I’ve been to some parties. I’ve been to the Playboy, Maxim and Penthouse Super Bowl parties and I’ve judged the Miss Hawaiian Tropic contest. That being said, it’s hard to convince me to go to some of these things. I’ve had every type of mini eggroll and pig in a blanket. But there was no chance I wasn’t going to Sunday night’s Nike party in New York City for the 25th anniversary of the Air Force 1 -- a shoe that since 1982 has been one of Nike’s best selling iterations.
The shame in it all was that Nike could only invite some 500 people. I wish all of the shoe lover world could have been there. So let me try to paint the best picture possible to do it justice until MTV broadcasts their 30-minute show on it in January.
Influencers who got the invitation were encouraged to wear their best pair of Air Force 1’s. So upon walking in, guests were encouraged to step on a platform where photographers took polaroids and digital pictures of their shoes. They were then handed a subway token that they would give to models in white jumpsuits that had touch pads with 100 of the best Air Force 1 models. All of those were on display in clear plastic bubbles that surrounded the room, along with 940 other pairs, some of which were one-of-a-kind or launched in extremely limited quantities -- gathered from Nike archives and key collectors.
Upon entering the main floor, partygoers were blessed with a bevy of appetizing items - including hot dogs and eggrolls of course, but also lobster meat on a cracker, fried chicken and some nice dessert options later in the night - the mini black and white cookies being the best option.
Music was not surprisingly also a theme of the night. Nike assembled Kanye West, NaS, Rakim and KRS-ONE to create an original track that was performed live, the only time it ever will be performed in front of a crowd, though an iTunes version is coming. Nike also had DJ’s spinning on a stage with an awesome old school basketball hoop with no net above them.
Throughout the night, I had a chance to talk to some of the key players.
It was the first time I met Nike President and CEO Mark Parker in person. I’m not sure there’s anyone who knows the Nike business better than Parker, which is always good when he’s the chief executive. It’s ridiculous that Nike ever looked outside the organization to begin with, and I’m not surprised that their last CEO, outsider Bill Perez, only lasted about a year in Beaverton.
If everyone on Wall Street met Parker, Nike’s stock would be way over $100. It’s close to hitting that number now, which would be a first in company history. I loved the fact that Parker was mingling with the crowd and was still there when I ducked out some time around 1:20 in the morning.
I also talked with Bruce Kilgore, the man who designed the Air Force 1’s. He’s a very shy guy who is extremely humble. He told me there wasn’t much discussion in the early days - just to build a basketball performance shoe. And the shoe he’s most proud of designing -- he says that since 1979 he’s likely designed less than 50 shoes that made it to the market -- was the sock racer. It came out in 1985, the year before Kilgore designed the Air Jordan II. It was kind of the predecessor to Nike’s FREE technology that came out 20 years later.
The big celebrities to hit the party included NBA stars Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace (who showed up in a Pistons warmup -- who wears their own gear to a party?), Nate Robinson, Quentin Richardson, Eddy Curry and Patrick Ewing.
Three of the six players who were part of Nike’s original Air Force 1 team -- Bobby Jones, Calvin Natt and Jamaal Wilkes -- also made an appearance. Spike Lee and Queen Latifah also showed up.