by Steve Jaconetta

When it comes to retro sneakers, timing is everything. And just because the timing was wrong once, doesn’t mean a models can’t have future success as a retro.

The Nike Air Force 2 is a model that’s had retro runs with mixed results. It originally released in 1986, and retroed for the first time in 2002. The Charles Barkley-worn, 76ers-inspired white, red and royal blue high-top was the first pair retroed, and sold at a retail for $65. Thanks to limited allocation, the sneaker became somewhat sought after. Various colorways would continue to drop that year, with the Air Force 2 Low making its retro debut in 2003.

There was a shift between limited and general release colorways for the first half of 2003. Pairs such as ‘The Dirty,’ ‘Hectic,’ ‘LA’ and ‘Raptors’ came and went, but the majority of the general releases could be found later in the year on sales racks everywhere.

At the time, the Air Force 1 was still everyone’s preferred go-to sneaker, especially in all-black and all-white. Regardless, fans of the Air Force 2 seemed to be happy with what Nike had released up to that point.

Then in 2004, a collaborative pair known as the ‘ESPO’ edition dropped.

Created by graffiti artist Stephen Powers, the ‘ESPO’ Nike Air Force 2 Low was a part of Nike’s Artist Series that year, alongside the Pharrell-designed Dunk High and the Halle Berry-designed Rift. The clear plastic accents on the upper, full translucent sole, graffiti detailing and matching socks made this pair the most coveted of the three releases, and the most hyped Air Force 2 ever.

After a two-year run with over 20 colorways released, Nike scaled back on the launches for the next few years. Only a handful of colorways were released, many forgotten about almost as soon as they came out. They would wind back in in Nike’s archives for a few years, until Nike Sportswear resurrected them again in 2009. This marked the second retro run of the Air Force 2, and it came with a $30 price increase.

Even with a few premium editions kicking off their return, such as the ‘Atari’ and ‘Wii’ versions, the Air Force 2 fell under the radar of most, even with hype from the Air Force 1 dying down. Exclusive colorways dropped in Europe and Japan, which fans of the AF2 seemed to admire more than what launched stateside (which is usually the case with Euro and Co.jp releases). While they may not necessarily be very hyped, these are not easy to come by today.With over five years passing since it was last available, could the Air Force 2 be ready for a comeback?

The original Air Jordans aren’t the only example of a retro flying under the radar, only to come back strong at a later date. The Huarache Runner as well as the Tech Challenge II are two recent examples. Both failed to excite earlier in the 2000s, but have been amongst most popular retro silhouettes, period, over the past two years. It’s possible for the Air Force 2 to have a similar comeback - it just needs to be done properly.

The 2009 releases came from seemingly out of nowhere, with little fanfare celebrating its return. In contrast, when the Air Raid made its return last year, it was celebrated with a high profile collaboration with Pigalle. The year 2016 also presents an opportunity to coincide a potential retro release with the 30th anniversary of the sneaker. This might be one of the last good chances to resurrect this often-forgotten silhouette from Nike’s basketball archives. Here’s to hoping it gets the respect it deserves.

Nike Air Force 2 High '76ers'

Style Code: 624006-142
Colorway: White/Royal Blue-Varsity Red
Year: 2002


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-172
Colorway: White/University Gold
Year: 2002


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-143
Colorway: White/Columbia Blue
Year: 2002


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-144
Colorway: White/College Navy-Metallic Silver
Year: 2002


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-401
Colorway: Obsidian/Neutral Grey
Year: 2002


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-012
Colorway: Black/White-Sport Royal
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 High 'Escape'

Style Code: 624006-101
Colorway: White/Black-Greenend Brown
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-102
Colorway: White/Metallic Silver-Black
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'The Dirty'

Style Code: 305602-611
Colorway: New Red/White-Del Sol
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low

Style Code: 305602-161
Colorway: White/Varsity Red-Black-Del Sol
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Hectic'

Style Code: 306140-171
Colorway: White/Goldenrod-Mystic Teal
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low

Style Code: 305602-131
Colorway: White/Celtic-Black
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'LA'

Style Code: 305602-151
Colorway: White/Court Purple-Del Sol
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low

Style Code: 305602-141
Colorway: White/Blue Ribbon-Metallic Silver
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Raptors'

Style Code: 305602-162
Colorway: White/Varsity Purple-Sport Red
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low

Style Code: 305602-001
Colorway: Black/Medium Grey
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'FSU'

Style Code: 305602-171
Colorway: White/Del Sol-Team Red
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Michigan'

Style Code: 305602-471
Colorway: College Navy/Varsity Maize-White
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Syracuse'

Style Code: 305602-181
Colorway: White/Orange Flash-Obsidian
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low

Style Code: 305602-111
Colorway: White/White-Neutral Grey
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-161
Colorway: White/Varsity Red-Metallic Silver
Year: 2003


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Espo'

Style Code: 308417-901
Colorway: Clear/Greystone-University Blue
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 High

Style Code: 624006-061
Colorway: Black/Varsity Red-White
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 High 'Knicks'

Style Code: 624006-181
Colorway: White/Orange Blaze-Sport Royal
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Round Mound'

Style Code: 305602-143
Colorway: White/Blue Ribbon-New Red
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 High 'NYC'

Style Code: 624006-081
Colorway: Black/Orange Blaze-Sport Royal
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Steelers'

Style Code: 305602-101
Colorway: White/Black-Pro Gold
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Seahawks'

Style Code: 305602-132
Colorway: White/Foliage-Sport Royal
Year: 2004


Nike Air Force 2 Low 'Raiders'

Style Code: 305602-102
Colorway: White/Black-Metallic Silver-Neutral Grey
Year: 2004