"Air", the true story of how Nike collaborated with Michael Jordan to create one of the most iconic sneakers of all time, was released this April 5th. Although the story seems to be cut and dry, this film was a hit success, with a 98% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Ben Affleck directs the film, also starring as Phil Knight, Co-Founder of Nike. Not only did this collaboration change the future of sports, but revolutionized the fashion industry and created a sports apparel empire that would withstand the test of time. Antoinette Jones, Costume Designer for Judas and the Black Messiah, was tasked with the job of creating and resurfacing vintage Nike looks for the film, drawing inspiration from her own childhood memory and her personal experience with the brand.
Although the film may be interpreted as a two-hour Nike commercial, the film as a whole has little to no appearances of that infamous "swoosh" that is on every apparel item by the brand. Costumers relied on nostalgia to give the clothing the worn in effect it needed. Audiences adored seeing outfits they used to sport during the age of the Walkman.
Despite the film being a story revolving around Nike, only three Nike shoe styles are featured throughout: the Blazer, the Waffle, and the Air Pegasus. Antoinette Jones not found these archived styles and brought them back to life, but took modern styles and edited them to fit into the time period presented in the film.
Portraying Phil Knight, Affleck wanted to show off the Nike creator's experimental style and commitment to his own company. Taking inspiration from original pieces from the early 80's that Knight used to wear, Jones created from scratch a neon fuchsia and blue paneled tracksuit for Affleck. Knight was known to try out his own gear and test out new color combinations and styles, and this outfit was no exception. Besides being historically inspired from one of Knight's actual outfits, the tracksuit also honed in on fashion trends that were growing during the 80's: specifically the style of track pants and neon colors. Affleck's look that is featured on the "Air" poster-another track suit, this time featuring a pair of wrap-around sunglasses that took over the internet as users commentated on its accuracy for the time period, despite the jacket being sourced from the early 90's.
Antoinette Jones knew how important the styling of Michael Jordan's Mother, Deloris was. When pictured during meetings, Deloris, played by Viola Davis, is sporting pencil skirts and blazers. Portraying a powerful Black woman comes with a distinct look, and Davis's demeanor paired with vintage Armani apparel creates a strong effect.
During a scene in which Deloris is introduced to the creators of Adidas and Converse, she is pictured wearing a much more formal and expensive outfit, whereas she wears a less fashionable power suit to her meeting with Nike, reflecting the nature of the meetings. Nike at the time was a small up-and-comer, while the other two had already established a following in the sports fashion industry. By styling Davis in two contrasting looks, Jones emphasizes the prowess of Converse and Adidas and its comparison with Nike.
To create a film with a strong tie to a brand, and yet not make it an ad, is a very difficult task. To accomplish this, Affleck knew he had to choose the right Costume Designer. Antoinette Jones came into the project with respect for the subject, Michael Jordan, and a passion Affleck revered after seeing her work in Judas and the Black Messiah.
Not only is this an amazing story for Jordan, but this collaboration started a movement that has impacted many communities throughout the nation. Phil Knight recently donated 400 million dollars to the 1803 Fund, a foundation that focuses on strengthening a historically Black community in Portland. Air provides an interesting look on 80's fashion, and a story that engaged audiences worldwide. To watch Air, find it on Prime Video or in a local movie theatre.