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Bryson Tiller’s lyrics often speak louder than his words, but his footsteps resound in equal measure. Whether performing before a sold out crowd or designing his own pair of Air Force 1 Bespoke iDs in an intimate studio session, Tiller’s attention to detail and focus on relating his journey repeatedly rings true. Teaming up with Nike Sportswear, Tiller takes us behind the design of his hometown-inspired AF1.
The generally soft-spoken artist, born and raised by his grandmother in Louisville, Kentucky, began his interest in sneakers in high school after wanting to differentiate himself from his fellow students but having little freedom or means to do so. The Air Force 1 became Tiller’s aesthetic answer to monotony. “I wore a uniform to school, so the white-on-white or black-on-black Air Force 1 Low was the simple sneaker to wear, but it was the standard. You were cool if you had on a pair of Air Force 1s,” says Tiller. “It’s still a staple for me while on tour.”
Tiller’s inspiration remains grounded in his roots, and the shoe that once allowed him to state his style now also serves as a canvas to celebrate his city. A recent stop at the Bespoke iD Studio at NikeLab 21 Mercer gave him the full design language necessary to further elaborate on his passions.
“I didn’t expect there to be all of these different textures and options,” reveals Tiller. The design studio offers a wealth of full-grain premium leather colors, different types of customizable woven labels and even glow-in-the-dark elements that Tiller put to good use. “It’s inspiring to see what’s possible, and I designed a pair based on my hometown and boxing’s tie to the city.”
While in NYC, Tiller crafted a Louisville-inspired Air Force 1 Bespoke iD that includes an upper flooded in university red full-grain leather, which is intended to recreate the look and feel of boxing gloves. A tour yellow eyestay and custom tongue tag continue that inspiration by honoring the branding found on a pair of the same gloves. Metallic gold dubraes, an off-white midsole and a gum outsole help complete the premium, city-inspired design.
“Whenever you fly into Louisville, you see a sign that says, ‘It’s Possible Here.’ I remember my first time seeing it – I think I was coming home from the studio in LA – I was working on my debut album, and I just thought, ‘Wow, it is possible here.’ Everybody always thinks you have to move out of the city and go where the music industry is, but it’s possible in Louisville, and it’s possible anywhere. You just have to believe. So, I put ‘POSSIBLE’ on them as well.”
Putting his city on the map, and on his sole, is a priority for Tiller, but expressing his vision is the ongoing focus of his art. “I’d never seen how shoes are actually put together, but I always like to create my music based on an image. Once I have an image, I start to create the music around it. It was the same with designing a Bespoke Air Force 1. I focused on images that highlight my obsessions – Louisville, and my hometown boxing hero’s rise to greatness – and I built around those.”

Ultimately, the Air Force 1 allows Tiller another avenue to voice his motivations, and the conversation between the artist and the icon is far from over. If you can’t hear the message, you’re simply not tuned in.
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