UPDATE: Check out the world's most comprehensive Nike Style Numbers archive.
SNEAKERscholar #NikeColorGuide chronicles the progression of official Nike, Inc. color names through the years. Parts 1 and 2 show how the brand evolved from very basic labels in the early days to an increasingly precise approach in the late 1980s.
Today’s primer on Nike Style numbers (some people call them 'Nike Style codes') details the highly specific product numbering system birthed in this climate of compounding attention to detail.
Nike product codes vary throughout the 1970s, settling on a four digit system in 1979. From this point forward, each colorway gets its own unique identifier. They seem to be in a sequential order but this proximity-based method leaves many details to add later.
Around the same time, an eight or nine-character alphanumeric code appears alongside size on inner collar. First two digits denote production year, remainder could either be month/batch or possibly an internal reference code.
Two leading digits corresponding to production date and not retail availability has led to a huge number of inaccurate eBay listings and other references to vintage Nike shoes online. One prominent example that gives us clear evidence is 1992 original Air Jordan 7 'Bordeaux'.
Jordan VII 'Bordeaux' debuted at 1992 NBA All Star Game and arrived at retail later that spring. Inner tags read 911202FT1. It's possible that in addition to a 1991 production date, the tag also details a December manufacture. Nevertheless, Google keyword strings like "Air Jordan 7 1991" yield almost as many search results as a search for the true 1992 first appearance and release date.
This period coincides with shift from four-digit system to nine in 1991. With more models and colorways than ever before. all 1992 Nikes adopt this new system. Twenty-plus years with no end in sight proves it was exceptionally well planned.
Nine-digit number separates into six and three describe specific model and colorway, respectively. Every release has a unique identifier in this system. (*We also see two trailing zeros on Nike shoes 1992-94. SNEAKERscholar will continue to research the meaning, but no clear meaning is immediately evident.)
Nike Style 130014-000, original Air Jordan 7 ‘Bordeaux' demonstrates the enduring conventions:
- Six digit style code 130014 represents all five OG 1992 Air Jordan 7s
- Three digit color code 000 describes ‘Bordeaux’ Jordan VII as a black-dominant colorway.
Now we dig deeper into each part. Models like Nike Air Force 1 are particularly good examples, with so many different colorways, updates and hybrids.
‘White on White’ Air Force 1 Low is currently labeled 315122-111. This number reflects modern Nike releases shifting the leading digit from 1 to 3 in 2002 (*we have since seen leading digits 4, 5 and 6. It appears Nike skipped the ‘two hundred thousand’ range entirely.)
Nike Style 315122 is officially Air Force 1 ’07. It was prominent from 2007 introduction through 2011. 315122 represented mostly simple colorways on a variety of Air Force 1 Lows including leather, suede, VacTech and Tec Tuff.
Nike Style 488298 is officially Air Force 1, introduced 2012 to replace AF1 Low ‘07. Most are fairly simple with no clear separation from 315122 releases. Releases range from all-black patent leather to ‘Fighter Jet’, to summer’s forthcoming suede ‘Blazer Pack’ and Elephant print heel/patent Swoosh pairs.
Nike Style 573980 represents Nike Lunar Force 1 Fuse colorways starting December 2012. Not all Lunar Force 1 lowtops have this code. Those that do aren’t unified beyond being relatively simple colorways for the LunarLon/Hyperfuse AF1 update.
Nike Air Force 1 High is another variation befitting a (range of) unique code(s). Nike Style 315121 is fairly common for recent basic colorways. AF1 High variations like Foamposite, CMFT and Lunar all have their own code ranges.
Nike Air Force 1 offers several examples to demonstrate both the practical value of specific style numbers and how their descriptive precision can vary.
Now moving into the color numbers, we again start with ever popular ‘White on White’ Nike Air Force 1 Low. Nike Style numbers ending -111 suggests the colorway is mostly white. Why ‘suggests’ instead of a more definitive connection? As we’ve seen with the styles, color codes represent a framework rather than concrete requirements.
The general framework in the vast majority of cases does indeed describe the colorway’s dominant color, as defined by this arrangement:
0: Black, grey, silver
2: Brown, earth tones
‘White on White’ Air Force 1 Low 315122-111 accurately suggests the shoe is ‘white/white/white’. This primary, secondary, tertiary/accent correspondence is elegant, but only occasionally perfectly implemented.
Color codes vary from model to model. One particularly interesting case is 314010-111. Nike Zoom LeBron 3 Low in White/White-Khaki hit retail as style number 314010-111. This is close to the primary/secondary/accent formula, but no '2' for the soft brown accents.
In an exceedingly rare twist, 314010-111 also showed up on the Zoom LeBron III Low ‘Sprite’ PE/sample (*this shoe is so rare, SNEAKERscholar cannot at this time identify the color code). Both of these are white, but the Sprites are far more colorful than -111 would suggest. This is a case of an exception proving the rule: each Nike colorway has its own unique style code.
More complex colorways cannot be adequately described by just three digits, unlabeled colors are only sometimes referenced and there is no way to denote differences between shades. These factors could provide some insight into why the formula is fairly loosely implemented.
Take another LeBron James shoe for example, Nike LeBron 10 'Prism': Nike Style 541100-004 in Black/Strata Grey-White. Prism's nickname reflects the multicolor midsole and lining, but color code only tells part of the story.
Nike LeBron X offers further examples demonstrating the color range framework. 'Christmas' LeBron 10 is 541100-600 in University Red/Tourmaline-Team Red. Tonal colorways ending in '-x00' have become popular in recent years, most not including black.
Nike LeBron 10 'Floridians' offers a counterpoint, 541100-005 in Fireberry/Total Orange-Metallic Silver-Black. 'Floridians' LeBron 10 is indeed mostly black, but official colors are practically refeversed. Taking all these examples together, we again see the style code framework providing guidance without micromanaging.
While the nerdiest sneaker archivists among us might imagine something even more specific, this is undoubtedly the most helpful system in use by any sneaker brand. Nike Style numbers remain highly effective, an invaluable resource to collectors and sneaker shoppers, and one of the most efficient ways to research your favorite shoes online.