Are Travis Scott's Nike SB Dunks Good? An Old and Young Sneakerhead Debate

Travis Scott is slated to get his own Nike SB sneaker. To cross the generational gap, writers Matt Welty and Mike DeStefano debate the topic.

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Complex Original

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travis scott nike

Travis Scott is the sneaker king right now, at least to all the ragers out there. No one can deny that his sneaker collaborations are a big deal at the moment. But there seems to be a generational divide amonst footwear aficionados. The Youth think he's Jesus. Older guys think he's cool, but aren't awaiting his every move. 

So how do they feel about his Nike SB Dunk, given that older folks remember the SB heydays and The Youth know SBs from, well, Scott wearing them? 

Here we are, myself, Matt Welty, the resident old guy on staff now, debating Mike DeStefano, the 20something kid who owns every piece of Astroworld merch, or something like that, going at the topic.

(I asked Mike for one paragraph per topic, he hit me with three. I think that says it all.)

What do you think of Travis Scott, what's your connection to Nike SB?

Matt Welty:  I can’t say that I’m the biggest Travis Scott fan, at least when it comes to music. There’s nothing wrong with the music he makes. It’s good to hear when you’re out, the songs are catchy and recognizable. And it’s easy to see why the youth generation goes mad over everything he puts out, whether it be a sneaker, piece of merch, or new record. Aside from Kanye West, Scott has become the biggest draw in sneakers at the moment, in terms of entertainers. All of his collaborations have been solid and resell for way too much money. While I can’t relate to Scott’s music as much, his love of Nike SB is something I support. I know we come at it from different places. I was there, back in the day, for the most part. I remember wanting SBs in 2005 and getting my first par in 2006 (Crimson Dunks). I’m not an OOOG. But it’s a fond memory of late teenage years and early 20s. Reminds me of better times. It also gives me a perspective of what was good back then and what wasn’t. A lot of people are bringing back Nike SB shoes that were never good (don’t be one of those folks). Travis isn’t one of them, thanks to guys like Chase B and Andre Ljustina (Croatian Style of Project Blitz notoriety) leading him in the right direction, and I can respect that. Even if he wasn’t buying Dunks or SBs back in the heyday.

Travis Scott Homer Dunk

Mike DeStefano: As one of the resident members of “The Youth” in the office, my relationship with Nike SB isn’t exactly the same as guys like Welty who are old enough to really remember its heyday. I’m only 24 now. When the original run of SB Dunks came out in 2002, I was in second grade. When iconic pairs from the Pink Box era like the Diamond Supply Co.’s “Tiffany” or the Stüssy Dunk Low released, I was barely 10. 

By the time I was actually at a point that I was able to buy my own sneakers, it was the Blue Box era. The SB hype was dwindling, but I still took a liking to a handful of pairs from that period. I couldn’t afford grails from Flight Club, but I could go over to the Black Diamond skate shop in the Moorestown Mall to get the latest quickstrike. It was something. 

Still, I like to credit SBs with really getting me into sneakers back then. I went back and learned about the older pairs. I loved how unique each pair was, and how perfectly the inspirations were executed. So, when Travis Scott, an artist I’ve been a huge fan of since he dropped Owl Pharaoh back in 2013, decided to start dusting off old SB Dunks over the past year or so at a time when the hype around them was dormant, it was a cool moment. Purists might hate it, he certainly isn’t solely responsible, but the impact he’s had in renewing interest in SB on a mainstream level is undeniable. The only thing that sucks is the market value for all these pairs is astronomical again. But getting that 16-year old to do a little research to learn about SB history cause he’s a fan who saw Travis wearing “What The Dunks” certainly isn’t a bad thing.

What do you think of the Travis Scott x Nike SB Dunks?

