The Find

Nike's N354 AF1-Types Are a Design Sketch You Can Wear

The stripped-down, but highly detailed, sneaker successfully cosplays as a prototype for the iconic Air Force 1 low platform.

As much as they are perhaps the signature—and certainly the most profitable—personally worn design objects of our times, the mainstream surprisingly pays little attention over the creation of athletic shoes. That’s not to our benefit, not only because there’s insufficient general awareness of the problematic manufacturing of sneakers, but because the very interesting, very vital creative stories behind this entire category of design are only heard in small circles.

Perhaps a slight turn towards mainstream appreciation of that process is the upcoming release of Nike’s AF1-Type in “Summit White.” As part of the brand’s ongoing N. 354 line, the Type 1 takes on the old Air Force 1 low platform. Reimagine what a pre-production prototype of the iconic model would be complete with a forefoot that suggests design-studio kitbashing, faux hand-drawn Sharpie numbering, simulated hand stitching, and a transparent skin on the inner sides. It suggests a mock-up of a future product, a gesture that points all the way back to the shoe’s creation in 1982 with a somewhat more modern tongue that references the present.

Nike has already offered up the similarly themed N. 354 Drop-Type LX, a tribute to its NikeCort tennis shoes, which also points back to its own design origins. Both represent an odd and rather brilliant bit of showmanship and appreciation for process on Nike’s part. Really, it’s hard to think of any other mass-produced, universally adopted product type that could readily withstand being turned into its own “prototype” while still making it to market (you couldn’t drive a proof-of-concept car to work and back and a test-case couch wouldn’t last very long).

If you’re in the market for this bit of wearable history, the N354 AF1-Type Low in “Summit White” drops on June 28 at and elsewhere for $140.

All Stories