On Aesop Rock’s 2003 track “We’re Famous,” El-P rapped, “Mothefucker, you’re not a vet, you’re just old.” It was a reference to artists of yesteryear having something to say about his modern music, although they were never good musicians themselves. Moral of the story: Everything that’s 10 or more years old isn’t a classic. A 1993 Mustang is ugly. And so are some older sneakers, especially when it comes to Nike SB Dunks.
There’s a been a lot of debate and conversation about the Nike SB Dunks as of late. The line, which launched in 2002 as a skateboarding offshoot of Nike, has seen a renewed interest and resurgence thanks to artists like Travis Scott (who received his own SB collaboration this year) wearing them. A lot of people have jumped on the wave, from Offset to Kylie Jenner. And, expectedly, the resale prices on a lot of the shoes have significantly jumped. A pair of the Stussy x Nike SB Dunks from 2005 sold for $10,000 on StockX. Word is the buyer is a reality TV star. It’s caused a lot of copycat behavior. Younger people want the older Nike SB models. You see them being posted on Instagram. But buyer beware: Not every old Nike SB sneaker is good or worth the money.
Last Tuesday, Nice Kicks posted a picture of six Nike SB Dunks. On the left, was a column labeled “old grails” and on the right was another column distinguished as “new hype.” The problem is, though, that none of the sneakers on the left were grails. The group consisted of the “3 Bears” Dunk Low from 2006, the “Newcastle” Dunk Low from 2008, and the Concepts x Nike SB Dunk Low “Lobster” from 2008. The only shoe out of that bunch that anyone cared about when they first came out was the “Lobster” pair, but the problem is that it released after the heyday of Nike SB. That’s not to say that no one liked the line anymore, but it was a far cry from its days of Silver, Pink, and even some Black box eras. Different box colors denote different years and seasons of the sneakers.
Newer collectors were up in arms that I said this. How could he hate on these shoes? They’re old! Yes, but they lack historical importance. The "3 Bears" collection as a whole was viewed as corny among SB enthusiasts, skate shop owners, and people on NikeTalk. Sneaker historian and former Complex writer Russ Bengtson said the shoes’ designer told him that the whole pack was “an in-house troll in response to the Dunk Mid.” Furry shoes weren't cool then and aren’t cool now. The "Newcastle" Dunk was a tired idea. People wanted it to be a second coming of the "Heineken" Dunk from 2005. It wasn’t. "Lobster" Dunks were cool, but, like I said before, released outside of the sweet spot of Nike SB “Grails.”
People should like whatever they like. Some sneakers hold personal significance to the wearer. For me, it’s the “Crimson” Nike SB Dunk Low, a sneaker from 2006 that nobody cares about (although, they’re reselling for upwards of $500 these days), because they were the first SBs I owned. They’re not a grail, though. Some have said the word grail is subjective, and there’s a shred of truth to that. Grails are sneakers that people have spent their whole lives tracking down. A deadstock pair of Air Jordan 1s from 1985. The Hello Kitty x Nike Air Prestos. An unreleased sample of the Nike Air Yeezy. Those are universal grails. You can’t run a big sneaker blog, post a pair of sneakers that no one cared about until three months ago, and call them grails. It doesn’t work that way.
This isn’t a critique of Nice Kicks, or the tweet, but rather a weird thing that’s going on with Nike SB and sneaker culture in general at the moment. Everyone is in a race to show how down they are in the sneaker scene—to show that they were there back in the day. The sneakers they cosign from a past era is a litmus test. You think that "Loden" Dunks were good and the "Mafia Pack" was bad? Congrats, you passed. Call the "Dr. Feel Good" Dunks a "grail" and not know about "Flashes"? You might want to rethink that.
I’m not here to say you can only like these sneakers and must dislike these other ones. But there’s also objectivity in the sneaker world. We’re talking about history here. It’s the same as music. You can’t say that Molly Hatchet had a bigger impact than Lynyrd Skynyrd or that Smilez and Southstar was better than Dipset. It’s a wrong take. The same thing can happen with sneakers.
Look, we’re not here to be the sneaker police. But it’s crazy that people are spending $1,300 on a pair of "3 Bears" Dunks when they were never a good shoe. It’s rewriting history and giving the younger collectors a warped perception of what was going on back then. Kids are paying $600 for the Mosquito Dunks, a shoe that hardly any SB collector will remember—not because it was rare but because it made no splash.
The Nike SB era was great. It started the obsession for a lot of people and most certainly is responsible for the integration of modern streetwear into sneaker culture. There are a lot of great sneakers from that time to celebrate. There are even good shoes from then that are selling for extremely low prices. You can grab Brian Anderson Dunk Highs for $250. For all of us that were there back in the day, it’s our job to educate folks in a non-condescending way. Let them know what’s worth their time and money and what’s not. Just because an SB Dunk is over 10 years old doesn’t mean it should be remembered.