The History Behind Nike High-Top Dunk SBs
- by Nick Demaria
- April 17, 2020
Do you know that the term “sneakers“ was coined in the early 20th century for rubber-soled shoes that were so quiet that you could sneak up on others? And did you know that one style that was responsible for the massive sneaker craze that swept through the world in the 2000s was the Nike High-Top Dunk SBs?
Let’s find out more about what makes these sneakers so unique!
Until the late 1980s and early 1990s, skateboarding was not really a target market that most sneaker companies took into consideration. But as street skating grew in popularity, a whole new segment of the sneaker market opened up.
Skater-owned companies such as DC Shoes, Emerica, Circa, Etnies, and Osiris began making shoes specifically for skaters. And as the fad caught on, the youth started to adopt the clothing and footwear style of skaters, leading to a boom in the skating shoe industry.
Nike wanted to get in on the action, and in the ’90s the company tried to launch its version of skate sneakers. They were a complete failure. In fact, the names given to these shoes were among the worst Nike had ever used for their shoes – Air Snak, Air Choad and the Schimp. I mean really, what ere they thinking with these names.
Nike lost even more credibility in the skating community after it released its 1997 TV advertising campaign. It was cheesy and fake, and it alienated the skaters even more. The company was seen as a corporation with no soul just trying to make money off of them. Nike’s debut was a disaster.
But the company didn’t give up. It tried again with the release of the Freestyle skateboarding ad. However, this campaign fell flat also. Nike also attempted to enter the skateboarding market with its acquisition of the skate-shoe company Savier. Once again, the company failed to make an impact.
A Change of Perspective
So, in 2002, Nike put Sandy Bodecker in charge of the company’s new skateboarding division – SB. Bodecker was genuinely interesting in skating, and this showed in how he created his strategy for Nike.
He decided to take a step back and really study the sport – understand it and its history. The early skaters – Tony Alva, Mark Gonzales, the Bones Brigade, Jeff Kendall – were all using Nike basketball shoes. But why? Because these shoes were cheap, very comfortable, and gave skaters the feel of the board. And they lasted forever.
He realized that Nike had already accidentally entered the skateboarding segment! Bodecker also realized that to gain acceptance with the skating community, Nike needed to respect the core relationships that made it so tight-knit.
So, now, instead of blasting onto the scene once again, Bodecker did something no one would have expected from Nike. He introduced the new line of skate-sneakers quietly through a core skate team. The distribution strategy he adopted was very narrow, focusing on only the independent skater-owned stores. This was diametrically opposite of what Nike had done in the past – flooding general stores with their skate shoes.
Showing respect to the community by supporting the independent skate stores, and putting together the right team of skaters to wear their new shoes is what made Nike’s third attempt a huge success.
Bodecker also signed on 4 iconic skaters to represent the new SB line, men who were well-respected in the community, and a far cry from the usual X games suspects. Each of them had developed their own styles of skating. They were Gino Iannucci, Reese Forbes, Danny Supa and Richard Mulder.
Each skater was given his own color line of the new Nike skater shoe, one that went on to change the entire face of the skate shoe industry and the world of sneakers!
The New SB Dunk – Creating a Lifestyle!
So, what was the shoe that changed the skate shoe world so much? It was the SB Dunk!
After all the research Bodecker and his team did, they realized that the best skater shoe needed to be modeled on the humble yet oh-so-popular college basketball sneaker from the 1980s – the Dunk.
From Slam Dunks to Kickflips
The original Nike High-Top Dunk was designed by Peter Moore, and while it shared the construction of the Jordan I and the Terminator, what made it special was its colorway. The Dunk shoes used the colors of the college basketball teams that partnered with Nike, and the tagline Be True to Your School was coined to represent these colorways.
So, Nike followed the same theme with the new line of the Dunks for skaters. There was a complete storyline created around each color line, stories that only true skaters would understand. Nike was no longer targeting mass consumers. The company was focusing solely on the skaters and their philosophy.
The new shoes had references to the Nike models that each of the icons they had chosen had worn – Nike Blazers, Air Jordan Is, Terminators and Nike Bruins, to name a few. There were also references to hip-hop albums as well as graffiti artists.
The colorway lines were given names such as Bison, Heineken, Shark, Hemp, Reverse Shark, Jedi, Hulk and Buck. And every name had a story behind it, which added to its uniqueness.
These shoes were not meant for the mass market anymore. You could only get them at select skater stores, and there were only a limited number of each colorway available. There were also no launch dates – skaters only knew which month the new Dunk SBs were going to be released. Getting your hands of a new pair of these sneakers became a big deal.
A New Design on an Old Shoe
This new sneaker was customized to withstand the kind of wear and tear it would be subjected to while skating. The Zoom Air unit was added to the heel, as was a padded tongue. This would give skater greater comfort as well as stronger cushioning, and also make the shoe stronger and more durable.
The sole of the Dunk, which had been initially designed for the hardwood basketball courts, was redesign to offer more traction on the grip tape used on skateboards.
And the biggest change made was the fat tongue. This became key to the success of the new Nike high-top Dunk SBs. That fat tongue gave skaters the hold and stability they needed while skating.
Another big change to the design of the shoe was the kind of materials used. These Dunks were made with faux fur, ostrich skin, perforated leather, patent leather, pig suede, and even metallics.
Before the introduction of the Dunk SBs, skater shoes were clunky and skaters carried a second pair of shoes in the backpacks that they would change into after skating.
Now, however, they could wear skating shoes that looked awesome. They became shoes everyone wanted, but only a few could own!
The Nike Dunk Low SBs and the Nike Dunk High SBs were originally priced at just $65 and $75. However, their prices soon went up due to high demand and they were sold at $125 and $150 respectively.
Today, those original designs are collectors’ items. The Dunk Low SBs and the Dunk High SBs have been resold for as much as $5,000. In fact, one of the rarest of all the Dunk SBs, the Ebay Dunk, sold for a whopping $30,000!
In the last one year, the Dunk SBs have seen a rebirth, and famous rappers like Offset and Travis Scott actually dug out their old Dunk SBs, adding even more fuel to the fire that fans have for these shoes.
Shop all High top Dun SB on Ebay