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Air Force 1 x Off-White™

The legendary founder of fashion brand Off-White™, Virgil Abloh, had begun playing around with shoe design as a child, when he became fascinated with Nike’s sneakers. Skip forward to 2016 and the designer was standing in the brand’s Beaverton, Oregon headquarters about to realize his dream by embarking on his very first collaboration with the footwear giant. Known as The Ten, it would involve Abloh reworking some of Nike’s most iconic silhouettes to update them with his own artistic vision. Amongst this sought after collection was the very first Nike Air Force 1 x Off-White™ sneaker – a stylish deconstruction of the original with bold text on the flanks and translucent effects revealing white and grey tones underneath. Like the other shoes in this remarkable series, the AF1 was incredibly popular, which was a sign of things to come for the two brands as they worked together on a number of stylish designs in the years following the release of The Ten.

Fans of the Nike x Off-White™ collaboration did not have to wait long for the next Off-Whites as January 2018 saw a new iteration of the AF1 created specially for New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMa). The Nike Air Force 1 Low x Off-White™ x MoMa has black leather across the upper, Metallic Silver swooshes connected to the outer via broad zigzag stitching, exposed foam and bold text in Abloh’s favored Helvetica font set within quotation marks. Shortly after this, the ComplexCon colorway went on general release, having been teased at the event of the same name the year before. It resembles the MoMa design, with silver swooshes alongside the trademark Off-White zip tie, but its outer is mostly white. 

The next Air Force 1 Lows to be made with Off-White™ came at the end of 2018, when Nike’s classic Volt became the main color on the sneaker. This vibrant neon tone covers most of the upper, which is overlaid with black swooshes, suede accents and the customary signature text. It was released alongside a more understated black version that had contrasting white swooshes down the sides. 

The following year, Virgil Abloh was honored with his first solo art exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago. Named Figures of Speech, it showed off two decades of his work, including his sneaker designs. To mark the occasion, Abloh crafted a limited edition  Off-White™ Nike Air Force 1, the MCA University Blue, with a sky blue outer and shiny silver swooshes. This began a series of Air Force 1s that were released in conjunction with the exhibition as it traveled around the country. In 2021, the show arrived at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, and a University Gold colorway was launched. Its nickname is Lemonade and, aside from its striking yellow outer, it resembles the earlier MCA version in its design. It was also a limited release with location-activated access via the Nike SNKRS app that required users to be within a certain vicinity of the Boston exhibition to buy a pair. The next place to receive such a sneaker was New York City, as its Brooklyn Museum hosted Figures of Speech. Teased as early as July 2022, when it was referred to as Light Green Spark, and finally launched in September of that year, the Brooklyn colorway is covered in lush green tones with familiar features like the Helvetica text and exposed foam on the tongue.

2022 was a big year for Nike as the Air Force 1 reached its 40th anniversary. In celebration, a pair of Air Force 1 Mid designs with woven mesh uppers were created by the Nike x Off-White™ collaboration. One of them white, the other black, both have vivid neon tones on the intriguing spiky structures that stand out on the toe end and midfoot of the outsole. Typically deconstructed features appear across these sneakers, including translucent swooshes, a second set of Flywire straps over the traditional laces and a midsole with visible Air and a warped heel. This rebellious shoe was followed up in 2023 by a similar one called the Pine Green Air Force 1 Mid SP. This model has a premium leather upper in a resolutely green tone, a color that continues onto the offbeat spikes underfoot. Another mid-top known as the Graffiti came out in June 2023 with the same spiked tread as its recent predecessors, a white upper and a dynamic Off-White graffiti graphic on the lateral sidewall. Later in 2023, Off-White™ returned to the low-top style of the earlier museum designs with the Ghost Grey “Paris” colorway, this time giving it a smooth grey outer behind the Metallic Silver swooshes. The brand then switched straight back to the Mid with the release of the Nike Air Force 1 Mid x Off-White™ Sheed. Another take on the earlier Mids, this features the same spiky outsole protrusions, warped midsole and visible Air as those designs, but in a black and white colorway. Its name is derived from former NBA All-Star Rasheed Wallace, a player known for wearing the Air Force 1 High during his career. The shoe pays homage to his legendary status by embroidering his jersey number (30) onto the ankle strap and his Sheed logo – a silhouette of Wallace playing the fade away shot he was renowned for – into the lateral heel. It even includes the words “Off-White™ for Rasheed” printed in white over the glossy black upper.

The collaboration between Nike and Off-White™ via the latter brand’s era-defining designer has been one of its most productive and successful. Exciting new Off-White™ AF1 designs have streamed out of the manufacturer’s workshops ever since the partnership began, a habit that is likely to continue, ensuring that Virgil Abloh’s incredible legacy lives on into the future.

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