A Lowdown of the Nike Dunk and its Importance in Today’s Culture
The Nike Dunks are back. That’s yesterday’s news. Most people touting this ‘comeback’ though, probably know little about its significance to the scene.
The Nike Dunk was designed by Peter Moore (the man behind a little know shoe called the Air Jordan I), in 1985. It put together two of Nike’s best basketball sellers at the time, the Terminator and the AJ1.
It was released in the College Colors Pack(which is now making a comeback with the recent Syracuse and Kentucky models) and lead to the iconic “Be True To Your School” Campaign.
The dunk was iconic across the Mid 80s and 90s throughout the USA. However, another hotspot for the Dunk was Japan, which has always been ahead of the fashion curve.
Nike tapped into Japan with a Co.jp line, a series of Japan only dunk releases. Hiroshi Fujiwara (the man behind Fragment) had a big hand in popularizing the Dunk and they were instant sellouts.
Although the Dunk was still a basketball shoe, it had organically started being adopted by the skateboarding community. Nike had previously tried to enter the lucrative skateboarding market several times, but failed miserably.
In 2001, Nike drafted in Sandy Bodecker to oversee the new Nike SB division.
Bodecker brought a breath of fresh air and went against the previous Nike Model of trying to ‘own the market’. He connected with skaters on the ground and had a tight distribution strategy only with skate shops, staying away from Big-Box retailers at the time.
Additionally, even though the Dunk was already a hardy shoe with a flat outsole that lasted forever, Nike remodeled the Dunk to sustain the abuse that it would be subjected to while skating. A fat padded tongue and a Zoom air unit were added for cushioning.
What set the dunk apart though was the idea to use it as a blank canvas. Every new colorway/version of the dunk could tell a unique story and that story depended on the collaborator that Nike tapped in.
The Dunk SB Low pro was the first model in the offering. Crafted in 4 colors, one for each individual team skater: Richard Mulder, Reese Forbes, Gino Iannucci and Danny Supa. Each of these shoes today costs over 1,000 dollars at the very least and are extremely rare to find.
In September 2002, Nike SB collaborated with Supreme for the first time and blew through the chains. The Supreme Dunks released in two colorways inspired by the Jordan III, they were the first shoes to use the OG Jordan 3's iconic elephant print pattern.
Two colorways were released, the Black/Red colorway which came to be known as the ‘Black Cements’ and the White/Blue colorway also known as the ‘White Cements’.
The distribution for these was limited to Supreme Stores and caused lines out the door previously only seen for Jordan brand's exclusive releases. These were also priced at $160 as compared to $60 which was the usual price at the time.
Only 500 pairs of each ever released and they’ve now changed hands countless times. The lowest ask for a size 11 on StockX is $16,000 for the black cements.
What really took Nike SB global was the 4 city White Dunk exhibition. The idea was to use the white dunk as a canvas and allow artists to use that as their base. The exhibition was in 4 cities: Tokyo, London, Paris and New York.
Each city left a defining mark on the dunk but the last one, left a defining mark on the entire sneakerverse.
The White Dunk exhibition arrived in New York on 22nd February, the same day as the launch of Jeff Staple’s Pigeon Dunk. The much famed launch caused a riot on the Lower East Side and police had to escort kids lucky enough to cop that day through the back entrance of Reed Space straight into cabs with their dunks.
Each of these city editions were released in extremely limited quantities and each individual pair is now worth a car or the down payment on a house
Another way Nike SB has changed things up is by assigning certain shoe boxes for a limited number of years. Some of the real gems are from the orange box era through the gold box era.
The Teal Box which was retired in December was around for the longest time(6 years) and was arguably, by far the dullest period for Dunks.
The 'comeback' has been kickstarted by several key individuals who've been vocal about their love for SB Dunks.
A vocal lover of dunks has been Sean Wotherspoon, owner of Round Two and famous for his AirMax day collaboration with Nike.
The celebrity figurehead pushing the return of the SB Dunk hardest is undoubtedly rapper Travis Scott. Scott can often be seen rocking some serious SB heat on Instagram, including “Medicom” Dunks, the “Three Bears” pack, the “What The Dunk,” and even some rare “Don Quixote” samples from 2006.
In India, dunks were mostly obscure till the Travis and Virgil hype picked up. However, a few people who've been pushing the SB scene in India way before the recent hype are Ardy Ghosh, Vihan Kakar, Rishi Mehra, Atish Khettry and a few more.
Recent SB collaborations have been pushing up the heat consistently with Strangelove Skateboards, Safari Dunks, the return of the Rayguns and to top it all, a recently leaked Ben And Jerry’s collaboration titled ‘Chunky Dunkys’. SB is back and here to stay. Stay Tuned for more heat this year!