Throwback Thursday: The Nike SF-AF1


By Drew Hammell

image via Nate Chang

For over 35 years, the Air Force 1 has been a fan favorite in Nike’s vast arsenal of sneaker silhouettes. Last fall, Nike unveiled the edgy Special Field Air Force 1, which was designed by Ben Kirschner. Redesigning a classic can be a risky proposition, but the result was a new cult favorite that has produced some unexpected effects.

Inspired by military combat boots like the Nike SFB, the SF-AF1 is much higher than the traditional Air Force 1. Originally reimagined with a crepe rubber sole similar to a Quoddy boot, Kirschner switched back to the classic AF1 sole for the final model.

image via Nate Chang

One thing I saw was that you don’t need to make the Air Force 1 into a boot, the rubber on the sole already does that. That’s one thing on the SF AF1 that I wanted to keep true to its heritage,” said Kirschner in an interview with Complex magazine.

The higher silhouette has led to an intriguing fashion transition in menswear – it’s now OK to tuck. For the past ten years, skinny jeans have been popular. Before that, bootcut jeans and super-baggy jeans were in style. But for decades, if not centuries, men haven’t been tucking their pants into their shoes.

Of course, the functionality of the pant tuck is a traditional look for military and law enforcement uniforms, but it’s never quite made its way into mainstream fashion. Typically women have no problem tucking, but men shy away from it. The SF-AF1 has helped change that mentality.

image via Nate Chang

Nate Chang (@yung__corbu), a senior design student at the University of Washington, owns several pairs of SF-AF1s partly due to the fact that Kirschner designed them. “Ben is an alumni of the design program I’m in, so the shoe kind of holds a special influence for me,” said Chang. “I think it’s a cool shoe, made even cooler by the design process. didn’t stick with a typical AF1 silhouette, which I think made it more true to the idea of an AF1 you can stomp around in.”

After the success of the SF-AF1, Nike unveiled a mid-cut version as well. This model features a dual-zip closure system in the heel, industrial-style markings on the side, and, perhaps most notably, the removal of the Nike Swoosh.

images via Gary Lockwood

Artist and designer Gary Lockwood, the man behind @freehandprofit, is a fan of the updated model and even created an entire SF-AF1 mask campaign for Nike. “AF1s have always been a part of my sneaker collection. It’s a staple of Hip-Hop culture. So when they dropped the SF1s I was excited to see the newest version.”

With the success and influence of the SF-AF1 in just the past year, the impact of the SF-AF1 in the fashion and art communities is hard to deny.

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