In 2015, we are going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of an iconic sneaker. No, it’s not going to be another “Air Jordan that changed the game and 10 colorways drop inspired by Jordan’s love of (insert obscure hobby here)” for the kids to salivate over; instead, we are going to pay our respects to a legend as the Nike Air Max Penny 1 turns 20 sometime in 2015. Arguably the second most beloved signature shoe line of all-time (Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant fans might have something to say about that), the Air Penny series and its many offshoots can attract as much, if not more if the theme is right, attention as a high-profile drop from Jordan or any of Nike’s current stars.
Nike Sportswear is already getting ahead of the anniversary when they dropped the “All-Star” colorway a few weeks back, but they are not stopping there. Along with the upcoming Penny 1 Doernbecher is another (planned but not yet official) reissue of the famous “Orlando” colorway. For those keeping score at home, this will be the bazillionth time that Nike has brought back the “Orlando” and first time since 1996 since we saw “All-Star” on anybody’s feet. For those who can’t get enough of the “Orlando” and are looking to restock, this a great time to be a Penny fan. For those who have been itching to own a pair of the “All-Star” since 1996, this is an even greater time to be a Penny fan.
But what about those Penny fans who are waiting for that other shoe to drop, both figuratively and literally? There is another Nike Air Penny 1 OG colorway out there that needs to return right alongside the “Orlando” and the “All-Star” models and that is the “White/Royal” Penny 1. No really, they actually happened.
Whenever the Air Penny 1 is brought up in discussion, the conversation often revolves around the “Orlando” colorway and the non-OG releases of the past few years like the “Knicks” or the “Suns” editions. Ask some people, including the most hardcore of sneakerheads and the most connected of Nike employees, and they’ll look at you quizzically when you bring up the “White/Royal,” aka the “Home” colorway. I’ve actually had to show some people a photo of the shoe to prove that they existed and another picture of Penny wearing them to prove that they are an OG colorway.
So why the obsession with the “White/Royal” Air Penny 1? Well, I owned a pair when I was a kid and would like to be able to fit into a pair now that my feet have grown in the past 20 years so there’s the nostalgia factor. But that shoe would also come to symbolize the path I would take as a sneaker enthusiast. You see, I had a choice between these Pennys and the Air Jordan 11 “Concord” for free. My sister’s husband’s (then boyfriend) brother-in-law worked at Shoe City* at the time and as a way of sucking up to my dad, he rearranged for my brother and I get a free pair of kicks. He gave us a list of shoes that he could acquire and the top two that immediately stood out were the Penny 1 and the Jordan 11.
Now this is where actually growing up in that time period comes into play and why I’ll never understand kids who flock to Jordans that were made before they could read, write and resell. Michael Jordan was my sports hero, but he was also coming back from retirement and seemed mortal. At the same time, 1995 Jordan was like a “cool dad” who was already established and didn’t really need to prove anything anymore; 1995 Penny Hardaway was a rising star who was going to dominate the NBA into the next century. I wanted to be a part of that journey and be on the ground floor of something special. What better way to jump on that bandwagon then by rocking his kicks from the beginning, right? Well, technically the Nike Air Lambaste, Nike Air Up and Nike Air Flight One were the beginning, but they were didn’t have the badass 1-Cent logo (side note: I don’t care what anybody says about Jumpmans, 1-Cent was the coolest s**t in the world). We went with the “White/Royal” colorway because it was a more versatile pair to rock at a time when I wasn’t buying or getting kicks in the KoF Mailbox a few times a month.
As much as it pains me to say it because I can’t stand the guy, but this was a “Luke Skywalker realizing Darth Vader was his father moment” for me. I could have made it easy on myself and just gotten the Jordans and lived in a world of peaceful ignorance where no other kicks mattered, but I wanted what we now call the “it’s just different” moment. It started with picking Alonzo Mourning over Shaquille O’Neal as my favorite player and moved on to things like picking the Nintendo 64 over the original PlayStation (somehow my brother was always involved and kinda resents me for these decision, especially the N64 one). Penny was the path of greater resistance and even though it didn’t pan out like we all hoped it would, he has a legacy that continues to this day thanks to new new releases like the Air Penny 5 or the Lil’ Penny Posite. So if 2015 is finally the year the last OG colorway that has yet to retro gets a release, then it will be worth the wait. But seriously, Nike Sportswear, stop messing around.. please…
*The part that I don’t remember is if Shoe City stocked signature Pennys and Jordans and he just got them at the store or if he got them through some weird distributor connection.