The 1980s was a milestone decade for Nike in more ways than one. This was a 10-year period in which the Swoosh went public on the stock market, signed Michael Jordan, and coined “Just Do It”. And that’s before we even mention the introduction of iconic silhouettes such as the Air Max, Air Force, or the Jordan 1.
All of the above, and far more, Nike sneakers born in the 1980s have undisputedly gone down in sneaker history. Not only are they already cemented in the figurative footwear hall of fame, but these silhouettes remain as popular as ever today, with both pieces that stay true to the OG aesthetic and modern retakes still in exceptionally high demand across the planet.
Below, we’ve picked out six lasting Nike sneaker silhouettes that first dropped in the ’80s, as well as some shoppable remasters that you can get your hands on via general release today.
The first sneaker to provide a visible showcase of Nike’s revolutionary Air Max technology via a window at the heel, the Nike Air Max 1 first hit the streets in 1987. The man responsible for the shoe’s design, Tinker Hatfield, was inspired by Paris’ Pompidou Centre and the way the building’s structure and engineering were exposed. The icon is still getting new makeovers to this day, and this ’90s-influenced and neon lace-featuring colorway is just one example.
Often heralded as the “perfect white sneaker,” the Nike Air Force 1 was born in 1982 and is one of the sportswear giant’s best-selling sneakers of all time. The AF1 started out life as a high top silhouette on the courts of NBA showdowns, sported by players like Michael Cooper and Bobby Jones. It found a new lease of life as the go-to shoe of hip hop artists and fans alike, and, perhaps due to its clean and timeless appearance, is just as popular in 2020. Staying true to the sneaker’s embodiment of simplicity perfected, we’ve picked out both black and white colorway options here.
Aged just 21, Michael Jordan signed a five-year deal with Nike that would change the sneaker landscape forever. The first result of the signature shoe partnership was a high-top blend of red, black, and white that has gone on to become one of the most celebrated silhouettes of all time. Since then, the sneaker has had countless colorway respins in hi, lo, and mid versions, and the “Pine Green” and “Smoke Grey” iterations we’ve selected here are recent GR highlights.
You guessed it, this one first saw its release in 1989. Despite taking many visual cues from the Air Jordan 4, the Nike Air Flight ’89 was however never worn on-court by Michael Jordan. However, it was favored by his teammate Scottie Pippen, among others, and went on to become a big name in the basketball footwear game. Staying as fresh as it was more than 30 years ago, we’ve opted for two predominantly white colorways that both boast some subtle colored details.
The Nike Sky Force is classic ’80s basketball style channeled in a single sneaker. Outshined by slightly similar silhouettes like the Dunk, the Sky Force is somewhat of a cult classic. The OG was a hi-top, but the silhouette has been treated to a few sliced-down releases since the first ’88 drop. This 3/4 edition being one of them.
Though less popular than its Air Jordan 1, 3, or 5 silhouette siblings, the 1986 Air Jordan 2 took on a decidedly more luxe feel than its peers, handmade in Italy from Italian leather. It’s an underdog, for sure, but one that is still being picked up by those who want something less mainstream. This loud color-blocked edition is inspired by the colors of MJ’s greatest rivals.
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