Reinterpreting a Classic – A Chat with Nike Designer Jonathan Griffin
The Air Force 1 all-white sneaker is a classic. It’s been worn by Justin Timberlake in a tailored suit. It is the inspiration for the dozens of luxe sneakers in the market today. It has transcended popular culture, becoming an integral part of streetwear and fashion history.
Designing a sequel to such an icon is a dangerous and almost futile exercise. It’s like trying to reinvent the wheel – how do you make a beloved silhouette better? Nike opted to stick to the roots of the Air Force 1 while introducing a new material – flyknit. Senior footwear designer Jonathan Johnson Griffin gives us a peak into the creative process of the Flyknit Air Force 1.
Do you have any memories of the Air Force 1?
Air Force 1 has always been such a staple in footwear when I was growing up. Air Force 1 and I actually share a birthday year: I was born in 1982 and so was the shoe. Every Air Force 1 debray has 1982 engraved on the surface. When I first saw it, I knew we had a unique connection.
It has been amazing to see Air Force 1 grow up as I grow up, too; we’ve grown up together, which I really hold near and dear to my heart. At Nike, we really think about how we continue to make Air Force 1 relevant for future consumers, for both the young and fast today and the young and the fast tomorrow. I just had my first kid, and now I’m deciding which Air Force 1 she’s going to wear.
The Air Force 1 journey is an exciting one. An icon that is celebrated from the offices of Silicon Valley to the streets of New York to the shops in Harajuku and much, much more. It's democratic, but also aspirational. It has always been a shoe that is protected in sneaker culture as a classic.
Can you share the early conversations of applying the Flyknit technology to the Air Force 1 shoe?
Our main goal in making the Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit was to make a more comfortable shoe. The whole idea took off during a team trip to Paris. We challenged ourselves to only pack one pair of shoes to represent the best of footwear. We chose to wear the OG Air Force 1 in our chosen styles, and wore them from sun up to sun down every day, whether we were eating at restaurants or attending a streetball tournament, or enjoying the Paris night life.
After walking around in Air Force 1s for 12 hours a day, they were certain that they could make the shoe lighter and more flexible. They also realized the importance of having a perfect fit, especially to avoid creasing near the toe vamp.
We took some of the best things about Nike footwear and modern comfort and built them into Air Force 1 for the young and modern consumer today who wants a classic, amazing look, but wants to wear it from the train station in the morning to the train coming home at night.
Why lead with these chosen colour ways of multicolour, red, and white?
Triple white is a staple colourway in the Air Force 1 family – out of all the Nike shoes, Air Force 1 owns white as a colourway. Multicolour is truly representative of the equity and expression of what Flyknit technology can do and is one of the most celebrated colourways in Flyknit. University Red projects a declaration of bold confidence in the third colourway. Over the past two years, red has become an enormous staple in sneaker culture. A red shoe is an expression of existence; it lets people know that you're there.
The new Air Force 1 Ultra Flyknit is stocked at Nike Shaw and various Limited Edition outlets at S$239 and S$269.