Welcome back to Sneaker Grails, a weekly segment where our Editor-In-Chief takes a look at the sneakers that he desperately wants for his collection but will probably never own because they are either stupidly rare (like Bill Murray’s adidas Team Zissous), stupidly expensive (like the Air Jordan 5 “Tokyo 23”) or stupidly have never gotten a retro release (like the white/royal Nike Air Penny 1). This is how he makes peace with the harsh reality of not paying attention to sneakers for much of the 2000s.
Videos games are the old love, sneakers are the new love. From the moment I first picked up a controller and played Popeye (garbage in retrospect) and Super Mario Bros. (a revelation even then) on the Family Computer as a kid during the 80s, I knew that this was something I had to be a part of one way or another. Whether it was on the development side making games or on the media side writing about them, the video game industry was going to inhabit my professional life. Basketball and eventually sneakers came later, but I would tackle them with the same passion as I would gaming. Ok, maybe there’s more snarky jokes with sneakers, but the love is there…
Whenever sneakers use video games for inspiration, it piques my interest. From the “Pac-Man” and “Ms. Pac-Man” Nike SB Dunks to the anniversary Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star celebrating Mario, they are all must-haves for my collection. But the only video game-inspired that I would consider a grail is the Nike Air Force 1 “Playstation”. Released in 2006 to basically the coolest of cool kids (Sony executives, friends and family, contest winners), these sample pairs were limited and numbered to 150. As a college kid at the time, I caught mention of them in passing on the video game websites I frequented, but they were so far out of my reach that I tried to forget about them. Why? Because owning a pair probably meant eating instant ramen noodles for a few years.
So what makes the “Playstation” Nike Air Force 1 great, besides the obvious tie-in to the iconic brand? It had a mostly patent leather upper that was popular at the time thanks to the explosion of the Air Force 1 copycat Bapesta by A Bathing Ape. The black symbolized the monolithic Playstation 3 and the gradient heel panel was similar to the system’s XMB interface when you first boot up the system. The inclusion of the original Playstation logo on the heel and the use of colored accents on the midsole and upper that matched the logo rounded out the well-received tribute.
The kicks were so good that when Kobe Bryant received his pair while promoting NBA 07: The Life Vol. 2 (yes, there were two crappy NBA simulation games – NBA Live was the other – trying to compete with 2K at the time), he made this face…
In 2009, the shoes would get a uh, retro of sorts. Sony would reach out to Nike and the swoosh made 50 pairs that were similar to the originals with the biggest change coming in the form of an all-patent leather upper. Like the 2006 edition, it was given out to select parties with some making their to charity auctions. The Sony/Nike partnership continued into the following year as they also made limited editions boots and sneakers for their exclusive shooter franchise Killzone (Rico sucks) and Playstation Move (their answer to the Wii’s super popular motion controls).
For a visual explanation of the differences between the two versions Nike Air Force 1 “Playstation”, here’s a video Jordan Geller (aka Shoezeum, aka your hero and mine) produced back in 2013.
Personally, I prefer the latter version that was given to Sony executives because of the all-patent leather upper. Also, the idea of a clandestine meeting with Sony bosses Jack Tretton (former CEO of Sony America), Shuhei Yoshida (President of SCE), Kaz Hirai (CEO of Sony Corp) and Ken Kutaragi (father of the Playstation) where they all have to wear the shoes sounds hilarious.
As my luck would have it, the “Playstation” Nike Air Force 1 is arguably the most coveted AF1 of them all. Considering there are thousands of AF1s out there, the fact that the one that I want the most is also the one everybody wants the most is karma on a cosmic scale. Well, here’s hoping Sony and Nike surprises us and teams up again with less than two months left in 2015 since this is the Playstation’s 20th anniversary.