The History of the SB Dunk

The Dunk remains one of Nike’s most classic silhouettes, beloved by skaters, ‘80s college basketball players, and Hypebeasts who thirst over Instagram likes. Designed in 1985 by Peter Moore, it was an amalgamation of many of Nike’s basketball shoes at the time, including the Jordan I, Air Force 1, and the Terminator (whoever named that was a kook), and was originally known as the College Color High. The Dunk’s initial release included 7 colorways, each for a specific university, which were: U of Michigan, U of Kentucky, U of Iowa, Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John’s, and UNLV. The first ad for the Dunk showcased all these colorways with the slogan “Be True to Your School.”

Nikes’s 1986 “Be True To Your School” ad for the “College Basketball Color Program”

In 1998, the Dunk was reissued for the first time, beginning a long history of Nike whoring out the silhouette, without ever actually just making it all the time, like they do with AF1’s. But I digress. The Wu-Tang Dunks were released during this first reissue, and have become some of the most coveted Nikes of all time, with authentic pairs regularly going for over $15k on resale, on the rare occasion that one even pops up. The Wu-Tang Dunks have become some of the most sought-after Nikes of the modern era, along with the Air Mag and the Red Octobers.


1999’s Wu-tang x Nike Dunk Highs

Despite its origins as a basketball shoe, the Dunk found both an unexpected fanbase and its most widespread use by skaters. The Dunk had many features that lent itself to being an excellent skate shoe; good ankle support, a reinforced toe cap, and sole that let you feel the board without shredding after 5 tre flips. The SB Dunk was given some design changes specifically for skateboarding, including padded insoles and the SB fat tongue, which feels like angels themselves fondling the tops of your feet. Seriously, these tongues should be factory standard on every Nike shoe. They are amazing. The SB Dunk was given four unique colorways upon its first release in 2004. These colorways were designed the original Nike SB team, which consisted of legendary skaters Gino Iannucci, Reese Forbes, Richard Mulder, and Danny Supa. In a market that tends to shun outsiders, having a small yet very well-respected team of skaters lent a ton of credibility to Nike SB. This was a genius move on Nike’s part, as they began operating more like a skate footwear brand, rather than an athletic brand trying to weave its way into the skate market.

Eric Kosten joined the Nike SB team in 2009

Nike SB also introduced a TON of colorways and limited drops. This practice, in combination with Nike SB’s god-tier skate team, led to a feverish demand for the Dunks among skaters and sneakerheads alike. Whether we want to admit it or not, the Dunk was the shoe that started the modern Hypebeast movement. The Dunk SB was the first shoe that was purpose-made as BOTH a skate shoe and a lifestyle shoe. No longer did you have your ugly brick skate shoes and your chilling shoes in your bag. The Dunk was both of them. Nike’s practice of limited drops and numerous colorways made the Dunk SB unbelievably hyped, and every sneakerhead has a pair that is their Dunk grail. Personally, my dream pair is the 2004 Tokyos, which sadly go for well into quadruple digits most of the time.

The Nike SB Dunk Low Tokoyo released originally back in 2004 and now retails at over $17,000 USD.

The SB Dunk belongs on the sneakerhead Mount Rushmore, next to the Jordan 1, AF1, and the Yeezy. While Dunk fever has calmed down significantly compared to its Bush-era levels, the love is still there. Nike SB continues to make them to this day, albeit not in large quantities. Limited releases do still happen, such as the Strangelove Skateboards x Nike SB Dunk, which had its online drop canceled due to bots, and was released entirely through skate shops. Seriously, support your local skate shop.

Nike SB Dunk x Off White releases in 3 colors December 2020 (Pine Green)

The Dunk was even recently Virgil-ized, and say what you want about them. Half of you will say they’re the ugliest things you’ve ever seen, and half of you will cum yourselves on sight. I’m too broke to afford a pair, so it’s not like what I think of them matters much. But, if you’re looking for a pair to skate in, go on StockX,eBay or Grailed and find a pair in your size. Although I would recommend changing the insoles out so you don’t get athlete’s foot. And stop wearing Dunks with skinny jeans. Y’all look like clowns.