What Are Nike Dunks? - A Brief on the Grail Sneaker

Nike Dunks are one of Nike’s most popular models and have recently resurged in popularity. Learn more about the history of Nike Dunks and why people love them.

What Are Nike Dunks? - A Brief on the Grail Sneaker

Nike Dunks

The Nike Dunks are one of Nike’s most coveted and collected shoe models. With a history dating back to 1985, the silhouette had a full revival in 2020 and has since resurged in popularity. Over the years, the average resale price of Nike Dunks has surpassed well over 300%. So, what makes this model special and why is everyone going crazy for it? Let’s take a deeper look at the history of Nike Dunks and how they’ve become an integral part of sneaker culture.

What Are Nike Dunks?

Designed by Peter Moore, Nike Dunks emulate a simplistic design with color blocking aspects. This model by Nike is extremely versatile in the shapes and styles offered. What started as a basketball shoe, then a skateboarder’s staple, has now become one of the most worn sneakers in day to day life. Dunks have evolved rapidly since its beginning; branching off into different forms and collaborations.


Nike Dunks High

The Nike Dunk Highs were the first iteration of Dunks, debuting in 1985. This silhouette was inspired by four earlier Nike models--the Air Force 1, the Terminator, Air Jordan 1, and the Legend. Originally tailored to accommodate only basketball players, it became an instant success within this community. To further market their new model, Nike offered twelve Division I college basketball teams to wear Dunks in customized color iterations coordinating with their team colors. This was known as the ‘Be True to Your School’ campaign which helped broaden Nike’s color schemes and colorways. It is safe to say the marketing tactic worked and the Dunk soon became several college basketball teams’ team shoes.


Nike SB Dunks

After the initial success of Dunk Highs paired with minor tweaks made to the shoes, Nike SB Dunks organically became a favorite of many skaters. However, by the early 90’s, much of the Dunk’s popularity was wearing off and Dunks became somewhat neglected by consumers. They started to be commonly found in discount stores. This is how the famous silhouette began to take a life of its own, landing big with New York skateboarders. What was made to be a shoe for basketball was actually ideal for skaters too. This was because Nike Dunks was now an accessible and an affordable option.

Nike SB Dunk Low Pro

In efforts to break into the well guarded industry of skatewear, Nike released the Dunk Low Pro SBs. Original Dunks were already a favorite amongst skateboarders, so only a few minor tweaks were made. A flat tongue was implemented and lace flaps added to its forefront. The sole was tweaked to provide better braking traction on grip tape, and the insoles were lined with extra cushion and padding to reinforce support and better contour its heel section.

Despite what some may assume, the "Pro" label didn't enhance the style's rarity. In reality, the Pro model simply added more comfort for wearers and better met the required technicalities of a skateboarding shoe.


Nike Dunks Low

The Nike Dunks Low are a reiteration of the Nike Dunks and debuted in 1999. They made an appearance on the West Coast and Japan as a part of Nike’s regional experimentation. It was created as a subdivision of Nike SB Dunks, known as Dunk Low Pro B and Dunk Low CO.JP. These were the first Nike Dunks to feature a ‘fat’ padded and mesh tongue, as well as elastic straps and padding making it ideal for skateboarders. The CO.JP model was iconic for the role it played in commencing the online resale market we are familiar with today. At the time of Low Dunks becoming more popular, online sneaker forums like NikeTalk were also on the rise, which allowed customers to buy and trade dunks via the internet. This allowed for Dunks to expand its global reach. The Low Dunks are now arguably one of the most popular shoes on the market.


When Did Nike Dunks Come Out?

The first rendition of Dunks came out in 1985. Before Dunks, most sneakers on the market were made in only solid colors. Dunks were Nike’s vehicle for introducing color blocking into the sneaker world, by introducing two toned colorways. The launch of Dunks were initially tailored to basketball players, but was soon adopted by skateboarders, and are now worn as regular lifestyle sneakers. Along with the SB Dunks and Dunks Low, other iterations throughout the years include the Dunk Mid Pro, Dunk Low Disrupt, Dunk High EMB, and countless others. It should also be noted that several collaborations with Nike have also been centered around Dunks.


Why Are Nike Dunks So Expensive?

Throughout the beginning of 2022, Dunks have on average sold for 375% more than their retail price. But why are they so expensive? Ultimately, these shoes are highly coveted right now and the price comes down to supply and demand. There is a community surrounding these shoes consisting of collectors and traders who keep the market active and thus driving the price up.


Where to Buy Nike Dunks

Buying Dunks directly from Nike will allow you to get the most fair price. However, if you aren’t one of the lucky bunch who cop Dunks on the release there are other options too. Some of the most popular and trusted resale sites selling Dunks include StockX, Flight Club, GOAT, and Stadium Goods.

Throughout the years there have been several highly sought after Dunk collabs and colorways. The Nike Dunk Low Pro SB Paris 2002 release is one of the most expensive Dunks on the market, currently reselling for around $50k. Another highly sought after Dunk is the Pigeon Dunk, reselling for around $45k. Other models more commonly seen include the classic black and white Dunk Lows and green glow Dunk Lows. Overall, due to its continued popularity and high resale value, it seems consumers right now are favoring the Dunk Lows.