The history of the Nike 'Dunk'

Nike Dunk Low Grey Fog

Introduction of the Dunk

A simple design, well-balanced color blocking, and a form and style that can be worn in a variety of ways. The Nike Dunk is one of the most sought-after silhouettes today. The Dunk, a basketball shoe turned skateboarding staple, has had a full-fledged rebirth in the years 2020 and 2021, much outstripping it's initial function as a college hoop sneaker. One thing has stayed constant, however: the Dunk's extraordinary ability to fuse art, fashion, music, and popular culture into a seamless whole, serving as a sneaker for a variety of subcultures around the world.

The Dunk's history isn't a straight line, but rather a series of interconnected tales. As a result, the story has become very rich. The division of the Nike Dunk and Air Max is a large jigsaw piece in its peculiar evolution.

History of the Dunk

Inspired by the Nike Air Force 1

The Nike Dunk High is a high-top basketball sneaker that was created from four previous Nike models: the Air Force 1, the Terminator, the Air Jordan 1 and the Legend. It was first released in August 1985. The Dunk's general style was inspired by the AF-1, with the outsole taking on the AF-1's traction, the upper combining the AJ-1 and the Terminator, and the Legend assisting in the creation of the Dunk's molds. The Nike Dunk's forerunners contributed to the silhouette's final design, but it was the tale surrounding the sneaker's debut release that gave it it's distinct charm.

The raise of the Dunk

The shoe's release in 1985 coincided – and not coincidentally – with basketball's golden age and its shining star, Michael Jordan. The Nike Dunk, which was built to accommodate basketball tactics and techniques like rotating and blocking, was an instant hit in the sport when it was released — on its technical parameters, at least. The 1985 Nike Dunk High, entitled "Be True To Your School," became famous for something a little bit more colorful and meaningful than this.

Nike's initial marketing campaign for the Nike Dunk was titled "Be True To Your School." It provided a means for Division I college basketball teams and their fans to wear their teams colors. The Swoosh has previously established deals with the University of Iowa, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, Georgetown, St. John's, UNLV, and Syracuse to certify the Dunk High as their teams official shoe.

This was a brilliant strategy, as it allowed Nike to naturally advertise the Dunk both inside and outside of college arenas, supporting a non-competitive approach to sport as well as school loyalty, and assist the brand profit from the collegiate basketball leagues' expanding popularity. It was clever to turn a team mindset into a sneaker mentality. The 'BTTYS' series' limitless colorways approach would go on to become a defining feature of the silhouette, which was unknown at the time.
With the phenomenal success of the Air Jordan 1 and other technological advancements, the original Nike Dunk High quickly became old news in the world of basketball, but the silhouette continued to make its rounds with a more casual and unassuming market, a market that had little to do with Nike at the time. Introducing the New York youngsters, who are skating around, minding their own thing, and simply having a good time.

The Dunk as we know it today

No previous release, however, would have had such an impact on the Dunk's future as when Travis Scott was given permission to modify and get weird with the SB Dunk Low. Something similar was in the works — Kylie Jenner had been spotted wearing unique and highly desired pairs of the model on her Instagram account, and Scott was a self-professed Dunk enthusiast.

When the Swoosh enlisted Virgil Abloh to try his hand at the silhouette, the anticipation only grew. The Nike x Off-White Dunk Low was released in three vibrant and dynamically-blocked colorways in 2019; at the time, Virgil Abloh's Nike collaborations were the most talked-about topic in the sneaker world. Of course, the SB Dunk was a logical fit for the Off-White reimagined lineup.

Those who were unable to obtain these new releases quickly began searching the market for OG Dunks, as well as mainline and retro SB pairs produced in the early and mid-2010s. The value of vintage Dunks has depreciated. An SB Dunk or a Dunk on sale or spotted on shelves was no longer a thing.

Nike Dunk X Off-White Lot number 31 by Virgil AblohNike Dunk X Off-White Lot number 31 by Virgil Abloh (The Attic streetwear, 2022).


The last couple of years we have seen a huge variety of color blockings on the Dunks. Also the popularity has increased more than ever. At The Attic streetwear we are selling more than 100 pairs of Dunks every month. It's a very simple, yet wear-able sneaker.

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Nike Dunk High 'Black White'Nike Dunk High 'Black White' (The Attic streetwear, 2022).

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December 13, 2023 — Triplepro SEA