The Black History Of The Air Force 1 Sneaker

white nike air force sneakers
Briona Lamback
April 26, 2024

In the mid-80s, almost everyone in Baltimore was rocking the same sneakers. They were the hottest thing on the block until Nike tried to snatch them back. But our people weren’t having that.

Nike’s crispy white Air Force 1 sneakers flew off shelves up and down the East Coast. People even flocked to Baltimore, where they’d become the city's unofficial shoe, to cop a pair. When Nike announced they were discontinuing the Air Force 1, which had been intended to be a limited-edition sneaker, everyone lost it.  Baltimore consumers and retailers couldn’t get enough of the shoes, and implored Nike to keep them in production.

Baltimore saved the Air Force 1, and the shoes became even more popular when hip hop’s finest were seen wearing them. Nelly’s 2002 hit, “Air Force Ones,” helped immortalize the classic sneaker. Today, fine art shoe muralist Akio Evans is helping revive the AF1’s Baltimore history.

While sneaker culture is full of co-opters today, its Black roots run deep. Everything cool in mainstream America originated in Black culture.

In every industry, we’ve always been creative leaders and innovators. Our culture is full of joyous stories like this one, and that’s a legacy to lean into and be proud of. So rock your Blackness!