MW: There’s a lot to unpack with the Travis Scott x Nike SB shoe. It’s not bad by any means. I love that he used more muted colors on his shoes, rather than stark red and black combinations or boring all-white or all-black shoes. This shoe is no exception. The bandana print is pretty lame to me. I know it was on the Cheech & Chong dunks, but this is a little too much for me. The plaid, and its history of being on Dunks, is nice, though. The thick rope laces? Miss me on that, even if a lot of SBs had gimmicks in the past. It makes perfect sense for the brand to use Scott right now. He’s the most notable person in the pop culture perspective wearing the shoes at the moment (that’s no shade at Wale). The odd thing to me about this collaboration, historically speaking with Nike SB, is that it’s a little to obvious. Sure there were Stussy and Diamond collaborations you have expected back in the day. But there were a lot more ones inspired by subcultures that made the brand authentic. I’m not saying Travis Scott working with Nike SB is inauthentic, but it’s a little too on the nose for me. I’m sure someone could say the same about De La Soul or MF Doom Dunks. But, to me, this is like if they gave Kanye West a Dunk in 2006. I couldn’t see it. With that said, it makes sense to use Scott to prop up a struggling Nike SB label that’s been hit or miss over the past few years. The only thing that’s gonna suck about this shoe is that it won’t have the same “if you know, you know” feel, like the SBs of yesteryear.


MD: There’s no way around it. I’m at least a little biased when it comes to Travis Scott’s SB Dunk Low collaboration. I’ve had Jack Boys essentially on repeat, mainly “Out West” and “Gatti,” since it was released last week. Even the out-of-focus shots of them in the various videos he dropped to promote the projecthad me excited. I’m a big fan. Sue me.

I’ve liked a majority of his collabs up to this point. I’m even lucky enough to own a handful of them. But I’ve said multiple times, especially after the announcement of the Air Jordan I Low, that Nike needs to just let him design his own SB Dunk Low next. Given how frequently he wears them, it just seemed like a no brainer. They certainly didn’t take any advice from me, but they finally did it.

I can still be realistic about things though. This isn’t an automatic home run. From what I’ve seen of the pair, so far, it isn’t as good as some of his others like the Air Jordan I (his best to date) or “Sail” Air Force 1. The Pink and Silver Box Dunks he still laces ups regularly are much better. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to put in some serious effort to get these whenever they finally release. The paisley panels tear away, a perfect excuse for fans to beat these to shit in the pit at his next concert. The plaid section is reminiscent of the flannels he can be seen in frequently. The braided rope laces are a nice touch too. The details are all further testament to how much creative freedom that Scott gets for these projects. He isn’t just tossing colors and a Cactus Jack logo on silhouettes and calling it a day. There’s always a bit more to it, which even his biggest naysayers should be able to find some merit in. I’m already chalking up my “L” for these, but a man can hope for the best, I guess.

What do you think of Nike SB right now?

MW: Nike SB is weird for me. It’s a memory I’ve filed away in my brain. I’m happy for the days I had with the brand, wearing Mork and Mindy Dunks, camo cargo shorts, all-over-print hoodies, and Crooks and Castles fitteds. That’s the past. That’s me when I was younger, and it was a lot of fun. Going all over Boston, shopping at Concepts, Bodega, Laced, the multiple Karmaloop stores. Buying shoes at Identity in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Not knowing what would be in the shop. Having to be cool with the shop owners and employees -- shoutout Rice, Matty, and Chris -- and having them hook you up with a lower price than they were charging other people. Man, those were the days. But I’ve moved on from that, and that’s OK. I can still listen to Lupe Fiasco’s Food and Liquor while typing this and the feeling comes back. I just don’t want to wear SBs at this moment in my life. Still regret selling my Brian Anderson Dunks, though. The brand has done some cool things lately. The Koston Air Jordan 1 Lows were nice. Working with Concepts on all the Lobster Dunks. The multiple Diamond Dunks (Nick, you still owe me a pair!). But the Oshi Dunks aren’t good. They look like the Drunk BS shoes from Consolidated. Hopefully there are still shoes on the way. I had an argument with Skate Twitter the other day, them saying Nike SB never went away because they still sold Janoskis. Fuck all the way out of here with that. That was never what Nike SB was about in its heyday. No one is tracking down the Zoom Tres, although those were OK shoes, especially in the Neon 95 colorway. 

