Nike SB dunks were always the "Walmart" version of Air Jordan 1s for me. Especially being born in 2001, I was just a kid when the Nike SB dunk hype was at its first peak. Because I didn’t skate, they were merely meaningless to me. I could’ve sworn a few years ago you could walk into any skate shop and find Nike SB dunks sitting on shelves everywhere. Now, every time they release they’re extremely sought after and resold just like any other hyped sneaker, but why? For the majority of my life, I would much rather have a clean pair of Air Jordan 1s than succumb to wearing that “skate” shoe. However, everyone’s fashion taste changes with the times. And I swear if Tyler Herro wears his Nike SB “Kentucky” Lows one more time, I might have to spend the $465 resell price they’re going for on StockX.
I’ll admit when I get into a shoe because of the hype. The Nike SB dunks are hot right now and I want to get my hands on a pair at all costs. This unforeseen popularity has prompted me to ask what changed in the sneaker culture for Nike SB dunks to be more than a skate shoe and “socially acceptable.” It has prompted me to ask its history and when was the last time that Nike SB dunks were at their relative peak. This blog highlights where the Nike SB dunk came from and how it has been able to cement its name in modern sneaker culture.
In order to get a full understanding of what has made the Nike SB dunk popular today, we must take a deep dive back to 2002 when they were first released. Nike had cemented its brand in the footwear industry but especially as a popular basketball brand during the 1990s. Skaters were not too fond of the idea of them releasing a “skate” shoe during its initial launch in 2002. Nike can thank their brand manager Sandy Bodecker for actually caring to learn about the skating community. Some notable signees included Gino Iannucci, Reese Forbes, Richard Mulder, and Danny Supa. These were guys that had the respect of the skating community but also weren’t the “Hollywood” names you would see performing at the X games annually. The most interesting part about researching the history of the Nike SB was the fact it was made by the people for the people. The shoes that released drew influence from hip-hop albums and graffiti artists and the skating community simply didn’t care if it went mainstream because they liked what they liked. A lesson some influencers should apply to today.
The shoes were limited and released in typical brick and mortar skate shops with no official release dates. Only by word of mouth would you know when and where a Nike SB dunk was dropping. Nike SB did not really become mainstream until 2005 when they began doing collaborations. The “Tiffany” Dunk collab with Diamond Supply Co. and the “Pigeon” Dunk from Jeff Staple garnered unprecedented hype for any Nike SB.
However, over time the sneaker became more and more massly produced and just like any other trend, the hype eventually died down. People moved on to basketball shoes and foamposites and more recently flyknit and ultraboost. The only time Nike SB became relatively popular again was the rerelease of some of its OG colorways in 2013, but it was nothing like it’s original peak.
That was until 2017. Andre Ljustina, owner of Project Blitz, a secondary-market shop for sneakers, and notroious Nike SB collector created a transparent skate ramp in collaboration with Diamnond Supply Co. packed with some of the best original Nike SB dunks of all time. It was presented at ComplexCon for the 15th anniversary of the coveted skate shoe. It even had the brand’s sponsored skaters Eric Koston and Paul Rodriguez doing kickflips on it at the event. The following year at ComplexCon we would see several different renditions of some of the best Nike SB OG colorways including the “Tiffany” and “Lobster.” And not to mention Travis Scott started wearing Nike SBs too. Nike SB had finally entered a time in which the younger kids weren’t even aware of its initial popularity in the early 2000s but it was still new to them. And the OG Nike SB supporters could make the most of their nostalgia. Recent collaborations with Travis Scott and Ben & Jerry's prove that the sky is the limit for Nike SBs and I don't see the hype dying down any time soon.
My takeaway is this. Hype culture has ruined the Nike SB dunk along with the millions of other fashion pieces that initially had a rich history and now people are only catching onto it for the time being. The reason why the Nike SB dunk was capable of sustaining a resurrection was because it had a great foundation. I must reiterate, it was a shoe made by skaters for skaters and they didn’t care what people thought of the shoe as long as they liked them. Unfortunately, the original fans of the Nike SB dunk can’t even get their hands on a pair anymore because they have gone too mainstream. Limited releases on the Nike SNKRS app and outrageous resell prices have deterred the OG fans from going through the stress to acquire the shoes.
I would even go to the extent of saying the Nike SB dunk has become gentrified. The people who can afford them are wearing them, not those who truly appreciate them. It is okay though. I can see what is currently happening to Yeezys eventually happening to the Nike SB dunk again. Once the hype has died down and the sneakers become more mass-produced people will stop wearing Nike SBs and they will return back to where they belong, in the hands of true Nike SB dunk fans. Gen. Z kids can enjoy the Nike SB while they have it, but the true colors will show a few years from now when we see who is still rocking the iconic Nike SB dunk.