How to Lace & Style Air Force 1s

Whether you’re a full-blown sneakerhead or someone looking to get a sneaker collection started with a clean, easy white shoe, Nike Air Force 1s are a great choice. They transcend trends and have proven to stand the test of time since they were first introduced in the ’80s, long before rapper Nelly wrote a song in homage. Originally a basketball shoe and the first to use Nike’s Air technology, Air Force 1s have become a cult favorite among anyone looking for style and comfort in one shoe, including countless celebrities, athletes, style stars and more. The classic shoe is even still used by some basketball players on the court for training and playing. 

Once you’ve purchased a pair, the next step is to learn how to lace your new Air Force 1s, as well as how to properly style them to complete the look. Use this guide to learn everything you need to know before stepping out in your new shoes.

Types of Air Force 1s

Air Force 1s come in three heights: high-rise, mid-rise and low-rise. Low-rise styles tend to be the most adaptable for men, women and kids, but it all comes down to personal preference. High- or mid-rise styles generally look better on smaller feet and taller people, but there are no rules when it comes to style. The mid-rise style comes with a connected strap, while the high-rise model comes with a velcro strap. While white is the most popular color, Air Force 1s also come in myriad colors and styles, ranging from a ’70s-inspired red-and-blue palette to all black. 

Choosing your Air Force 1 lace style

While subtle, the way you choose to lace up your shoes says a lot about your personal style. Remember, you don’t have to keep the laces the shoes come with — have fun with different colors! From there, you have several options for lacing. 

Factory lace

Like the way they looked when you bought them? Then keep them as is, but loosen the laces, so they’re not so tight. Keep reading for ways to tie off your laces. 

The classic under lace

For other styles, the first step is to undo the laces as they come out of the box. Next, you’ll want to rethread them through the first eyelets and make sure that the laces are even on both sides before proceeding. This lace style involves lacing your shoes like you normally would any other pair of sneakers, with the laces going diagonally over and down into each eyelet, rather than the reverse. 

The classic over lace

Opposite of the classic under lace, the classic over lace has the laces going diagonally up through each eyelet. 

The loop-back lace

More complicated than the basic over lace and under lace, the loop-back lace has a few more steps, but the result is very unique. Loop the lace through one eyelet on only one side of the shoe, leaving a nice, loose loop. Take the opposite lace and lace it through that loop before repeating the same process on the opposite side. Pull gently to secure the loops through the center of the tongue. The end result will look like a single twist across each row. 

The straight or bar lace 

Even more complicated but more unique is the straight lace, which has you first threading up each eyelet before crossing the tongue for a straight line. This is recommended for casual shoe-wearing only. If you plan to be more active in your Air Force 1s, pick another lace style. 

The skipped crisscross

Like the classic under or over lace, you can achieve an even more interesting look by skipping every other hole so that the crisscross style is less compact and spreads out over the shoe. Note that this style will have you left with longer laces. If you prefer a shorter loop bow or knot, substitute a shorter lace for this style. 

High- and mid-rise straps

Most styles of the mid-rise Air Force 1 have a strap that cannot be removed (some styles of high-rise can). Experiment with leaving the strap undone for a more casual look. 

Tips that work for all three heights: Don’t tie the laces too tight. The looser they are, the cooler they look. Leave the last one or two eyelets unlaced for a modern look, and either tie the laces off in individual knots at the last eyelet threaded or tie in a knot or bow over the middle of the tongue. 

What to wear with Air Force 1s

Air Force 1s are classic shoes, so they are extremely versatile. To play into a street-style look, try pairing them with blue or black jeans and layered tops such as t-shirts, jerseys, unbuttoned button-downs or a blazer. If you choose a high-top style, make sure your pant legs — tapered or baggy — are tucked behind the tongue of the shoe and not in front of it to nail that easy-going look. Ready to experiment? Try pairing cropped pants with a low-rise style to show off patterned socks. Air Force 1s go well with ’90s-style streamlined dresses and skirts as well, especially if in animal print, neon or plaid. 

How to care for your Air Force 1s

You’ve purchased a pair of shoes that should last you a long time. Invest in taking care of them with a waterproofer and leather protector. Most can be cleaned with a gentle soap and water mixture, and if you have a white version, you can clean them with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. If you are wearing your shoes often and hate that inevitable crease that forms, you can prevent that by stuffing your shoes between wears with paper to retain their shape.

The bottom line

No matter which color, rise, style or even lace-style you choose, Air Force 1s can be highly personalized to your specific taste. They remain a classic shoe for a reason. They’re versatile and have a timeless appeal. Cop yourself a pair today.



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