Nike SB Dunk ComplexCon

MD: Nike SB is in an interesting spot right now. The hype is back, people are talking, but it is still largely about the old stuff. Whether it’s OG collectors dusting off their stacks of pairs with Kinetic skate shop stickers to show they’ve “been here,” or younger kids paying way too much money for the latest pair spotted on Travis Scott or Offset, it’s a largely nostalgic trend. 

The monthly GRs are still selling to a niche audience who is actually skating in them, but they aren’t moving the needle. Some of the recent quickstrikes from SB have been able to catch the attention of the mainstream sneaker audience though. Parra’s Dunk Low sold out with ease this past July. The eye-catching “Dog Walker” release in April felt closer to the detailed, playful offerings that many were enamored by in the 2000s. The problem is that the biggest noise has been made by retreads of popular pairs from SB’s heyday—new additions to the “Lobster” series from Concepts and new takes on Diamond Supply’s iconic “Tiffany” release in 2018, and more recently tie-dyed versions of the “Raygun” duo to close out 2019.

Don’t get me wrong, these were all great pairs, there’s a ton of big releases in the archive to pull inspiration from, but it becoming the norm risks alienating the original audience. Some might even call it lazy, no matter how good the new pairs turn out. It would be nice to see new grails be created for this generation of sneaker fans that they will be able to look back on in the same way. Even if you want to use tried and true collaborators, have them create pairs with new storytelling. After all, that’s what made SB so special to begin with. Things like the Travis Scott project and a newly surfaced Dunk High from longtime SB team member Paul Rodriguez slated for 2020 are a good start, but it will be interesting to see how the brand continues to capitalize on the current momentum and keep it going throughout the new year.

What do you think of Travis Scott working with all of Nike?

MW: We’ve never seen something like Travis Scott is doing with Nike right now: Air Jordans, Nike SBs, Nike Air Max, performance Air Jordans, Air Force 1s. It’s cool to see him touch his magic across the spectrum of the company and speaks on his true influence at the moment. He can make anything better, or at least in the eyes of his fans, and that’s who matters most.

Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 'Black' 2

MD: With an SB Dunk Low collaboration on the horizon, it’s obvious that Nike has given Travis Scott the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. He’s done multiple versions of the timeless Air Force 1, re-tooled some of the most important Air Jordans of all time (something few can say they’ve had the privilege of doing even once), crafted friends and family colorways that people are literally willing to pay 10s of thousands of dollars for, and even given his loyal fanbase official apparel offerings to hang alongside the copious amounts of Astroworld merch in their closets.

It’s a level of creative freedom that Nike has rarely given to brands, let alone individuals. Virgil Abloh is probably the only other Nike collaborator who has as much freedom. Given the restraints on his process were part of Kanye West jumping ship for Adidas in 2014, it shows Nike might have learned its lesson too. Sure, Nike is going to make money regardless, but names like Scott and Abloh are guaranteed to drum up insane amounts of hype for whatever they are attached to. And that’s worth something, believe it or not.

Taking a look at his stage shows, album rollouts, and merch designs show how much Scott clearly cares about his creative freedom. Letting him tweak and experiment with a large portion of the product catalog is the right move. And one that makes sense if you’ve noted his footwear choices throughout his career. This isn’t just some weird partnership. He loves the Air Jordan IV. He made three. He helped refocus mainstream attention on SB Dunks. He has his own on the way. It has obviously paid off thus far. Even his misses still sell out. Don’t expect it to slow down any time soon. I’ll continue to look forward to each project until it does. And I’m certainly not the only one.