The Uptowns

The Nike Air Force One - the ancestor of the sneaker culture as we know it. The characteristic sneakers, known as ”Uptowns” due to its popularity in Harlem, have made its mark as one of the bestselling sneakers ever.

By Line Kjeldsen Hestbek in Wear

We can all agree that not much compares with a new pair of completely fresh sneakers. Best of all is the Nike Air Force One – white on white in the uptown way. The sneakers have a simple but complete look. The designer Bruce Kilgore originally designed the Air Force One as a basketball shoe in 1982. The year of the shoes original release is marked with a little metal signature emblem with the engraving “AF-1 ’82”.

The shoe was innovative in many ways. First of all it was durable. The chunky sole, which according to Kilgore himself, is inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral, framed the shoe in a way, which both offered support and made it impossible to wear out. The Air Force Ones were furthermore the first basketball shoe to present the Air-technique, which provided ergonomic as well as performance advantages.

The upper of the shoe was as a novelty slanted, which gave the ballplayers better flexibility than other high-top basketball shoes. The circular carvings on the outer sole were made to improve the mobility on the field. The innovative Air Force One became like this a popular choice by basketball players. Led by Moses Malone NBA MVP and championship winner, the basketball shoe made its entry into the US market.

The rapid variability on the market of basketball shoes resulted in a large pressure on the designers. The designers always wanted to design shoes with new and improved technologies. Nike’s products had, because of this, typically only a life span on two years before discontinued. Air Force Ones was no exception – Nike ceased the production in 1984.

People wanted what they couldn’t get – the demand on Air Force Ones grew radically these years. The retailers were overwhelmed by requests by consumers who deeply wanted to cop a pair of Air Force Ones. Finally, some sneakershops in Baltimore passed on the request by the desperate fans. Nike thought it was a crazy idea although they had a bit of faith in the retailers. Nike demanded the stores to buy 1.200 pair of both the white/royal blue and white/chocolate brown colorway – if not, they wouldn’t relaunch the highly coveted sneakers. Maybe it was a gamble, but the retailer bought each a mountain of Air Force Ones.

The relaunch of the Air Force One in 1986 was the first of it’s kind and fortunately it came to be a success. Sneakerheads flocked to Baltimore and tore the fresh kicks off the shelves. This hype made a big impression on Nike, which resulted in the production of Air Force Ones to carry on and moreover – never stop.

Air Force Ones was especially popular in the basketball- and hip-hop cultures – two cultures that undoubtedly goes hand in hand. The sneakers became a symbol of something street. Specially the neighbourhood Harlem, the co-called Uptown NYC, was down with the Air Force Ones – low-top white on whites got in this way it’s nickname “Uptowns”. Today Nike have made around 2.000 different editions of the Air Force One and the sneaker have like this secured a place in history, as one of the best-selling sneakers of all time.

More Stories