I’ll admit when I first came across a pair of Nike Air Force 1s sporting a traditional Navajo Pendelton pattern, I rolled my eyes. It seemed like a giant multinational corporation appropriating Indigenous designs to sell shoes to the type of people who say things like, “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual.” I wasn’t feeling it. But uh… turns out I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The Nike N7 Pendelton collection was designed by Tracie Jackson, a graphic designer at Nike who was taught the craft of weaving rugs in the Navajo tradition by her great-grandmother Phoebe Nez, a member of the Tsi’naajinii (Black Streaked Wood People) clan of the Navajo Nation. She’s representing her culture and doing it right.
So how will I remedy my lack of faith in Nike, the same company that hired Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson while he was suing their most visible partner, the NFL? By creating a whole new series just to talk about the Nike N7 Pendelton Collection, that’s how!
Welcome to Drop of the Month, a new monthly series where we’ll deep dive into the one apparel drop that you need to know about each month. Presumably, we’ll base this on the drops that appear in our weekly series, SNX DLX, but this time we’re featuring a collection I initially ignored. Let’s roll!
The Nike N7 Pendelton Collection
“My beginnings with looms, rugs, and blankets all started with my grandmother. First, I learned by herding her sheep on her farm, then by carding and spinning the wool and finally working the loom. Without my great-grandmother, I wouldn’t have learned about my culture, and without my culture, I wouldn’t have been a designer. My family ties are what influence my native identity.”
— Tracie Jackson
When Jackson learned the craft of traditional Navajo weaving, she was taught that every color and shape has a purpose. A traditional Navajo Pendelton is a narrative tapestry of one’s own history, and the centerpiece of the collection, the N7 Pendelton 7 Generations blanket, is Jackson’s story and is meant to pass on the legacy of her grandmother. According to Nike’s news release on the collection, Phoebe Nez never stopped teaching Jackson the ways of their familial tradition, even when old age had taken Nez’s eyesight. She had committed her designs to memory to pass on her craft, and now in her passing, Jackson pays tribute to the teachings of her grandmother and the traditions of their Navajo heritage on the 10th anniversary of the original Nike N7 Collection from 2009.
The blanket makes use of the storm pattern, Nez’s personal favorite, with the zig-zags representing lightning, the corner squares symbolizing the four sacred mountains of the Navajo Nation, and a diamond in the middle of the tapestry, representing the self, along with three arrows moving in opposite directions, symbolizing the three generations before and after.
Even the colors used throughout the collection are inspired by the natural dyes familiar to the Navajo people, like the pure platinum of sheep’s wool, the golden highlights of the greenthread flower, and the earthy red tones of Mt. Mahogany Root.
The full collection consists of Jackson’s designs across hoodies, shirts, leggings, and joggers, and we suggest you check out the full collection here. But the real draw is the collection’s five sneakers.
Jackson’s designs appear across a grip of Nike’s best silhouettes, including an Air Force 1, Air Jordan 8, Air Zoom Pegasus 36, Zoom Heritage, and a limited-edition Air Moc. Let’s dive into each.
Air Moc N7
The Nike Air Moc N7 is an update of a previous Nike N7 drop, 2012s N7 Free Forward Moc+, and was added to the lineup at Jackson’s personal request. Unfortunately, it’s the only sneaker from the whole collection that is currently unavailable on Nike’s online store.
Before you get too mad at me for not putting your on to the N7 Pendelton collection earlier, the shoe is still available on StockX so chill, you can still grab a pair. The Air Moc features a Pendelton wool upper atop a custom Nike Air-Sole, it’s incredibly understated and to the untrained eye, it might not even look like you’re rocking a pair of Nikes. But the ones who will know will recognize your flair.
Air Zoom Pegasus 36
The Air Zoom Pegasus 36 is meant to commemorate the Navajo running womanhood ceremony and features a Pendelton wool upper with a large Thunder Grey swoosh atop a Zoom Air midsole for added shock absorption. Aside from the Air Moc, the Air Zoom Pegasus is the wooliest of the bunch.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it, this looks like the dopest running shoe of the entire fall and winter season. Calling my shot right now.
Air Force 1 07
No stranger to the constant reiteration, the legendary Air Force 1 silhouette is not only present in this collection, its hands down the highlight. Sporting a rich Southwestern-inspired color palette of earthy reds and golds, this Air Force 1 features Navajo wool patterned accents on the heel, sides, and toe, with a bright gold swoosh serving as additional contrast.
The wool heel tab ensures the Navajo storm pattern is visible from any angle people take in your fit, so the flex is built-in.
The Air Jordan 8 Retros
For the basketball fans hoping for the Pendelton treatment, the N7 collection has a pair of Air Jordan 8 Retros. Featuring dark suede overlays over Pendelton wool, this take on the Jordan 8 has a mixed durable leather and synthetic leather upper, and Nike Air technology in the heel for the type of lightweight and responsive cushioning you need on the court. Additionally, a midfoot strap helps secure the foot, and the outsole is designed for multi-terrain traction for all types of courts.
A classic silhouette for those who dig on the 90s aesthetic.
Zoom Heritage N7
Finally, rounding out the collection is the Zoom Heritage N7, which features a velvety soft upper with Pendelton wool detailing, Zoom Air cushioning, and a supportive padded high top collar, atop a transparent gum sole.
The Zoom Heritage comes in unisex sizing which is meant to reflect the “two-spirit” language within the Navajo community that promotes the inclusivity of a fully fluid gender spectrum. The red swoosh provides a striking contrast, and personally I think it’s a shame more of the sneakers don’t make use of it — it’s maybe Nike’s best swoosh of the year.
The Nike N7 Pendelton collection is out now, shop the full collection here. All proceeds from the sale of the N7 Pendelton collection go to Native American and Aboriginal communities in the United States and Canada.