The Nike Dunk originally released in 1985. The basketball sneaker was created by Air Jordan 1 designer Peter Moore, and shares many aesthetic elements with Michael Jordan’s first signature sneaker. The Nike Dunk also has many stylistic similarities with the Nike Air Force 1, which was released just three years earlier. The campaign around the Nike Dunk’s initial release focused around college basketball, with the “Be True To Your School” ads showcasing the sneaker in colorways for teams such as Syracuse, St. Johns, Kentucky, Iowa, UNLV, and the University of Michigan.
Despite its roots as a basketball shoe, the Nike Dunk was transformed into a skateboarding sneaker by Nike SB in the early 2000s. The new version was available as a Nike SB Dunk Low, Nike SB Dunk High, and later as a mid cut. This reworked sneaker was modified with heavily padded tongues and Zoom Air in the heel. It was a hit with skaters, but also with sneakerheads, who sought out heavily hyped limited editions and collaborations of the silhouette.
The Nike Dunk SB’s popularity waned as the 2000s turned into the 2010s, and although the shoes continued to come out, the hype was minimal. The sneaker’s third act came late in the 2010s, when, with the aid of mega-influencer (and future collaborator) Travis Scott’s affinity for the shoes, prices of old models began to skyrocket on StockX. Virgil Abloh also got in on the action, first releasing three Off-White x Nike Dunks in late 2019, followed by a 50-pair collection in August of 2021, adding to the steady stream of the retro sneakers that Nike was already releasing.