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Many of my childhood memories are linked to sneakers. One sneaker that will always evoke feelings of nostalgia is none than the White Air Force 1.
While most kids counted down the days until school let out, I counted down the days until I could get a fresh pair of Forces. As a kid, I understood and appreciated the elite aesthetic of white Air Force 1s, but keeping them clean was never at the top of my to-do list. My mother, who often reminded me that money doesn’t grow on trees knew this but still allowed me to live my best life every summer in a fresh pair of Air Forces. Good times.
Long before Nelly rapped about his love for the classic kick, Air Forces 1s earned its spot as an emblem in urban culture.
Since its introduction in 1983, white low Air Forces have gained elite status as a timeless sneaker first popularize by hustlers on the East Coast. In recent years, AF1s have worked its way from its roots in the urban community into pop culture, particularly amongst Gen-Zers. While white Air Forces may have to some degree been “rebranded” (for lack of a better word), those who are longtime Air Force 1 aficionados know and forever appreciate the cultural icon that AF1’s genuinely are.
Folks today are convinced that dirty air force 1’s is a style, but I’m here to tell you that’s a lie.
White converses? Maybe. White Air Forces? NOPE. This blog post isn’t meant to be judgy, and I hate to be the Air Force 1 police, but I’m telling you the truth because no one else would. White Air Forces aren’t meant to last forever—at a certain point, there is no amount of cleaning that can resuscitate your Air Forces. Between oxidation and creasing, eventually, you will probably have to replace them. However, there are ways to keep them looking good until that time comes.
1. Don’t tie your laces too tight.
Actually, don’t tie them period. Loosen your laces and tie a knot at the end to keep them from unraveling. Having your laces so tight that your forces look like they’re choking on a popeyes biscuit doesn’t only look unflattering, it ruins the silhouette of the shoe rather quickly.
2. If you store your sneakers in the original box, toss the tissue paper that they come with.
One thing I’m trying to learn more about is how to beat oxidation, aka yellowing of white sneakers. I’ve been advised to toss the paper that comes with your shoes because it speeds up the oxidation process. I’ve had a pair of white sneakers oxidize after a few months/wears (possibly because of the paper).
3. Use a spray sneaker protectant.
Whether you’re rocking White Air Force 1’s or any other sneaker you adore, you should always have a spray sneaker protectant on hand. These sprays create a breathable barrier on your shoes that helps keep freshness in and stains out.
If your Air Forces are fresh out the box, give them a quick coat to keep them up. If your Air Forces are lived in but in good shape, clean them up first. After they’re dry, spray them with your sneaker protector.
4. Consider buying Force Field Crease Protectors to minimize creasing in the front of your White Air Force 1’s.
I saw a TikTok video where a girl cut the cardboard inserts that came with her Air Forces as a DIY crease protector. While this is a cost-effective method, I’d recommend buying Force Fields ($10). For one, I imagine them to be way more comfortable and durable than cardboard (they’re made of a flexible foam). Also, I prefer to hold onto the cardboard inserts for when I’m storing my AF1’s between wears.
5. Quick clean your white Air force 1’s between wears.
Don’t wait until your White Air Force 1s are trashed to clean them. Whether you use a sneaker wipe or a regular cleaning wipe, wiping between wears helps preserve them.
6. Don’t delay your “deep” cleaning and have a bottle of THIS sneaker cleaner on hand. (also, available here on Amazon).
If you’re looking at your AF1s and thinking, “hmm, I think I should clean these,” just do it (pun intended). The longer you wait, the worst condition your AF1s will be in, and the harder they’ll be to clean. Don’t forget the laces and the soles! My cleaner of choice is none other than Jason Markk Premium Shoe Cleaner.
Note: Be very gentle when cleaning the sewn-on Nike Air Force 1 logos on the tongue and heel. From my experience, these two spots fray easily, so be careful.