There are certain style staples that will never leave any closet or shoe rack, both because of personal history and cultural significance. The Air Force 1 is one of those staples, as there’s never been a shoe that has brought together so many aspects of popular culture in one entity. There is no better feeling than bringing out a fresh pair of “white-on-whites”—and no worse feeling than seeing the same shoes get that first big crease in the toebox. Tragic.
To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the cultural icon, Nike announced a collaborative series titled AF100, a creative project that brings together visionaries from around the world to create their own versions of the white-white model of the shoe. The title AF100 refers to the style code of the shoe, and pays homage on the shoe’s illustrious history.
“There is no other shoe that connects to sport, music, fashion, art, the street, and the city all at the same time,” says senior creative director of Nike Sportswear and lead designer Al Baik. “The most ubiquitous Air Force 1 is the white-white. For the 35th anniversary, we selected collaborators who are impacting future generations across culture. Their brief was filtered through the white-white lens. The design brief was to remain classic and recognizable to the Air Force 1, while connecting to each collaborator’s life personally and the fields they represent.”
‘There is no other shoe that connects to sport, music, fashion, art, the street, and the city all at the same time. The most ubiquitous Air Force 1 is the white-white. For the 35th anniversary, we selected collaborators who are impacting future generations across culture.’
Nike selected Kareem “Biggs” Burke of Roc-A-Fella Records, Travis Scott, Virgil Abloh, ACRONYM co-founder Errolson Hugh, and Don C to design their own versions to show what the Air Force 1 means to them. CASSIUS had a chance to sit down and talk to Don in Los Angeles during an Air Force 1 celebration event to hear his take on the collaboration, his future plans, and the “Family of Force.”
CASSIUS: With a project of this caliber that shapes a shoe as prestigious as the AF1, we can imagine there were many ideas you wanted to get out. How did you decide on a direction for the Air Force Hi Just Don?
Don C: You have to focus on one concept. I try to approach design from a psychological standpoint, like I ask, “How are people going to react when they see this?” I always want to stay close to my principles, and with this shoe, I wanted to include the powerful element of family in there. The Air Force 1 is the patriarch of the Air Force family, so I made sure to include other aspects of the Air Force family in this edition. I hope it brings light to the models of the Air Force family that don’t get that same shine that the AF1 does.
C: What is your favorite attribute of the shoe?
D.C.: It’s the fact that the lateral and the medial parts of the shoe have two separate designs. Depending on the angle, it may look like you have on two different shoes, an Air Force 1 or an Air Force 2, and when you peep that it’s the same joint, that’s the moment I’m waiting for. It’s stunting on another level, but it doesn’t look crazy. It’s about the details. I’m particular about details, what materials I use, what the lacelocks are going to look like, I need this particular leather from Italy and the finest fabrics to go on the shoe. It’s the little things that set it off in a big way.
C: One aspect in all your collaborations with Nike is the importance of representing your hometown of Chicago. What it is about the aesthetic of Chicago that has created all of these luminaries?
D.C.: We real. That’s as simple and as complex as I can give it. We tell you exactly what we feel it is, we deliver it to you as it is, and we pride ourselves in being authentic in everything we do, now more than ever. Before, companies would be able to appropriate what they see in cultures, like, “Ah-ha! Let’s do this, let’s make this a hip-hop version.” And it may be accepted, but it might not. But the real folks out here shaping popular culture knew the deal. We’d call it out for being straight up wack. Now? Everybody is on that, you ain’t getting nothing past anyone anymore. Chicago been had that attitude, so when we’re coming up with our respective hustles, we already know each other as being real and are gonna show each other love any chance we get. And that growth and support allows us to stand out in the world.
C: You’ve had a Jordan and now an Air Force, two pillars in the Nike lexicon. Where do you want to go with future projects with the Swoosh?
D.C. I’m down with whatever. I love Nike as a brand because they treat me like family, you know? Imagine a company you’ve loved forever gave you the keys to do whatever you wanted? That’s how I feel with the Swoosh. I tell people all the time, I’m the type to marry and not date! You know, though? You date out here and people get sensitive and in their feelings over a false sense of loyalty, and you’re out here like, “I mean, we ain’t together.” That’s how I am as a creative. Let’s lock this down, let’s get it in for the long haul and we can grow together, and I think Nike and I are growing together.