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Nike SF Air Force 1

24 articles

A powerful boot inspired by the military.


SF Air Force 1

The Nike SF Air Force 1 was conceived by Nike Sportswear designer Ben Kirschner, who decided to unite two existing models: the Nike Special Forces Boot and the Air Force 1. The former was made with the Special Forces in mind. As such, it was a tough boot featuring enhanced durability and added protective components. Meanwhile, the concentric circle grip markings on the tread of the latter make it boot-appropriate. The SF Air Force 1 (here, SF stands for Special Field) has fused these hardy elements with lifestyle aspects to create an AF1 model adapted for use in challenging weather conditions.

Though not quite as tall as a traditional military-issue boot, the SF AF1 has a high collar that extends well above the ankle. A heel strip goes from the midsole to the collar, where it finishes in a convenient pull tab. Three loops have been worked into this strip, through which two adjustable ankle straps can be threaded to give a tighter, more secure fit. One of these is a paracord band fastened using a quick-release plastic clip and the other a woven strap with a metal auto-lock webbing buckle. The latter carries a patch with data about the model and text that reads “Winterized issue footwear” to show off the Nike SF Air Force 1’s weatherproof credentials. In addition, both straps can be removed based on the wearer’s preferences. On shoes like the Triple Black, these two straps are the same color, something which is true across most designs. However, some shoes vary the tone, such as the Blue Tint, which has one black strap and another in pale blue, and the Camo, whose paracord strap is black to contrast with the camo pattern of the woven one beside it. 

On the inner, the boot features a broad gusseted tongue that is connected to the shoe from the base all the way up the sides, keeping everything insulated while preventing water and debris from getting inside. It also has a tab that loops over the top to become an ‘espionage pocket’ on the inside of the tongue. Inspired by Christian Bale’s boots in the movie Rescue Dawn, this supplementary pouch is secured by Velcro as well as a button, making it a safe place to keep small items.

The upper of the SF AF1 incorporates high-quality leather or suede overlays in the fore and midfoot, with classic perforation patterns in the toe box as well as double lines of stitches joining the different segments together. The rear section is made of flexible but protective ballistic mesh, showing its military inspirations. Some designs, such as the dark green Faded Olive, have one single tone across all of these sections, while those like the Desert Ochre, with its bright orange mesh and brown leather panels, vary the colors, as does the aptly named Desert Camo. Then there is the Muslin, which mixes up the design entirely with its suede toe and canvas mid and rear sections. In fact, there are several versions of the SF AF1 that have one single tone from heel to toe across the entire shoe. There is the bold blue Game Royal, the pale burgundy Dusty Peach and the dusky gray Dust colorway, to name just a few. 

The swoosh is usually made from the same material as the front portion of the sneaker, beginning at the midfoot panel before reaching back to wrap around the heel and become the swoosh on the other side. Its edges are straight, with no tapering towards the narrow tail. Underneath its front end, two metal ventilation holes aerate the midfoot through a fine mesh. Tonally, these often match the color of the surface behind them, such as on the Light Bone colorway, but on others they come in a different hue. For example, on the Laser Orange, black ventilation holes rest upon a striking yellow background, while on the all-white upper of the Lunar New Year, they are golden. Similar metal rings reinforce the eyelets, and metal lace clips through which rope-like laces can be tied protrude from the top of the eyestay. 

Alongside this high-top build, there are two more styles of the SF Air Force 1, both of which share similarities with it but also exhibit a few differences. The Mid is closest in its appearance, with the same mesh heel panel and leather or suede front segments along with the ventilation holes in the midfoot, the reinforced eyelets and the perforated toe box. Meanwhile, the most notable differences are the lack of sidewall swooshes, the pair of zips running in parallel lines up the heel and the single ankle strap. The collar is also slightly lower and has been flattened out. Completing the look is a set of text on the shoe’s lateral heel that starts with the words “Urban Utility Ftwr” and goes on to give further details about the SF Air Force 1 Mid. On certain designs, like the Desert Moss, this text stands out clearly as it appears in a different color to the outer, here black on green. However, the beige outer of the Mushroom colorway is the same tone as the writing, giving it a more subtle effect. This particular design has been released in men’s and women’s versions, and is even available for kids – a feature of the Mid.

The third style is the Nike SF Air Force 1 High, another boot with an even taller profile than the other two. Like the Mid, it has no swooshes on the flanks and retains the classic cupsole construction of other AF1s, but apart from that it varies greatly from both of its counterparts. Instead of two zips on the heel, it has a single one down the front of the tongue and no laces at all. The midfoot and rear sections have been combined into one large piece of mesh which contains reflective Air lettering. As with the other versions, the different materials offer an opportunity to use alternative colors and patterns, something which is evident on the Realtree x SF Air Force 1 Hi collaboration, whose black forefoot contrasts powerfully with the woodland camo that covers the rear portion of the shoe. There are also those that go for a more uniform shading, such as the Rattan, which is light beige all over, and the Black Gum, which has a monochrome upper. The High’s other defining features include its thick rope-like laces that wrap around the shins and loop through the extended heel strip before being secured by a metal cinch at the front. Rugged, durable elements like this ensure that the Special Field Air Force 1 exudes precision and strength while also maintaining an eye-catching appeal.

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