Sneaker culture may be in a different place than it is today without the Nike Dunk. One of the Oregon-based footwear brands' most iconic styles, the Dunk, is right up there in significance with other classic models from Nike like the Air Jordan 1 and Air Force 1.
History of the Nike Dunk
The Dunk’s story starts in 1985 as a performance basketball shoe, and it ends today as one of the most worn, hyped, and sought-after sneakers on the planet. This is in no small part to the Dunk’s resurgence as a skate shoe produced in limited editions in the early 2000s, but we’ll get there in a minute. Let’s first start with its basketball roots.
College basketball roots, to be more specific. The Dunk’s life began in 1985 when Nike produced it for their sponsored college basketball teams in a number of team-colored designs, like navy-and-maize for Michigan and red-and-grey for UNLV. The original series of Dunks is known today as the “Be True to Your School” collection, in reference to the marketing campaign that accompanied it.
As Nike’s technology and design progressed throughout the second half of the ‘80s and into the ‘90s, the Dunk became obsolete on the court and was out of production except for a few releases here and there as a lifestyle sneaker option. The Dunk enjoyed its first notable resurgence in 1999 when Nike’s “Concept Japan” initiative, a premium line of lifestyle sneakers released only in Japan, brought back the model in a series of unique color combinations and premium materials. The CO.JP series of Dunks began the model’s rise to collectability and hit the next level when the Nike SB line started a few years later.
In 2003, Nike’s then-new skateboarding division, Nike SB, resurrected the Dunk as a performance skate shoe. Skaters loved the SB Dunk for its clean look, durability, and padded, protective design that offered comfort and a great board feel. But skaters weren’t the only ones after the SB Dunk. Thanks to many unique, limited edition colorways often inspired by pop culture references and special collaborations with hyped brands like Stussy and Diamond Supply Co., the SB Dunk became sought after by many sneaker collectors outside of the skating world.
Return of the Nike Dunk
After a few years as the most wanted Nike model in sneaker culture, the Dunk hype died out by the mid-2010s, only to come back in full force during the pandemic years. This was thanks to a barrage of limited edition releases from Nike and the seal of approval from Virgil Abloh’s Off-White brand with reworked versions of the silhouette.
Then, things hit a whole new level for the Nike Dunk with the introduction of the now ubiquitous ‘Panda’ colorway in 2021. The black-and-white Panda Dunks somehow became the most wanted sneaker in the world—partly thanks to teens on TikTok and partly to the fact that it’s just a clean, simple, and versatile sneaker you can wear with anything.
Now that you know the Dunk’s story, let’s discuss the basics about what you need to know before you buy a pair.
Nike Dunk Sizing - How Does it Fit?
The standard Nike Dunk Low and Dunk High both fit true to size. This means you should purchase your standard sneaker size. The Nike SB version of the Dunk does include more padding, so you may want to go up half a size if you like a looser fit, but in most cases, your usual size also works for the SB Dunk variant.
How Is the Nike Dunk Cushioned?
The standard Nike Dunk features a foam insole and plush padding around the collar for comfort. The durable rubber sole will also supply some shock absorption. A bonus of the Nike SB Dunk is that it includes a Nike Zoom Air unit in the heel of the insole for added shock absorption while skating.
What Should I Wear With My Nike Dunks?
The short answer: anything! The Dunk is as popular as it is today because it is so versatile. Especially since the Dunk is available in many colorways and height options (Low, Mid, and High), anyone can find a Dunk to pair with any outfit. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the Dunk.
How Much Does the Nike Dunk Cost?
The price of the Nike Dunk varies due to many factors, including whether it is a standard-issue release, a limited edition collaboration, or a special Dunk constructed with premium materials. The standard Nike Dunk Low, like the Panda Dunk, currently retails for $115 in adult sizing.