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Nike Dunk: How a legend went from the court to the skate park to influencers’ feeds

Andy Silva breaks down the story of the Nike Dunk in advance of its latest drop with Union LA on March 31.

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2005 “Tiffany” Nike Dunk SB sneakers are pictured in the photo studio Wednesday evening. The sneakers were brought in by James Taylor, 31, of Reading. Photo by Natalie Kolb 9/10/2014 Photo By Natalie Kolb/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

On March 31, we get the latest hyped collaboration from Union and Nike, this time on a shoe that has seen plenty of hyped collabs, the Nike Dunk. The Dunk has a long and storied history, something which Nike discussed in its “Origins” miniseries on YouTube in 2021:

It seems as though Nike is always releasing a new/old colorway in the Dunk (as evidenced by a restock on Monday of the white/black low colorway), and this week is no different. Famed streetwear store Union LA will be releasing the final two colorways of its “Passport” pack on March 31. The Court Purple and Argon colorways, as well as the previously released Pistachio colorway, are also available on the secondary market.

And if you did miss out on March 31, the Argon colorway will also be available on the Nike SNRS app on April 7.

Sneakerheads are no doubt familiar with Union after its popular collaborations on the Air Jordan 1 in the Blue Toe and Black Toe colorways as well as the Air Jordan 4 in the Guava and Off Noir colorways in 2020 and the Taupe Haze and Desert Moss colorways in 2021. If you’re a Union fan, be sure to be on the lookout for the forthcoming collab on the Air Jordan 2 which is reportedly set to release on April 8.

But, before we look ahead, let’s take a look back, way back, to the 1980s and the beginning of the Nike Dunk story. The Dunk was originally designed for use on the hardwood, and is notable for some of its similarities to the Air Jordan 1 and Air Force 1. Unlike the Air Jordan 1, the Dunk was largely marketed as part of the college game, thanks in large part to the famed “Be True To Your School” campaign and its university-inspired color blocking. Michigan, Syracuse, Kentucky and Iowa, among others. are perhaps the most well-known of the collegiate-inspired colorways.

However, despite the fame it would see in the future, the Dunk was largely overshadowed in its time by the Jordan 1 and would fade away for a period. But, the Dunk’s next era would be heralded in another sport — skateboarding.

As noted in the video above, skateboarders flocked to the shoe for a couple of reasons:

  • It had a flat sole;
  • It had a low feel to the board, similar to its low court feel and;
  • It was readily available and often at discount during its fallow period.

Soon enough “SB” versions of Dunks would be released featuring more padding and a thicker tongue. Popular pro skaters such as Paul Rodriguez and Eric Koston adopted the shoe and became part of the brand’s marketing.

Thanks in part to its popularity in the skating subculture, the Dunk would eventually transition to another arena where it remains vital to this day: streetwear.

Supreme, Stüssy and Concepts among others began collaborating with Nike, further hyping the silhouette. It also has had notable colorways such as the Wu Tang, the Pigeon, the Tiffany, the Heineken and the much-hyped Chunky Dunky collab with Ben and Jerry’s. Of course, we have also seen a collab with Travis Scott and even a pair of Gundam colorways.

One of the great things about the Dunk is its chameleon-like ability to be anything to anyone. It can be a traditional-looking basketball sneaker from the 80s with the aforementioned collegiate-inspired colorways. But, it can also be out there, with something like the Chunky Dunkys, the Chocolate or Strawberry milk inspired Mids from Social Status, the Strawberry Coughs or even something completely different like the mid-00s Dunkesto, which was a combination of the Dunk and the Nike Presto (a personal favorite of mine from that era).

In recent years the shoe has even gone back to its roots, re-releasing some of the OG university-inspired colorways.

Two things are for certain — these shoes will continue to sell out and fans of this classic will be true now and into the future.

If you have questions or just want to talk sneakers, hit on me up on Twitter — my username is @a_silva32. Good luck if you’re going after the Passport Pack!