Nike’s firm foundation is built upon one of innovative thinking, and it’s no wonder that Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, OR houses a special palace called the Innovation Kitchen. One recipe that was experimented with was the concept of “tattooing” a shoe; tattoos provide an artistic touch along with a sense of individuality and committment, so Mark Smith began the Laser Project to bring that culture into shoes. Smith has had a hand in a number of Nike and Air Jordan classics; he played an integral role in the conception of Air Jordans IX through XV, as well as the special lasering print on the Air Jordan XX. Lasering a shoe is an immensely exacting process, using special materials, finite drawing, and some state-of-the-art machinery found only in Research & Development labs. A one-piece construction of the Air Force 1 was chosen by Smith as part of the Laser Project simply due to its generous amount of surface area; the entire shoe served as a broad canvas, with the outer shoe featuring a tribalesque detail and the toe box and rear heel housing a fine lasering measured by fragments of millimeters.
The art of tattooing separates on individual from another, and consequently each of the 200 pairs of the Nike Air Force 1 Mark Smith laser is unlike one other. Despite following the same computerized calculations and waypoints, it is the leather – or skin – of the shoe that gives it an individual persona. All 200 pairs were released at Nort, a New York City staple of urban fashion and cultivator of the sneaker sub-culture. The packaging was as deliberate as the shoes it contained, featuring the tattooed graphics on the slide-out box and a microfiber cloth. The right shoe featured a laser-cut piece of cowskin with ’10’ inscribed on it’s outward face, with the left shoe holding a tag – One of 200 – that proclaimed its unrivaled rarity. The Laser Project was truly an innovative implementation of an outside culture into classic Nike styling – something Nike has trained itself to do flawlessly. As a result the Nike Air Force 1 Mark Smith Laser has entered the chronicles of sneakerhead history and will continue to thrive as a classic.