Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1: What's the difference?

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The Jordan 1 and Air Force 1 are two of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes in the world, but choosing which of the two Nike models to buy can be tricky at times with them both being so great.

To make things even harder, there are now thousands of Air Force 1 and Jordan 1 colourways available, with more still being released to this day like the upcoming "University Blue" AF1s and the "Gorge Green" Jordan 1s.

So, to help you gain a better understanding of how these two Nike trainers revolutionised the sneaker game, we've put together a guide to compare the similarities and differences between what were originally some of the best basketball shoes on the market.

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With summer slowly coming to an end as well and both shoes consistently featuring among some of the best shoes for fall, there's arguably never been a better time to learn more about how Air Force 1s and Jordan 1s differ.

With all this in mind, let's begin by taking things back to where it all began for the two Nike models...

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - History

The Air Force 1 was the first of the two to arrive, having originally debuted in 1982 as the first basketball trainer designed by Bruce Kilgore, Nike's product designer at the time.

The shoe proved to be a turning point in the sports and sneaker culture as it featured Nike's highly popular Air technology for the first time.

In 1983, Nike took six of its most popular NBA players to kick off the Air Force 1 campaign, targetting the high-top sneakers toward a basketball audience.

Nike Air Force 1 1982 promotion poster featuring 6 NBA stars in all-white pilot outfits.
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Credit: Nike

However, demand started to grow for more everyday, low-top variations to be released which Nike adhered to before discontinuing the sneakers entirely in 1984.

Around this time, Chicago Bulls picked basketball rookie Michael Jordan as their third overall pick in the NBA draft.

By 1985, the world saw the first Nike Air Jordan 1 which borrowed some of the Air Force 1's design details. The design and colourway are such classics though that they still inspire many designs, like some of the best Jordan 1 colourways available right now, to this day.

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Air Jordan 1 "Bred" 1985 product image of a black, red, and white sneaker.
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Credit: City Blue

The Air Force 1, on the other hand, was reintroduced by Nike in 1986 as people started to customise their old Air Force 1s to compensate for the lack of new models.

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Nike released royal blue and brown colourways which were a huge success so, at this point, the direction of the two sneakers was clear.

The Air Force 1s were becoming more of a timeless fashion piece, whilst the Jordan 1s were growing in popularity amongst basketball fans thanks to the rising star that was Michael Jordan.

It's worth pointing out though that, while Air Force 1s moved away from basketball, Nike still recognises its basketball-related history by releasing new "Patched Up" Lows and a "Pale Ivory" colourway for the AF1s 40th birthday.

Nike Air Force 1 "Pale Ivory" product image of a pale pink and white pair of high-tops with special edition tongues.
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Credit: Nike

Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Design

As mentioned above, the Air Force 1 and Jordan 1 were originally designed as basketball shoes.

As a result, the first silhouettes are both high-tops for added ankle support; however, while the Jordan 1 stuck to the Chicago Bulls colours, the Air Force 1 utilised a more simple white and grey design which continues to be a theme to this day.

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Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 image of both the original sneakers, the Air Force 1 in white, while the Jordan 1 in black and red.
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Credit: Nike

Since then, both shoes have released low-top variations, like the infamous "Shattered Backboard" colourway featured in our list of the best Jordan 1 Lows, but the Air Force 1 has adopted the low style as its most common silhouette to appeal to its more lifestyle-based market.

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Air Jordan 1 Low "Shattered Backboard" product image of a white, black, and orange pair of Jordans.
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Credit: Nike

The Jordan 1, on the other hand, mostly sticks to mid and high-tops, to adhere to its slightly more basketball-orientated audience thanks to His Airness' legendary playing career.

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Jordan 1 vs Air Force 1 - Price

At this point, you may be tempted to pick up your own pair of Air Force 1s or Jordan 1s. If so, you're probably wondering which of the two is the cheapest.

Generally speaking, a classic pair of white '07 Air Force 1s, widely considered some of the best Air Force 1s around, are slightly cheaper than a comparable pair of "Bred" Jordan 1 Retros in terms of popularity.

Nike Air Force 1 product image of a pair of all-white sneakers.
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Credit: Nike

However, there are hundreds of Jordan 1 colourways available, many of which, like the Air Jordan 1 Mid "All-Star 2021", are much closer in price to low-top Air Force 1s.

On average though, we'd say the Air Force 1 is the cheaper of the two sneakers.

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Which Should You Buy?

As touched on in our guide comparing Jordan 1 Mids and Highs, deciding between which sneakers to buy will come down to personal preferences and what you intend to use them for.

For example, if you're planning to play basketball in one of these shoes, then picking up a pair of Jordan 1s will probably be more beneficial as they're slightly lighter and come with a few modifications to the upper to make them more durable and stable on the court.

However, for everyday wear, picking up some Air Force 1s may be the way to go as their sheer versatility due to simplicity is what makes them popular even to this day.

Ultimately, the choice is yours as we think both make for an excellent sneaker pick.

Read More: Best Jordan 1 Mids Available Now