3×1 (pronounced three by one) is a New York City-based luxury denim label founded in 2011 by premium denim expert and entrepreneur Scott Morrison and is widely regarded as being the place to go to find some of the best jeans in the world. So when the announcement was made that 3×1 would be collaborating with footwear monolith Nike, it wouldn’t take a genius to work out what material would feature predominantly. Paying homage to the labels-wide selection of jeans the collaboration drops with a three design ‘denim pack’ which uses the Air Force 1 silhouette as its base. While this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Air Force 1 sport a denim makeover, it does mark a first time for the two to join forces, and if we are talking denim, you can’t really look past 3×1.
The three designs come in three different denim shades showcasing a navy and blue denim duo as well as a further black denim construct (which is my personal favourite). Whether you like it or not denim is timeless, whether you’re a ripped acid wash kind of guy, or into old school flairs we pretty much all wear denim, and tapping into the same ethos the partnership between Nike and 3×1 has looked to offer the customer the denim Air Force 1 you never knew you couldn’t live without. Various textures next to numerous washes come outfitted atop the bulky silhouette with the official colourways being labelled as black, stonewash, and raw indigo and are representative of the most popular jean colour palettes for the everyman. Each of the trios is stamped with the revered red visage of a selvedge line which exists as a product of traditional looming methods and an iconic signature of 3×1 denim. Almost every panel utilises its tone of choice with the overlaid eyestay, tongue, heel, and swoosh adding overt contrast to great effect with signature detailing from the New York natives finding their way through by way of the insole patch and the small uncut piece of excess material.
For me, I think as a collection, the designs from this 3×1 x Nike collaboration are all cleanly designed and are showcased as powerful representatives of their source material, and that got me thinking, is there much competition from other denim-clad trainers, and turns out there are a couple good ones. If you aren’t going to 3×1 for your denim, you are probably going to Levis, and it turns out the Jumpman brand jumped on a denim collaboration back in 2018. The Levis x Air Jordan 4 which dropped in both navy and black iterations in a similar fashion to the 3×1 Air Force 1 received pretty widespread critical acclaim. With an upper fully decked in Levi Strauss denim, the result is truly astounding, with all the conventional detailing making an appearance from the perforated panel across the sidewall to the visible Air Unit in the heel. This actually provides a nice contrast in a bold shade of red while a gum outsole delivers sticky traction underfoot. To finish the collab, a signature Levi’s Red Tab is included with that theme also utilised for the Jumpman branding across the tongue.
Beyond these two examples of cross-collaboration between footwear and denim labels, there are a multitude of other examples of the material being deployed with a more low key effect, a favourite material of a lot of Nike SB dunks and similarly detailed Air Force 1s of the past there is clearly a well defined synergy between denim and footwear. With the new trio of Air Force 1s only furthering the exploration of the material in a footwear context and each is well crafted, aesthetically pleasing and as wearable as a pair of jeans.