Uptowns. Flaves. Harlems. B-Mores. Airs. Forces. Ones. Whatever you choose to call 'em, the Nike Air Force 1 is as transcendent as any sneaker could possibly be, garnering adulation from veteran sneaker aficionados all the way down to the newbie who just wants something clean to kick it in. While that hasn't always been the case, considering the iconic basketball silhouette was almost discontinued in 1984 due to low sales—just a few short years after its debut in 1982—it has since solidified itself in the annals of sneaker culture, even going as far as becoming the 2nd highest-selling sneaker in 2019, holding off the hype of the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 or Jordan IV and XI Retros. And there is certainly no shortage of options, as there seems to be something for every budget. Whether you're willing to shell out buku bucks for a resale pair of the original "The Ten" collaboration with OFF-WHITE or just need a re-up of "Coke Whites" from the Foot Locker in the mall.
The versatility of the AF1 certainly allows individuals to figure out how the shoe fits within their constraints, but it always conforms. And the fact that these have a been a perennial starter pack sneaker for almost four decades speaks volumes. However, shit can go left very quickly if you don't abide by the unwritten rules bestowed upon us from our forefathers.
Choose Your Height Wisely
While 5'10 Twitter would likely trade a couple inches for their first-born child, that's not the kind of "height" we're talking about. The preferential choice between the High, Mid, and Low variations of the AF1 has been at the center of many BBQ cookout and spade game debates. While lows are typically at the top of many lists because of their versatility, the height should be determined based on a number of factors. For instance, Highs tend to look like clodhoppers on big-footed folks, so tread carefully my size 13 brethren. Lows are a go-to in summer to wear with shorts, but Mids or Highs can easily be substituted in for any casual situation if coupled with a good pair of basketball shorts.
There's Nothing Cute About a Dirty Ass Air Force One aka How to Clean Air Force Ones
Converse All Stars? Sure. Vans. Yea, why not? But AF1s? No one should be caught out in the daylight in a pair of Forces that look like they had a rough weekend at Coachella and were trying to ease their way back into the "real world." Preventative care is just as, if not more important (just ask your parents) than how you clean your Forces post-soiling.
Waterproof 'em. Spray 'em with leather, suede and/or nubuck protector before wearing and after cleaning. Use at least two coats, depending on the product, and let them dry before wearing. There are a ton of cleaning products that will do the trick specific to the materials on your Forces, but you're likely to get the most bang for your buck with water, soap, a couple Magic Erasers, and prayer.
How to Avoid (and Fix!) Major Creasing
Creasing on a leather sneaker is inevitable, especially as the leather starts to soften after multiple wears. But there are ways to prevent major creasing. Use foam inserts that you can slip inside your shoe by the toe box so they don't crinkle up every time you take a step. But again, these only work so well. So, when Forces do start accumulating those wear-whiskers, dampen a towel (preferably one that is white or that won't rub off on the sneaker), place it over the creased area, take a hot iron and gently iron over the area and voila! It's the kind of sneaker magic we all wish we knew years ago.
If You're a Real One, Wear 'Em With Baggier/More Relaxed Pants
I know how difficult it is for some people to get behind the relaxed/wide-leg trouser movement, but if you're looking into what to wear with your AF1s, it may be time to hop on the train. A pair of classic 874 Dickies that sit right above the top of your Lows, or some beefy Nike sweatpants with an elastic cuff for the Mids or Highs will never lead you astray.
But Be Mindful of Your Denim's Cut
As far as denim, the length and how they fall (or don't fall) on top of your Forces is the determining factor. Really, just about any type of denim could work with Uptowns, but you MUST make sure they're tapered at the bottom so they can stack up a bit as they hit the shoe. You really don't want to be out here looking like Michael Jordan at any party that has Latina women there, thinking he got his "good jeans" on.
Keep a Pair of All-Whites on Ice
There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and price inflation will even effect the cost of Coke Whites. It should go without saying that one should have least one pair of White-on-Whites if you are even remotely interested in Forces. However, if you have the financial capability, it is imperative that you keep a pair of them on ice. They will never go out of style and they go with just about everything. You know how your mom used to always keep some chicken in the freezer just in case she didn't have anything else to cook, and it still came out bomb (as long as you remembered to take it out to thaw when you got home from school)? A fresh pair of all-white Forces are the exact same thing to any outfit.
How to Properly Lace Air Force Ones
I'm fairly certain that there isn't a single shoe that has more "how to lace" tutorials on YouTube than the AF1. How you lace your Forces is one way to truly showcase your individuality. But don't get too cute. If you are going to try the double-lux-into-a-triple-axle of lacing, remember this: do not tie them too tight. However, the length on the laces that come with Lows and Mids is perfect for the not-too-loose untied look as long as done all the way to the last or second-to-last lace hole. And if you find a pair with the laces looking like this out the box, keep them like that! It's like a beautiful baby unicorn.