Ever since I can remember, Air Force Ones were a great sneaker to have because they were all white and always in style. But nothing beats when they were at the height of their career during the 2000s – they were the ‘it’ shoe for the Black community.
And as a community we all knew one thing, you keep your Forces clean. It wasn’t necessarily a rule just something we all did. And Lord help the man or woman who steps on your foot or causes you to scuff your shoe. To be honest, it’s still a thing today.
Nelly alluded to it in his song Air Force Ones a few times: “The only problem they only good for one night 'cause once you scuff um you fucked up your whole night,” or “I love pumas and shell toes but can’t nothing compare to a fresh crispy white pair.” There was also this line – “The last person that touched 'em I been shot 'em.”
So, one could imagine my surprise and disgust when I began seeing dirty Forces walk the same path as me. I saw them in the mall, the grocery store, the parking lots – everywhere. And if you were wondering, it’s not the new generation of Black children walking around disrespecting the culture – they know what’s up - it’s the young white children. Surprised?
Now I’m one to say people are going to do what they want, but that’s just one thing you DO NOT do. The sneakers aren’t Converses or Vans, they’re not made for the grungy or skater-kid look. They were made during a time where they were able to finish off a jersey dress look or bring together baggy jeans and long jerseys or long white tees.
Of course times have changed and we dress differently today, but the fact remains that we keep Forces clean. At this point I see it as disrespect to the culture because keeping the sneakers clean was an integral part of the culture; the concept and the conversations behind keeping your Forces clean had a way of bringing us together.
Having that one pair of sneakers, and constantly striving to keep them clean taught us what worked for white sneakers and what didn’t. It taught us responsibility because you may have not seen the importance of getting up on Saturday to clean, but you knew the importance of getting up to clean those sneakers.
Keeping your Forces in their best condition taught us how to keep from creating a crease in the front of our shoes. They taught us how to stay away from scuffing your shoes. And not to mention they taught us how to differentiate between shoes you wear for a fashion statement and shoes you wear to play outside.
Trends such as this are what make us who we are and walking around in dirty Forces takes away from one of the biggest reasons it became a trend in the first place.
Trends like this are also the ones that are appropriated without any clear respect, appreciation, or understanding of where it comes from, why it's important to us, or how to wear it without disrespecting the culture and customs we have made for ourselves.
And now I can't find a decent pair of Forces, a pair of shoes that was never hard to find, because they're literally being run through the mud.
In the infamous words of Boosie, and I think I speak for the culture when I say this, “Do what you do, but watch MY shoes.”