Puneet Singh, an entrepreneur and avid Air Force 1 collector, has consigned a significant portion of his personal sneaker collection with Sotheby’s. Featuring more than 100 styles, the drop included some of the rarest and most coveted editions of the quintessential sneaker. Among them, custom Air Force 1 lows made exclusively for NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony and the OG Air Force 1 Puerto Rico. Perhaps the rarest and most unusual are a pair of Scarr’s Pizza custom AF1s, the result of an ultra-exclusive collab between Nike and the beloved Manhattan restaurant. As Singh’s collection arrived at Sotheby’s, he spoke with us about his favorite pairs and how he translated his passion for rare and custom AF1s into a business.
We spoke with Puneet Singh, co-founder of the exclusive footwear reseller Locker Room Kicks, for an inside look at the rarest and most intriguing custom AF1s from his personally consigned collection.
Why are Air Force 1s so special? How do AF1s compare to the rest of the sneakers that Nike puts out?
First introduced in 1982, Air Force 1s became popular before Air Jordans were introduced. Nike did a huge campaign, they hired or they tried to acquire athletes, and it was a shoe that they really pushed hard to make popular by creating a couple of samples, and using different colors for various players. It’s an easy-to-wear shoe, but today you won’t see anybody wearing it for athletics – it’s more of a fashion statement. The AF1 is cool because it’s relatable to almost anybody, everybody.
How did you first start collecting Air Force 1s?
I’ve been collecting for almost 20 years now. I was raised in New York, so the only thing people wore were Retro Jordans or Air Force 1s. Growing up, I always wanted a fresh pair of white on whites and the latest Retros that were coming out. Sneakers didn’t drop as often as they do today, so to get them was much easier. I really started collecting Nike AF1s the summer after I graduated from middle school, once I was legally allowed to work. Of course, like any other thirteen-year-old, I would just spend all my money and have nothing left over. At that point I discovered eBay, where I could sell my old shoes and get some money to put towards a new pair. Whilst on eBay, I discovered this whole new resale market, so I thought to myself — "I could do this" — buy two or three pairs, make some margins and drastically bring the cost of my own pair down.
How has the collection of Air Force 1s evolved?
A couple years ago, I started trimming down my collection a little bit, selling miscellaneous Jordans and cleats. A friend of mine, Paul Givelekian, was doing the same thing. We decided to collaborate and sell through my existing channel, Locker Room Kicks. We ended up creating a Nike AF1 market where we would highlight certain shoes, their historical value, rarity, significance and overall just "story tell" a little to give some context and meaning to potential buyers.
How many pairs of sneakers do you have in your collection? We’ve been told it’s 6,000.
Let's just say, when I last checked about ten years ago, I had around 2,500–3,000 pairs, and since then have lost count [laughs].
Do you wear the shoes that you buy? How does that work, when you have such a large collection?
I do, quite often. Anything that’s my size, at some point I’ll want to wear it and do wear it. But sneakers are also like art, to me at least — certain shoes just cannot touch the concrete.
5 of the Best Air Force 1s from the Collection
1 | Nike Air Force 1 Low Scarr’s Pizza
These super rare custom AF1s are considered to be one of only 48 pairs, dropped in 2019 exclusively to friends and family of the beloved Lower East Side pizzeria. “DJ Clark Kent had a relationship with the shop owner and Nike, and pulled his strings to bring the two together– and voilà!” says Singh, “You don’t really see oddball collaborations like this that often, which makes the Scarr’s Pizza Air Force 1s interesting and rare.” Taking the AF1s of their youths as inspiration, Scarr’s Pizza founder Scarr Pimentel and team member Audie Villot considered every detail, from the Scarr’s Pizza logos at the heel to the double-stacked mismatched Swoosh logos, measuring one inch at the base in a nod to true OG aficionados.
2 | Nike Air Force 1 Low Puerto Rico
Featuring the Puerto Rican flag on the tongue tag and heel counter, these AF1s from 2000 mark Nike’s first symbolic recognition of the New York Puerto Rican community’s role in making the Air Force 1 a global obsession. Says Singh, “those pairs are pretty cool—to see Nike connect with different cultures and grow themselves across the world. The program took such motivation, and people loved it. For the Puerto Rico AF1s, they produced a new colorway every year for seven years straight, took a pause for three years—and when they brought it back, it sold out again.”
3 | Nike Air Force 1 Sample Carmelo Anthony ‘Rolls Royce’
Incredibly rare, these custom AF1s were designed in 2005 to commemorate Carmelo Anthony. “At that time,” says Singh, “Carmelo had just bought his first Rolls Royce, and the guys at Nike made this Rolls Royce Air Force 1 to match the color of his new car as a surprise gift.” The heel tabs honor Anthony’s hometown of Baltimore, with the embroidered area code ‘410.’ What’s more, notes Singh, “that shoe matches Carmelo’s personal size. He wears a 15 now, but that’s a size 14— a lot of players wear bigger sizes on the court than they do off the court because they tape their ankles and feet.”
4 | Nike Air Force 1 Promo ‘Four Horsemen’
This coveted custom design was created in 2004 for LeBron James. “LeBron had an old group of friends from school, four close friends who called themselves the Four Horsemen,” explains Singh. “LeBron decided to thank these friends by having special custom AF1s that would be created just for him and the three other Horsemen: Maverick Carter, Randy Mims and Rich Paul. All four of them had the same exact Four Horsemen Air Force 1s with their initials on the heel. They were made only for those four men, and their friends and family—somewhere between five to eight, at most, were made of each color, in their sizes. Just being able to find one of those is quite a mission, especially today.”
5 | Nike Air Force 1 Jay-Z ‘40/40 Club’
An ultra-exclusive release, this custom Air Force 1 was released in celebration of the one-year anniversary of Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in New York. Just how rare is this sneaker? “This AF1 is a friends and family pair,” notes Singh. “With shoes like that, I don’t want to throw a concrete number out there, because that’s not a fact that Nike really shares with anybody unless you get an insider scoop. I would just say, ‘only made for friends and family’—24-48 pairs, at the max, are always made.”