By Stephen Knox

The white-on-white Nike Air Force One is forever a staple in sneaker culture. 

It’s one of cleanest pairs of sneakers human beings can fasten to their feet, and even received its own tribute from none other than Nelly and the St.Lunatics in 2002

With cleanliness being as important as the shoe itself, those with means can wear a pair of white-on-white Forces once and toss them. Fat Joe made this statement on MTV Cribs and then put his money where his mouth is by licking the sole of one of his pairs.

While some saw an exhibition of luxury in that moment, Leah Tavares, founder of Other 1s saw an opportunity. 

See the beauty of Air Force Ones is to feel fresh to death, the shoe has got to be in pristine condition. 

I’m talking white as printer paper still in the package. If a human being dares to wear the shoe in public in less than blemish free condition, then that person might be labeled as a gentrifier as creative Travonne Edwards so eloquently said. 

The dirty Air Force Ones trend is a broader topic for another day though.

Their beauty is also what makes them great shoes to repurpose for those in need. Tavares established her foundation, Other 1s, in October 2020 to see for herself just how many people really do dump a new pair of white-on-white Forces after little use. Her thought was to get people to give those used shoes to her so she could restore the shoes and distribute them to children in a small corner of the world that means everything to her, the African islands of Cabo Verde.

Two boys in the capital of Cabo Verde, Praia showing off their fresh Air Force Ones courtesy of Other 1s
Via: Other1s/Instagram

“Most of my family, pretty much all my family was born there,” Tavares said. “All the family from there took boats or were in the army and came here. Really coming from the mud from the streets and coming to America and making a life for themselves and being able to provide for the coming generations.”

Tavares’ initial goal was to collect 100 pairs of Forces to take to Cabo Verde. She reached her goal in April 2021, and let’s just say the shoes didn’t require a massive restoration project.

“People, they go for that one and done mantra,” Tavares said. “A lot of the sneakers that I’ve been collecting for almost a year have been super super clean. It’s pretty crazy that people don’t want these clean sneakers.”

Tavares realizes that there is a wave now of dirty and distressed Air Force Ones but she isn’t really feeling it.

“The trend is not it. I think it’s worse than having an all black pair,” Tavares said.

“It was like Cinderella,” Tavares said. “They would just pass the shoe like ‘Who does it fit, who does it fit?’

In early July 2021, Tavares, her mother, and Liza Goncalves, her former boss at clothing and art company Compound, took seven suitcases from Boston, Tavares’ hometown, to Portugal and then finally Cabo Verde. An event was planned with Joli Moniz of For Life Inc., a non-profit with branches in Cabo Verde, Jamaica and Los Angeles, for July 4 at Parque 5 de Juhlo in the capital city of Praia. Tavares paid to have kids bussed to the park where a whole day was planned with music, Cabo Verde Basketball League players and staff, and of course, free gleaming white-on-white Air Force Ones along with some cleaning wipes donated by Reshoevn8tor to keep them looking new.

“It was like Cinderella,” Tavares said. “They would just pass the shoe like ‘Who does it fit, who does it fit?’

However, after the day at the park, Tavares was still left with a good number of shoes in adult sizes to give away. A local rapper, Ga Dalomba, took her out to the countryside to distribute the shoes at a men’s substance abuse recovery center Tendas Do El-Shaddai, in Santa Cruz.

The trip was a charitable effort for Tavares, but she also got to see her homeland in a way that she never had before. 

Other 1s traveled with seven suitcases filled with Air Force Ones to donate to the people of Cabo Verde.
Via: Other1s/instagram

Her first trip to Cabo Verde was in 2017. It was a family trip where she was nervous about speaking the language with the natives. On this trip not only was she more comfortable speaking the language but was able to see more than simply the capital city where her family is from. Cabo Verde has 10 islands, nine that are inhabitable. She wants to eventually do work on each island.

However, her next planned visit to Cabo Verde will be in Praia. Not every child at the July 4 event was able to find a pair of Forces that fit. She took down the information of all the children who didn’t get a pair, and one of her current goals with Other 1s is to collect 50 children sized pairs to take with her.

Other 1s is also busy in America, especially in the Boston area. She recently helped get 20 pairs of Forces to students in New Bedford, Massachusetts. as part of a backpack drive. Other 1s recently partnered with My Brother’s Keeper 617 for an event in early September. The event was called the Pop Out where there was an all star basketball game with local players as well as a dunk contest.

While Air Force Ones are seeing another surge in popularity Tavares sees this as more of an opportunity instead of a challenge. She’s hoping that people will continue to step out in a pair once, take some pics for the gram, and instead of ditching that pair that has a little Saturday night on it, give it to Other 1s where she can work on it and make a child feel like Nelly in 2002.


Want to get involved with Other 1s? Follow them on Instagram and learn more at

Stephen Knox is a writer from the Chicago area who is in his third decade working in sports and media. He has been published at The Undefeated, Bleacher Report, The Ringer, Vice and He has recently taken his talents to Los Angeles where he is using his experience to make original sports content.