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Nike's Newest Collab Is a Fresh Take on One of Its Most Popular Sneakers

The Union AJKO 1 Low looks a little bit like Nike's ubiquitous Killshot 2, if you ask me.


Collaborations serve as an opportunity for brands to branch out — to try something they wouldn't otherwise do. Case in point? Nike's new sterling silver-adorned Air Force 1 with famed jeweler Tiffany & Co. Nike would never slap a (true) silver heel tab on an all-black Air Force 1, especially one with a Tiffany Blue swoosh. With Tiffany's creative blessing, though, the pair was born. Folks, that's how these things happen.

On a smaller scale, these collaborations are more, well, one-sided: the collaborator presents ideas until Nike, for example, says yes. Or, until they say no too many times and the collab gets shelved. For L.A. store Union, and its head honcho, Chris Gibbs, his collabs come more naturally — not from a place of bold ideation, if you will, but pure necessity.

"I think the streetwear designer surveys the market, sees what people want or what is missing, and tries to fill that void," he told Esquire in 2018. As evidenced by Gibbs's new collaborative Nikes — two pairs of the AJKO 1 Low — he thinks the sneaker landscape is in desperate need of simpler, retro-referencing designs.

nike union ajko
The new Union x Nike collab also includes a half-dozen apparel designs. They’re similarly simple.

And simple these pairs are, with a tagline that reads: "A not so disruptive sneaker for the disruptive individual." The sentiment aligns eerily well with the messaging presented alongside Tom Sachs's "boring sneaker," the General Purpose Shoe. It was even presented the same way: as one of Nike's signature "big text above a sneaker" ads.

That being said, no one is saying this is a copycat — the shoes couldn't look more different, and both are new silhouettes — but rather that these two are on to something, and sneaker shoppers should expect "simpler but better" designs through the end of 2023. But this isn't the first time subtlety was "in."

In 2009, Nike introduced the Killshot 2, a simple, low-top tennis sneaker inspired by the original Killshot, which dropped in 1979. They did so through J.Crew, in J.Crew-esque colors — sail, white, navy and green — to widespread acclaim. And this surprised both brands, but especially Nike, which had ignored the silhouette off for 30 years. By 2019, it was back in Nike's official catalog, released semi-annually in new colors and materials. Now, the Killshot 2 never overwhelms, but it's a steady, likable sneaker that almost anyone can wear.

nike killshot 2
Nike Killshot 2 ($60+)
union x nike ajko 1 low
Union x Nike AJKO 1 Low

I think Union's AJKO 1 Low — the AJ stands for Air Jordan and the KO stands for Knock Off — will follow a similar path. Plus, at first glance, the two sneakers look awfully similar. They're both low-tops with prominent outsoles, 7 eyelets, suede accents and a Swoosh that spans from the middle of the shoe back to the heel. The navy-Swooshed iteration of Gibbs's AJKO 1 Low even uses the same colors as the famous J.Crew Killshot 2 'Midnight Navy': Midnight Navy, Sail and White.

That being said, while the similarities are evident once pointed out, the differences are obvious: The AJKO 1 Low has a heftier heel, a toe box reminiscent of its predecessor, the AJKO 1 Hi, and a removable Swoosh, which can be swapped for one of the included colors or left blank, revealing a "UN LA" pattern printed on the velcro. As such, this sneaker is less one size fits all, and arguably more fun, despite being intentionally less exciting. (There are loads of velcro Swooshes available on Etsy, meaning you can swap the standard Swoosh for just about any other color.)

Where to Buy the Union x Nike AJKO 1

The Union x Nike AJKO 1 drops on February 4th at 1o AM EST via Nike and the Nike SNKRS app.


    Union x Nike AJKO 1 Low


    Union x Nike AJKO 1 Low


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