Every few years a sneaker comes along that picks up in hype to the point where it becomes a “must have” for every sneakerhead. I’m talking about a, “I need to get every colorway” type of must have. From 2012-2014 most everyone had at least one pair of Nike Roshe Runs in their rotation. Next up was the Adidas Ultra Boost. (Who else is sad that they stocked up multiple pairs of a $180 sneaker just to see it sitting on shelves now?) It seems that now it’s the Nike Dunk’s time to shine. Given the boom in hype surrounding the Nike Dunk over the past couple of years, we feel it’s time for us to take a deep dive to try and figure out the history of the shoe and why it’s so popular.

The History

One could argue that this isn’t the first time the Dunk had a moment. In the early 2000s the Dunk had an identity crisis. The silhouette, which was created in 1985, had dipped in popularity. Presumably, the clean and minimal silhouette didn’t bode well in the late 90s when the trend was bold colors and abstract designs. (i.e. any Nike Air Max created between 1995 and 1999) Believe it or not, the Dunk could be easily found on the sales rack of any store with a Nike account. In order to revive the classic silhouette, Nike knew a rebrand was in order – hence the birth of the Nike Dunk SB in 2002. This new silhouette was meant to cater to the skateboarding community and therefore feature bold patterns and distinct colorways.

Another, more transformative, aspect of this rebrand was a new initiative to work with famous skate shops and streetwear personalities to create collaborative versions of the shoe. The most famous of these collaborations is without question the Nike x Staple Dunk SB ‘Pigeon’ – The shoe that started riots. The release had a ripple effect in the sneaker community that could be felt the world over. Everyone was clamoring to spend thousands of dollars to get a pair. This collaboration opened people’s eyes and got them excited for what the next collaborative Dunk would be. At this point, the dunk was officially back. 

The Nike Dunk Hype Train

Fast forward to 2022 and the Dunk is on everyone’s feet… Literally everyone. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen someone wearing a pair of Panda Dunks I probably wouldn’t be writing blogs. (Or maybe I would. This is fun.) I’d be willing to bet that you, at the time of reading this blog post, own a pair of Dunks. If you don’t own a pair, I’m almost positive there’s a pair you have your eyes on. But why is the silhouette so popular all of a sudden? Is it the inexpensive price point? Possibly. Is it the fact that the Dunk looks like a Jordan 1? Maybe. Is it because of the shoe’s quality? Definitely not. The quality is actually pretty bad. (It’s a $100 shoe, what do you expect?) The reasons that the Dunk blew up are actually a little bit more superficial.

Nike Dunk Panda

Unsplash: Samuel Lopes

I hate to say it, but the short answer to, “Why is the Nike Dunk so popular in 2022?” is, “Because Travis Scott wore them.” You know that current hypebeast look consisting of a vintage tee, cargo pants, and a pair of Dunks? Travis started that back in 2019. It is because of this that the hype train for the Nike Dunk left the station. (It’s also the reason that it’s impossible to find good vintage tees at the thrift store anymore, but that’s a story for a different blog post…) 

Said hype train picked up speed with blockbuster collaborative pairs of the Dunk. Strangeloves, Grateful Deads, Chunky Dunkys, and Parras are all on many people’s all-time grail lists. All of those pairs dropped in 2020 or 2021. The amount of effort Nike has spent finding top-tier collaborators for the Dunk over the past few years has been incredible. There is no other silhouette that has received so much marketing focus in such little time.

Nike Dunk Chunky Dunky

Unsplash: Marcel Karg

To take the hype train off the rails, Nike did what they do best – perfectly control product supply in wake of demand. Even general release colorways of the Dunk were, and are, in high demand. Generally, general release pairs of any other silhouette are very accessible. The Dunk, however, breaks this trend. In order to assure that demand for the sneaker stays high, Nike shifted releases for non-special edition Dunks to their infamous SNKRS app. On top of this, these non-special edition pairs were released in limited quantities. Releases like this happened weekly. Every Saturday many shared frustration over not being selected in a SNKRS raffle for a general release pair of Dunks. This frustration manifested itself in increased demand. All we could do is take part in next week’s release, wanting the shoes that much more badly. As is the cycle of hype… *Sigh*.

The Future of the Nike Dunk

At the moment, the sneaker market is down. With resale prices falling, people buying Dunks just to flip them is also on the decline. I’d say that now is your best opportunity to try and get lucky in a SNKRS raffle, and if the price isn’t terrible even buy a pair on the resale market. Given everything that makes the Dunk so great, I’d imagine that while its hype may die down, the silhouette will remain a staple in many people’s collections. Will it be a part of yours? If so, be sure to check out our Nike Dunk replacement laces to keep your pairs looking brand new.