December 29th, 2011 by Aaron Kr.
#13 – NIKE AIR FORCE 1 ‘YEAR OF THE RABBIT’
Nike has established a firm stance on tradition and culture when it comes to their themed footwear and apparel capsules. A concerted effort is made to keep consistent with current trends, while infusing some cultural and historical signficance into their sneaker releases. One such practice, the annual tradition of releasing a Chinese Zodiac themed Air Force 1 Low that began in 2002, served a rather important purpose this time around – re-energizing a trend-setting classic that had lost some steam over the last couple of years. The Nike Air Force 1 Low will always be looked at with the highest regard, but with each passing year, the shadows cast by newer Retro-inspired designs, as well as other Nike classics have taken some shine away from the Air Force 1; credit the Design Leads at Nike for expanding the NSW library while allowing the Air Force 1 to take somewhat of a breather, but it was time for the icon to make a long-awaited comeback.
As 2011 marked the year of the Rabbit, Nike Sportswear effortlessly transferred the friendly and outgoing nature of the animal to the Air Force 1 Low by creating a clean and simple design inspired by ‘White Rabbit’ candy, a popular brand of Chinese candy treats that has become a cultural mainstay of the region. White, beige, red, and royal blue material gave the shoe a crisp color profile, but it was the milky-white solid midsole and alternating color-blocking on the
chenille-wrapped Swooshes that gave these an added style punch and some real individual character. Additionally, the Supreme nature of this release gave the Air Force 1 ‘Year of the Rabbit’ a Bespoke-like quality due to the premium materials and distinguishing features we often see with those top-tier custom designs. Nike Sportswear also took the ‘White Rabbit’ candy inspiration to a personal and novelty level by releasing special candy-wrapper inspired packaging in limited numbers, exclusive to select retailers in China.
Aside from just its own status as a coveted high-profile release, what made the Air Force 1 Low ‘Year of the Rabbit’ such an important shoe is that the excitement surrounding the shoe trickled down to a variety of other Air Force 1 Low releases throughout the year. The Premium ‘Denim’, the special edition ‘John Strickland’, the BE@RBRICK collaborations, and a few more notable releases of the Air Force 1 Low were approached with a nostalgic enthusiasm that had been missing with most AF1 releases for quite some time. Not quite a hysterical rebirth, but a lucid reminder that the Air Force 1 still has the clout and cajones to turn heads and attract the attention of a community that has adapted to a fast-paced progression of footwear design and concepts. With the Air Force 1 being a significant component of the sneaker-game anatomy, the ‘Year of the Rabbit’ was a breath of fresh air to the overall system; it was a much-needed revitalization, and it could not have arrived at a more opportune time.