By Cameron Rubner
Ever since its initial release in 2002, the Nike SB Dunk Low has been a cult classic shoe in sneaker culture.
The big, bulky look with a fat tongue could be found anywhere on anyone during the 2000s.
From sneaker-heads to skateboarders, the dunk has a clean, kickass silhouette that was heavily responsible for the rise and popularity of collecting sneakers.
In 2005, the Nike SB Pigeon Dunk Low, a collaboration between Nike and New York-based streetwear brand Staple, set the stage for what we usually see with hyped-up releases today.
This shoe caused a riot, even making the front page of the New York Post. This release is known as a landmark in sneaker culture for showcasing how limited sneakers would become highly sought after in the years to follow.
In the 2000s, Nike continued to put out collaborations with clothing brands that would be certified classics in the sneaker game, such as the Diamond Dunks, the Stüssy Dunks, and the pink and black Futura’s.
Some colorways and iterations of the dunk come with interesting anecdotes.
Before the Nike SB Dunk Freddy Krueger lows could officially be released, New Line Cinema sent Nike a cease and desist letter claiming the red and green stripes were trademarked for their use only.
The shoes were released to one Mexican retailer and the rest were destroyed — today, a pair can cost around $20,000.
The eBay dunks, which sold in an auction for $30,000 with the proceeds being donated to charity, were actually sold as sliced up pieces in fifths. Only the late Nike employee, Sammy Bodecker had an uncut pair.
The 2010s were relatively quiet for the Dunk, besides the release of some colorways like the 2010 Blue Eric Koston’s and the 2012 Supreme Dunks. The Dunk took a backseat in terms of Nike SB popularity to the Janowski.
The Janowski was the sleek new, hipsterish silhouette that caught the eyes of many, quickly becoming a must cop for skaters and sneakerheads. As the decade progressed, it seemed like the dunks were a thing of the past and synonymous with the bling era, baggy jeans and 2008.
Basketball sneakers, Yeezy’s, and Jordan’s ruled most of the 2010’s. Adidas exploded in popularity in the mid 2010s, thanks to artists like Kanye West and Pharell Williams. Those iconic three stripes put the whole shoe game on notice, including Nike who had lost Kanye as a designer.
It wasn’t until the late 2010’s when the SB started to make some noise. The shoe that would bring back chirpings about Dunks was another Nike and Staple collab. Another Pigeon dunk in fact, except this time it was all black with a red sole and a pigeon on the side.
Nike would slowly release more dunks enticing sneaker-heads back in, such as the 2018 Purple and Green Lobster Dunks in collaboration with Boston clothing store Concepts, another Diamond and Nike collaboration, and a collaboration with Parra.
Fast forward to 2020 and it seems as if the Nike Dunk hype is almost as strong as it was in 2005, as sneakerheads line up for days just to say they got a pair.
The recently released collaboration with Strangelove skateboards has quickly become an early contender for sneaker of the year. Virgil Abloh sprinkled his Off-white magic on a pair of dunks released just before Christmas of 2019.
A plum color-way that was just released has generated a decent amount of buzz. Not to mention the hottest player in the sneaker game right now, Travis Scott has a dunk of his own coming out soon in 2020.
Even if you don’t skate, shoe enthusiasts still have to appreciate everything the Nike SB Dunk means to the sneaker game.