shanley, is still Nike's most popular, with sales coming in at roughly $800 million a year.
The celebration hits every possible Air Force 1 market, from baller luxury-seekers to graffiti-artist skateboarders.
In December, Nike kicked things off by introducing the newest performance shoe, the Air Force 25, a more aerodynamic shoe with extra cushioning in the heel and the top. Air Force 1s also had an official 25th birthday party in New York City's Gotham Hall, with performances by old-school rappers Eric B. & Rakim, Nas and Kanye West.
Nike has also built two-dozen 325-square-foot in-store boutiques in sneaker stores throughout the country, called Nike Air Force 1-Doors. The areas are sleek with smooth black shelving, hardwood floors and black leather chairs for trying on sneakers.
Jumping on the trend toward all things luxury, Nike created two limited-edition styles of the shoe, fashioned in Italy, which are enclosed in a case. The white AF1 is made from anaconda skins, and a black and brown pair are fashioned from crocodile. The cost – $2,000.
More reasonably priced shoes – that means cheaper than $200 – released this year include the I-95 series, with symbols of New York, Baltimore and Philadelphia on the sneaks.
Six shoes have also been made to honor each of the first six basketball players to wear the shoes on the court: Jamaal Wilkes, Mychal Thompson, Calvin Natt, Michael Cooper and Philadelphia 76ers Bobby Jones and Moses Malone.
There will be another six shoes featuring images of some of today's basketball superstars – with major Nike endorsements, of course – burned into them. They are Tony Parker, Vince Carter, Amare Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Rasheed Wallace. (A commercial with the players, with the beats of Jules Santana streaming through the background, is in rapid rotation now.)
“When I was a young boy growing up, my two older brothers used to rock Airs,” says Wallace, of the Detroit Pistons. “At the time, I couldn't afford them, but my mother used to tell me that I could get a pair when I was older. It was all of our style. The way that the AF1s were worn – low socks, high socks, with the strap hanging.”
Nike designer Bruce Kilgore created the AF1 as a performance shoe in 1982, adding air to the soles for the cushioning needed for running and jump shots. The shoe took off the following spring when then-76er Moses Malone wore the shoes on the court. His powerful play – in AF1s – was a major contribution toward the team's finally winning a championship.
© 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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