Home » The Nike SB Dunk’s Historical Development: Explained

The Nike SB Dunk’s Historical Development: Explained

by Nathan Zachary

Since its release in 2002, the Nike SB Dunk has grown to be one of the most recognizable shoe designs ever and a source of endless creative inspiration. Nike SB Dunks are among the most sought-after shoe models available today because of their buzzworthy collaborations and effortlessly slick appearance. Although the Nike Dunk SB is a skateboarding and lifestyle classic today, its roots are in college basketball. Check out some of our favorite pairs in the following paragraphs to learn more about the interesting history of the Nike SB Dunk.

1985 saw the release of the Nike Dunk

Nike unveiled the Dunk in 1985. Released in colors that matched seven of the top NCAA Division I teams in the nation, Nike Dunk Highs were promoted with the renowned “Be True to Your School” Campaign.

Nike Dunk Low Off-White “University Red”

These very uncommon Off White Dunks from the 2019 collaboration between Nike and Virgil Abloh’s design house Off-White pay homage to the original UNLV colorway from 1985. The University Red and Wolf Grey leather uppers of the Off White Dunk Lows, reimagined as low tops, reference the school’s colors. With an orange-tabbed Swoosh, bright orange flywire overlacing, and Off-White branding on the medial side, Abloh adds his own unique spin on classic Nike Dunk details.

The heritage of skateboarding is also honored by the Off White Dunks. Although the Air Jordan I and other more modern basketball models eventually replaced the Nike Dunk on the court, the design was quietly gaining traction among an unexpected customer group: skaters. Due to its outstanding cushioning, support, and traction by the mid-1990s, the Nike Dunk had earned a cult following among skateboarders.

2002 saw the debut of the Nike SB Dunks

Nike didn’t formally introduce Nike SB until March 2002, establishing the relationship between skate culture and the Nike Dunk. In order to run the division, the corporation hired Sandy Bodecker, and it was under his direction that the enduring Nike SB Dunk made its debut.

Nike SB Dunk Low Pro Tie-Dye ‘Raygun White’

It’s difficult to overestimate Bodecker’s influence on the development and popularity of the Nike Dunk SB Low Pro Tie-Dye “Raygun White”. As a memorial to the late superstar, Nike launched these Raygun SB Dunks in 2018, a year after his demise. The Raygun SB Dunk from 2005, which was the first to include the Nike SB tongue label, served as the inspiration for the Dunk Low Rayguns. These tie-dye Dunks, like the originals, come with the embroidered alien mascot of the Roswell Rayguns, a made-up basketball team created by Nike in 2002.

Nike SB Dunks Spark Sneakerhead Culture in the 2000s

The Nike SB Dunk was cleverly positioned by Nike as a sneaker with street reputation in the skateboarding world. Skater-friendly additions to the original Nike Dunk shape included a thick tongue, more cushioning, elastic straps, and Zoom Air soles, to mention a few. The firm was also savvy in the partnerships it chose, collaborating with people and companies who exemplified the values of skate culture and releasing new products through regional skate stores.

Together with the company’s original skate squad, Danny Supa, Gino Ianucci, Richard Mulder, and Reese Forbes, the first Nike SB Dunks were unveiled, each in a unique colorway. Later the same year, the iconic first Nike SB Dunk collaboration with streetwear company Supreme was released, making it the first time the Jordan 3 elephant pattern had been seen on another pair of shoes. The Jeff Staple “Pigeon” Nike Dunk SB’s 2005 debut propelled sneakerhead culture into the public eye. Police were ordered to control the gathering outside Staples NYC location because the famous Nike Dunk Low was so eagerly awaited.

The Nike Dunk SB Renaissance in 2020 and Beyond

Although Nike Dunks lost some of their appeal in the decade of 2010, they made a strong comeback in the year of 2020. Collaborations with artists like Travis Scott, Virgil Abloh, and the Grateful Dead helped the Nike SB Dunk acquire notoriety and become the year’s trendiest style.

Nike SB Dunk Low Grateful Dead ‘Yellow’

These extremely uncommon Grateful Dead Dunks are one of our favorite 2020 collaborations and have trippy accents. From the 1973 album “History of the Grateful Dead, Volume ,” the dancing bears that have come to symbolize the band are shown on the tongues of the yellow Dunks.

The upper toe, mid panel, and collar of the Grateful Dead Dunks are all decorated with luxurious fake fur, and the jagged blue Swoosh is designed to resemble the collars of bears. Along with the “Steal Your Face” emblem from the Grateful Dead, the Nike SB Dunk Low sneakers have a stash compartment within the tongue that is suitable for 420.

Nike SB Dunk High “Strawberry Cough”

Stoner culture is something that Nike SB Dunks have always embraced. In 2004, Nike SB released its inaugural 4/20 release, starting a cherished and highly sought-after tradition. The newest Nike SB Dunk Highs to honor the occasion are these Strawberry Cough Dunks from 2021, which were inspired by the Strawberry Cough cannabis strain. The Strawberry Cough Dunks, created by cartoonist and SB icon Todd Bratrud, have uppers made of textured red leather and green suede that resemble real strawberries. These Nike Dunk Highs have a striking design with a coughing strawberry at the heel and a transparent outsole.

You may even say that it’s about time you acquired yourself a pair given how highly coveted the Nike SB Dunk is right now.

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