The word “grail” gets tossed around lightly in the sneaker world, but it shouldn’t. There are shoes that people want and there are ones that everyone loses their minds over, but can’t get their hands on. The PlayStation x Nike Air Force 1, first released in 2006, is the latter.
Why were they so popular? Collaborations don’t get bigger than PlayStation and Nike, especially on a patent leather Air Force 1 in ‘06 -- during the peak of patent leather sneakers -- that was limited to 150 pairs and resold for over $2,000. It was one of the first sneakers to reach an insane level of hype, and it was co-signed by the likes of Kobe Bryant and even made an appearance on The Tyra Banks Show.
Chris Vidal, one of the first employees at Flight Club, found himself on Banks’ show in October 2006 for an episode that chronicled addictions and found ways to get people help for them. Vidal’s itch was sneakers, or Obsessive Sneaker Disorder, as he called it.
“My girl was watching the show, and they were talking about addiction,” he recalls. “One thing lead to another and they made me give up the sneakers for seven days. I was working in Flight Club in the basement and got a call from a producer who asked me, ‘What’s your sneaker collection like?’ I replied, ‘Why, you want to buy something?’”
Vidal says he paid $1,350 for the sneakers, and he’d later resell them for $2,500. At the time, he was the plug for PlayStation Air Force 1s in New York City, and he claims he bought the shoes for the show, although he already had a pair at home. “They were 149 out of 150. I almost missed my flight for the show because I was trying to buy the sneakers,” he says.
When he was on the show, Vidal remembers Banks grabbing the sneakers and smelling them. And that they wouldn’t let him wear his Flight Club T-shirt and hat on air, as well as his PRPS jeans because they had too many rips in them.
“They sent us video recorders after the show, and they made me stay away from sneakers and make a diary,” Vidal says. “They didn't want me to talk about sneakers at all, so going to work was a release for me, because I could still be around sneakers. They made me seem like I was smoking sneakers. The other people on the show were addicted to porn, and they even had Nicole Richie in another dressing room waiting to a shoot a different show.”
The PlayStation x Nike PG2, Paul George’s second signature sneaker, releases this weekend and brings back memories of the Air Force 1s. And a lost time in sneaker culture, one that Vidal desperately misses.
“PlayStation was iconic because everyone knew it, and it was Air Force 1s and you knew what it was!,” he says. “The PG2 is just recycling ideas and marketing ideas, and it lacks of luster. The [Air Force 1] wasn't attached to a player; anyone could be the player in the shoes. Now you're wearing his shoe.”
The theme of the upcoming PlayStation collaboration for a new audience, though, gives them the energy of the Air Force 1, although it will never be the same (or hard to get). Sneakers have had a ton of viral moments now, including Justin Timberlake wearing a pair of Air Jordan IIIs at the Super Bowl halftime show. Seeing Vidal wear the PlayStation Air Force 1s on daytime television didn’t just let us know that the sneakers were real, but that sneaker culture was, too.