Nike Dunks were conceptualised back in 1985, and sparked the beginning of the Nike's original team shoe. The shoe was released in several colourways to match some of the top schools across the country including Kentucky and Michigan. The shoe continues to stand the test of time, and played an influential role in the design for the now iconic Air Jordan I, among others. Since their original release, the Dunk has gained a huge cult following across the globe, with fans wiling to pay thousands for the market leader's rarest and most iconic creations.
Nike's tactic was to create deals with the top performing schools and produce sneakers with matching school colours. Sponsoring schools was Nike's first attempt at creating a sense of family. Nike's obsession with creating loyalty has been well documented and to this day, the company has maintained fans, followers, hoarders and family members while other brands merely maintain customers.
The Dunk High remained in the a secret hidden away for over ten years following their original introduction. It wasn't until 1998 that the Dunk High reemerged in original colourways, and by that time the following behind the classic model had grown into a must have for all sneaker-heads. The Dunk was a popular shoe amongst the skateboarding community with several high profile skaters collaborating on designs and swearing by their superiority. Sneaker collectors across the globe drove up demand to never before seen levels in the sneaker market. Shoe quality was unparalleled and the choice in materials made Nike Dunks some of the most durable and versatile shoes.
Popularity for the shoe continued to sky-rocket in 2003. Nike launched a range of Dunks under the Nike SB (skateboarding) series. Simultaneously they reissued low-cut Nike Dunks, rekindling the fire from previous years.
Perhaps some of the most recognisable shoes were released in 2004. Nike developed the City Series with shoes named after London, Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai and others with aliases names like Pigeon; perhaps the most iconic Dunk ever created. Up next was collaboration with designers and household name skaters. The Team Manager Series was Nike's play on giving smaller skate brands the ability to have their designs promoted by the powerhouse that is Nike. Diamond Supply Co. and Stussy created their own Dunk Lows creating shoes that reinforced Nike's move into the skate scene. There were also collaborations on the Blazer and the Zoom FC with Real Skateboards and Alien Workshop, while the SB family also got their own rendition of the Team Edition silhouette, which was designed by their very own Hunter Muraira.
But how do Nike Dunks rank in todays world? We created a survey with 30 of the most iconic dunks ever released. Any Nike Dunk list will be controversial but as a democratic platform we let you do the voting.
Below are the top 15...
15. Nike SB Dunk Low “Freddy Krueger”
Release Date: N/A
Significance: This blood-splattered, Freddy Krueger-inspired pair was created to celebrate ANightmare on Elm Street’s villain, but product had to be halted due to legal issues. Only a few pairs made it out to the public, making this a real rarity.
14. Nike SB Dunk Low “Colors By SUPA”
Release Date: March 2002
Significance: The second-ever Nike SB Dunk is a homage to New York City and was designed by Danny Supasirirat. The white, orange, and blue colourway is an obvious nod to two of New York’s sports teams.
13. Nike SB Dunk Low “Paris”
Release Date: August 2003
Significance: This pair was also part of the “White Dunk” city series and was designed in collaboration with French painter Bernard Buffet. The release at the exhibition was cancelled and pairs were sold through select Nike SB accounts in highly-limited numbers.
12. Nike SB Dunk High “Cheech & Chong”
Release Date: April 2011
Significance: This shoe, 2011’s 4/20 release, took direct inspiration from Cheech and Chong, America’s first iconic stoners.
11. Nike SB Dunk Low “Medicom 1”
Release Date: July 2004
Significance: This collaboration between Medicom and Nike SB was only offered to registered Medicom members and was the first Dunk SB to feature a double-layered Swoosh.
10. Nike SB Dunk Low “Colors By Mulder”
Release Date: March 2002
Significance: Richard Mulder’s “Colours By” Dunk Low was a nod to his Los Angelino roots and took on a simple white and blue colourway.
9: Nike SB Dunk Low “Cali”
Release Date: July 2004
Significance: Californian surfers were the ones that brought us skating, so it’s only right the Golden State’s flag was commemorated with a Dunk.
8. Nike Dunk BTTYS Pack (1985 OG)
Release Date: 1985
Significance: Many would have put Jeff Staple’s “Pigeon” Dunks top of the ranking but can you really ignore the OG 1985 BTTYS pack that kickstarted the whole Dunk mania?
7. Soulland x Nike SB Dunk High Fri.Day Pt 2
Release Date: December 2017
Significance: The second part of Soulland’s ongoing collaboration with Nike SB, this more contemporary pair featured a mini Swoosh over the regular Swoosh, as well as premium materials.
6. Nike SB Dunk Low “London”
Release Date: January 2004 Significance: This pair was supposed to be released at London’s “White Dunk: Evolution of an Icon” event, though that was cancelled and the pairs were later sold through Foot Patrol. An outline of the river Thames is embroidered on the heel. Price: $17,000
Where to buy: StockX
5. Nike SB Dunk High “Sea Crystal”
Release Date: 2004 Significance: This Dunk High was inspired by the godfather of Nike SB, Sandy Bodecker, and the washed-out sea glass he used to collect as a child on the beaches of Connecticut.
4. Nike SB Dunk Low “Heineken”
Release Date: June 2003
Significance: One of the most iconic Nike Dunks, this pair takes obvious inspiration from one of the most popular beers in the world. Due to legal issues, this pair was never actually released and is officially called “Classic Green.”
3. Diamond Supply Co. x Nike SB Low “Tiffany”
Release Date: August 2005
Significance: This is one of the first Dunks to go viral and generate a visceral level of hype unseen before. The colors are taken from Tiffany & Co. and the sneaker was designed by Diamond Supply Co. founder Nick Tershay.
2. Nike Dunk High “Wu-Tang”
Release Date: 1999
Significance: Back in the late '90s, Nike re-released its original “Be True” Dunk collection, with a special reworked goldenrod colorway for the University of Iowa, which was turned into the famed “Wu-Tang” Dunks. Only 36 pairs are believed to have been produced.
Where to buy: GOAT
1. Staple x Nike SB Dunk Low “Pigeon”
Release Date: March 2005
Significance: This was the final edition of the “City Series” and is the Dunk that probably kickstarted sneaker culture as we know it today. Good enough for spot four, which may prove to be controversial.
All the ranking data used in this article was sourced using ThisThat Analytics. A tournament mode question was established with 30 options that were voted on and compared with each other option. The survey had over 800 responses from around the world. If you'd like to hear more about ThisThat's functionality, please feel free to book a demo on www.thisthatanalytics.com