A Brief History of The 'Be True To Your School' Nike Dunk Series

We look back at the colorways that started it all for both the Nike Dunk and Nike's team shoe series as part of this year's March Madness festivities.

words // Luis Sanchez

Released back in 1985, the Nike Dunk was Nike's original team shoe.

The shoe was originally released in several colorways to match some of the top schools across the country such as Kentucky and Michigan. The original Dunk also played a part in the design inspiration for the now iconic Air Jordan I by Nike. Since their original release, the Dunk High has gained a cult following across the globe, and has become a staple for Nike in everything from lifestyle footwear to skateboarding.

Read on for a look at the history of Nike's original team shoe in the 'Be True to Your School' Nike Dunk.

1985 - Original release

1985 saw Nike strike deals with the University of Michigan, University of Kentucky, University of Iowa, Georgetown, Syracuse, St. John's and UNLV to make the original Dunk High their teams official shoe. The Dunk High was done up in color schemes for each shoe, and have since become the most recognizable and coveted classic Dunk styles of all time.

1998 - First Retro Release

The Dunk High remained in the vault for over ten years following their original introduction by the Swoosh. It was until 1998 that the Dunk High was reissued in original colorways by Nike, and by that time the following behind the classic model had grown considerably. The Dunk was already being skated by many across the globe, and sneaker collectors had created a demand for the shoe that was higher than ever. Some might say the 1999 retro Dunk series featured the best quality materials we'll ever see utilized on the classic styles. The first run of retro Dunks by the Swoosh also included several original low-cut colorways.  Iowa's 'Goldenrod' Dunk High became insanely popular at this point, thanks to a historic collaboration between Wu-Tang and Nike. 

2003 - Retro Release

By 2003, the already considerable amount of popularity behind the Nike Dunk was growing at a rapid pace for several reasons such as Nike's Skateboarding specific Dunk series introduced just a year before in 2002. Although released in plenty of SB styles throughout 2003, 2003 also saw Nike reissue the Dunk High in classic University of Iowa and Michigan team colors among others. Low-cut versions of the original Dunk were also reissued by Nike in 2003 once again.

2005 - Nike Skateboarding BTTYS Series

Fast forward to 2005, Nike Skateboarding celebrated the 20th anniversary of the original Nike Dunk with skate-friendly versions of each original colorway. Nike Skateboarding stayed true to the Dunk and kept each colorway original, but geared each pair for skateboarding with full premium leather and suede builds. Although definitely most popular in both the Iowa and Syracuse colorways back in 2005, the entire series is now just as beloved thanks to the impressive materials put to use by Nike Skateboarding.

2011 - Nike Sportswear 'VNTG' Series

In 2011 Nike Sportswear finally reissued low-cut versions of the original Nike Dunk. We saw Nike's sportswear division reissue the Dunk in several original color schemes, with each pair featuring Nike's signature 'Vintage' finish for a worn-in look that was very unique to say the least. The 2011 releases were somewhat popular amongst sneaker heads, but saw many people doing their best to wash away the vintage detailing utilized by Nike for a clean, classic look. The 2011 collection by Nike Sportswear also included Dunks for other schools such as the University of Texas.

2012 - Retro Release

One year later, Nike Sportswear celebrated March Madness with a release of the Dunk High in several original colorways. Of all the 'Be True to Your School' releases by Nike, this was probably the most overlooked, with pairs still readily available on the web. The selection was once again broadened by Nike for the retro crowd with several non-original color schemes also released by Nike Sportswear as part of the 2012 collection.