Nikes of the Living Dead: The Evolution of Halloween AF-1s

The ‘Black Skeleton’ Air Force 1s have proven to be one of the most hyped Uptown releases of the year. The special edition make-up, designed specially for Halloween 2019, is the latest instalment in an longstanding Nike tradition of celebrating All Hallows’ Eve with suitably themed AF-1. So, with October 31st rapidly looming, we figured the time is right to take a look at the most iconic, seasonally spooky Air Force 1 releases in sneaker history.

The OG

 Nike Air Force 1, 1998 Nike Air Force 1


The origins of of the Halloween-themed Air Force 1 go back a lot further than you might think. While many are familiar with the tradition’s rise in the mid 2000s, the first AF-1 with confirmed Halloween-inspired roots actually hit shelves all the way back in 1998. This oft-forgotten Jewel make-up, which released many years before holiday-inspired sneakers would become a staple, featured the quintessential Halloween colour combination of black and orange. While it would be easy to brush this one off as mere coincidence, especially given its lack of spooky graphics or holiday branding, the damning evidence of this one’s inspirational roots lies in the official colourway name on the box: ‘Halloween Black/Safety Orange’.

Back in Black

Air Force 1 - Back in Black

Despite the OG going down in history as one of the very first Halloween-themed sneakers from a sportswear brand ever, it would take Nike another seven years to revisit this source of inspiration on the Air Force 1. In 2005, just as thematic sneaker releases were starting to gain serious momentum, Nike an all-new AF-1 inspired by the spookiest night on the calendar. These Premium Air Force 1 were  black and orange once again, albeit made with glossy patent leather this time around – as was the trend during this period in sneaker history. Just to ensure that the Halloween inspiration didn’t go overlooked this time, a white skull poised with pondering skeletal hand was embroidered at the heels.

Bad Luck in Threes

Air Force 1 - 2006

Following the success of their 2005 release, Nike came out swinging with not one but three different Air Force 1s in celebration of Halloween 2006. Nike once again revisited the classic combination of black and orange, this time executed in different styles for men and women. The men’s version reinterpreted the previous year’s iteration, but this time rendered with a colourway split down the middle – similar to the ‘Scarface’ AF-1s from around the same time. Female sneakerheads received their own unique make-up inspired by the signature jack-o’-lantern colours. The women’s version was balanced out by a healthy dose of white and featured bat graphics at the heel, in place of the skeleton of the men’s version.

Nike also served up another patent-leather Uptown for the occasion, this time inspired by Frankenstein’s monster. As to be expected, this version was glossy, gaudy and green – and that’s exactly what made them so coveted at the time.

Savage Scares

Air Force 1 Savage Beast

In 2009, Nike unleashed another memorable Halloween-themed Air Force 1 with the limited ‘Savage Beast’ edition. Once again, orange formed the base of this spooktacular design, however patent leather was given the flick this year. Instead, Nike opted for an equally eye-catching material, covering the majority of the upper – and even the midsole – in pony hair. No specific reference to Halloween was made on this year’s drop, but the shoe’s nickname, ‘Savage Beast’, was embroidered on the heels in a font reminiscent of monster movies from the golden age of cinema.

Bark at the Moon

We saw a light sprinkling of Halloween inspiration on the Air Force 1 in the years following the ‘Savage Beast’ release, but it took almost a decade before we saw another Uptown hit shelves crafted with an over-the-top emphasis on creativity and fun. As you can guess from the name, the ‘Full Moon’ Air Force 1 drew inspiration from one of the horror genre’s most beloved creature’s of the night: the werewolf. Nike went all in on this release, from the furry inner lining to the extensive werewolf imagery inside and out – Nike even subtly changed the tongue tag text to ‘WERE FORCE 1’. Sadly, these only released in GS sizing, so you’ll need a small foot and a whole lot of luck if you want to track down a pair for yourself in the present day.

Dem Bones

Air Force 1 Skeleton

In 2018, after almost a decade out of action, older sneaker heads were finally treated to an Air Force 1 that truly captured the spirit of the season once again. The ‘Skeleton’ Air Force 1 flipped the script on convention, taking the classic white-on-white Uptown and decorating it with some anatomical inspiration. An X-Ray-like image of the human foot is printed on the sidewalls and, for an added treat, glow-in-the-dark outsoles equipped beneath.

For Halloween this year, Nike decided to revisit the skeletal AF-1 from 2018 with a new black rendition. This darker version retains the X-Ray imagery and glowing outsoles of its predecessor, and makes the perfect footwear for anyone planning to dress up as a skeleton this Halloween.

Air Force 1 Skeleton Black

The Nike Air Force 1 ‘Black Skeleton’ is available now through Foot District, while stocks last. To complete your look, Nike have also produced a complete collection of matching skeletal apparel. Supplies are strictly limited, so be sure to check online or in-store ASAP to avoid disappointment!