If you had told me five years ago that the Nike Air Force 1 shoe would ever become too basic to purchase, I would have laughed in your face. How could oversized, clunky shoes that strayed a bit too much from the status quo ever become the new normal?
But I could not have been more wrong.
In the past half decade, especially the past year, the Nike Air Force 1 (as well as a cousin, the Adidas Superstar) have taken college campuses and the wallets of Generation Z by storm. Their utterly basic style is truly unlike any other shoe, and yet that is its greatest appeal. The shoes fit absolutely anyone, from an athlete to a couch potato. Their versatility is unmatched. How did people begin to see them this way as opposed to weird shoes that the hipsters wore at school? The answer lies in mob mentality.
In the ’80s, Nike shoes achieved fame due to their widespread popularity among basketball players. Nike was the provider for basketball players professional and amateur. According to the piece by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, “In February 1984 … Nike signed basketball rookie Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal — arguably the birth of modern sneaker culture. Jordan wore (his nike shoes) … in defiance of league rules. Nike happily paid his $5,000-per-game fine, while airing ads declaring: ‘The NBA can’t keep you from wearing them.’” Most basketball players in the NBA at this time were (and continue to be) African-American, therefore Nike shoes were primarily worn by African-American teens. Chuck Taylors and Vans were the trademark shoe for white teens at the time. However, just as trends come and go, this one faded out in the next decade as new sneakers came out that could replace the old.
A resurgence of Adidas and Nike sneakers brought the Air Force 1 back in 2014. This time, however, they were championed by white people.
At the onset of their return, these sneakers were worn by people who wanted to stand out. Diverging from the traditional sneaker of choice was a risky move that would instigate comments of shock and primarily judgement. Breaking the status quo was a risky move in high school unless one truly embodied the “I don’t give a fuck” persona.
It wasn’t until this headspace became something that people strove to embody, rather than a unique quality, that this aesthetic became basic and so did Air Force 1s.
The funny thing is that the people that brought Nike Air Force 1 sneakers back are probably no longer wearing them today. They began the trend, the trend expanded and became accepted by a greater percentage of the young population, becoming a basic staple. This is the classic cycle of a trend. It gets introduced by confident trendsetters and eventually becomes so uniform with the community that an entirely different, large demographic has adopted it. At this point, the trendsetters have moved on to other unknown fashion statements to begin yet another trend. The Air Force 1 has simply become much too basic, and the original pioneers have moved on.
However, it is not as if the trendsetters are to credit for making the Nike Air Force 1 popular for the first time ever. As previously mentioned, they were court shoes in the ’80s largely worn by the African American community. The trendsetters merely introduced the shoes to a new demographic, the white population. Hoop earrings parallel Nike Air Force 1s in this theme. They have always been around, it’s just that white people weren’t into them until recently. Oversized hoodies. Sneakers worn as formal wear. Scrunchies. The list goes on and on.
Therefore, it is fair to make the case that the majority of recent trends are not new in actuality. They are merely revamps of clothing from another decade that have notably become of interest to a new demographic.
Perhaps we should start giving credit where credit is truly due. There is something to be said about being increasingly aware about the culture surrounding iconic items that may have recently become trendy. Being informed about an item and its history not only makes one more culturally aware, but also can bridge some of the divides in our modern world from lack of understanding.