Why is everyone wearing Nike Dunk lows?


Photo courtesy of flightclub.com

Nike Dunk Lows (pictured here) — let’s unpack the hype.

If you’ve been on campus in the past year, you probably have seen someone wearing a pair of Nike Dunks, specifically the Dunk lows. But why are these shoes so popular, and why do they resell for anywhere between 2-16 times the retail price of $100?

To understand the Dunk low hype, you first need to know about the differences between the members of the Dunk family of shoes. There are three main models of dunks, all intended for different uses. The first type is the classic Nike Dunk, which quickly became one of the most popular high-top basketball shoes when it was introduced in 1985. The shoe was marketed towards college basketball players, with high tops available in their university colors.

In the nineties, skate culture took off and many skaters wore beat-up pairs of dunks they found in thrift stores. Nike noticed the demand and made the shoes available in a low-top silhouette, alongside introducing the Nike Dunk SB. The SB sported a modified tongue, insole, outsole, and puffy laces both for comfort but also to make them easier to skate.

The newest Dunk Silhouette and arguably the least popular is the women’s exclusive Dunk Disrupt. The shoe has a more modern and boxy silhouette and combines aspects of the original dunks with the SB. The model recently saw its second incarnation, the Dunk low disrupt 2, which is closer to the original silhouette with some additional embellishments.

So why are these simple basketball and skating shoes one of the hottest trends right now? There are a few. The Dunk trend seems to have once again been revived by thrifting. Dunks fell out of fashion in the early twenty-tens, and once again flooded thrift shops or sat on the shelves of Nike outlets. Their retro silhouette and often simple colorways pair well with thrifted pieces, especially older graphic tee shirts. This is in addition to the shoes being very practical for everyday wear, especially the SB model. It wouldn’t take long before the shoes received a celebrity endorsement and rocketed back into the spotlight.

Once again, I have to talk about one of the most influential celebrities in streetwear, and the reason I can’t buy any vintage Rush tee shirts, Travis Scott. Scott pioneered the vintage tee shirt, cargo pants, and SB Dunks outfit, and solidified the look by releasing his own pair of SB Dunks. Other collaborations with Off-White, Cactus Plant Flea Market, and oddly enough, Ben and Jerry’s led to dunks becoming some of the most sought-after sneakers in recent memory.

The demand for hyped pairs, and their often limited stock, subsequently drove up the prices of all other models as the supply was artificially undercut to not meet the demand. This problem is exacerbated by the process of backdooring, where Nike intentionally or unintentionally sells shoes to resellers to profit off the resale market and create hype. In one particularly egregious example, the VP of Nike North America was forced to resign after people discovered she was backdooring shoes for her son for his own business.

The revival of Dunks was originally out of accessibility and practicality but quickly resembled some of the worst aspects of modern fashion. While it’s not bad to enter SNKRS raffles and try to get a pair of Dunks, I strongly encourage against buying from resellers and continuing to gentrify thrift stores. If you want a similar silhouette that won’t break the bank you can’t go wrong with a pair of New Balance 550s or the classic Air Force One.