Nike is the king of sneakers. They’ve dominated the industry since the 80s, and they’re responsible for sneakers transitioning from a sporting shoe to a collectable.

If you’re a sneaker fan, your collection won’t be complete without at least one pair of Nike Dunk shoes. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about these shoes and why they deserve a place in your collection.

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What are the Nike Dunk Sneakers?

The Nike Dunk was released in 1985 and became an instant hit. It was launched the same year as the original Jordan 1 sneaker. While it may have been a little overshadowed by this ground-breaking collaboration, the shoe earned itself a legion of devoted fans. While the Jordan 1 represented the NBA, the Nike Dunk came to become synonymous with college basketball during the 1980s. It was originally designed for NCAA players.

Original Nike Dunk from 1985

The Nike Dunk was designed by Peter Moore to be worn on baseball court before it quickly made its way into the world of skating. The Dunk sneakers took their inspiration from the iconic Air Force 1, the original Air Jordan sneakers, as well as the Nike Terminator and Legend. It brought together the best part of each of these shows and moulded them together to create the Dunk silhouette. The Nike Dunk came just after the release of Michael Jordan’s first sneakers.

The name ‘Dunk’ takes its name from the slam-duck move in basketball. It was originally intended to be called the ‘College Color High’, to reflect its college basketball inspiration. The release ironically coincided with the 40th anniversary of the first slam dunk, so the name was changed to reflect this aspect of its basketball heritage.

The style launched with the “Be True to Your School” pack, which took inspiration from the twelve universities with popular basketball programs. Each college had a colour-coordinating shoe, apparel, and bags to capitalise on the trend. The Division 1 teams were sponsored by Nike, with the players wearing their color-coordinating shoes. You can imagine how quickly eagle-eye fans caught onto the shoe. The shoes’ popularity made it one of the most worn styles in the 80s and 90s. The ‘Dunk’ sneaker came when college basketball was at its height, and when millions of people tuned in to watch college games with the hopes of catching a future NBA star.

In 2002, the Nike Dunk was given a remodel with a specific style released for skateboarders. Nike is no stranger to collaborations, and the Dunk style has been redesigned by icons like Supreme, Virgil Abloh, Travis Scott, and even Ben & Jerry’s. In 2020, we also saw a collaboration with Off-White and the iconic SB Dunk sneakers became the must-have shoe for any hypebeast.

Nike SB Dunk Low Ben&Jerry's Chunky Dunky

This performance-driven shoe would lead the way for the thousands of basketball sneakers that would follow, from Nike and other athleisure brands. While it might not be as commonly known amongst the public as the Air Jordan sneakers, it’s just as significant to the niche.

The Skateboarding Connection

Although the Nike Dunk takes its origins from the world of basketball, it quickly made a home for itself in the skating community. Within a year of its release, it was already appearing in skate videos, such as those of the NYC-based SHUT Skates. By the 90s, all the most notable figures in the skating community were hitting their boards with a pair of Dunk sneakers. This connection is significant because it was a decade before Nike would be able to bring their first dedicated skating shoe to the market/

Without the Nike Dunk, it might have been an even longer wait.

The Design of the Nike Dunk

The padded uppers and heavy durability of these sneakers made them an instant hit. The Nike Dunk was one of the first shoes to add a pop of colour into the world of basketball. Whether you’re a basketball player, skateboarder, or an average joe, this shoe has something to offer you.

The sneaker has lateral support, cushioning, and even a special traction to help with pivoting your foot. Between 1998 and 2000, the style was altered to include a nylon tongue, making it more practical for skateboarders.

Today you can purchase the Nike Dunk in both the low and high-top options, with several retro styles available that recreate the original look. Be quick though! These retro Nike Dunk styles sell out in the blink of an eye.

Nike SB Dunk Low Travis Scott

How To Style Nike Dunk Sneakers

Great news – the Nike Dunk sneakers are one of the easiest to style. Depending on your aesthetic, you can choose between the low or high-top version. These sneakers are also perfectly unisex, even with dedicated womenswear colours.

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You can keep it casual with an oversized sweatshirt and a pair of distressed denim jeans. This look fully embraces the 80s origins of these sneakers. Add a few gold chains for a contemporary feel. If you want to make your Nike Dunk sneakers pop, try to choose a lighter wash denim. We love this outfit as the orange in the sweater helps tie the look together and matches the sneakers perfectly.

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This casual street-style look is the perfect example of how you can wear Nike Dunk sneakers every day. Once again, we can see the forest green in the sneakers being accentuated by the jumper and beanie choice. The secret to wearing these shoes is to choose a minimalistic style of trousers to help draw the eye towards your iconic Nike Dunks.

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Looking for something a little more elevated? This outfit shows how you can wear a pair of Nike Dunks anywhere, whether it’s brunch with your friends or cocktails at your favourite bar. The monochrome outfit helps tie the sneakers to the look. Don’t be afraid to wear your Nike Dunks with a pair of leather trousers. There is no limit on how you can style these shoes, and they’ll fit seamlessly into anyone’s closet.

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The Future of the Nike Dunk

After 35 years, it’s safe to call the Nike Dunk a classic. It has earned its place in the sneaker hall of fame – as well as in your personal collection. You can pick up a pair second-hand or preloved if you want a vintage feel, or you can still purchase this style directly from Nike.

Here are a few more looks to inspire you:

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