Why Nike SB Dunks Will Never Die

5 Mins read

With the high popularity of skateboarding in the 90s, Nike looked to dip their toes in the market. In an attempt to get a piece of the skateboarding pie and compete against established brands like DC and Vans, Nike began to manufacture their own skateboarding footwear line in 1997.

A Brief History of Nike SB

Known as nothing more than an athletic basketball sneaker brand, Nike failed to take off initially in the first few years since its launch. The shoes were nothing more than extensions of their basketball shoes, which had little appeal to skateboarders. With big hopes to penetrate the market, Nike shifted its strategy and began to focus on a new division solely aimed for skateboarders. Out of this, the Nike SB division was established and with it, the SB Dunk Low emerged.

As 2002 marked the beginning of the Nike SB division, the brand would start off the 2000s with a bang, as it broke convention and tackled marketing through one creative collaboration after another. Released in a clean, minimalistic designed half orange box during what would be called the ‘Orange Box Era’ (March-December 2002), the brand’s initial offerings cemented themselves in sneaker history.

Image via Nike

To penetrate and receive acknowledgment in the skateboard community, Nike SB collaborated with many legendary skateboarders from Danny Supa, his team Zoo Yorks, and Reese Forbes. Giving them their own signature colourway, which they also helped design, Nike SB steadily grew in popularity, even collaborating with Supreme.

The Spectrum of Coloured Boxes

One of the reasons for Nike SBs popularity was the finer details displayed throughout the years. Beyond the shoe itself, the brand distinguished itself from many others through their use of variation in colour for both their sneakers and the accompanying box.

As more SB Dunks began to be sold through the market for high resell prices, Nike noticed that the box itself served as an important part of the sneaker. This was where most people placed and preserved their cherished inventory after all. In order to differentiate their skate shoes from general release Dunks, Nike SB seized the opportunity of this reality and started to make special coloured boxes, which would encapsulate the hot releases of that ‘era.’

Image via Nike

From as far back as 1972, sneakers had always been released in white or blue boxes. There was very little variation in the boxes, which is what made each Nike SB era so memorable to the consumer.

Just like skateboarding, everything (back in the day) including our box color and design strategy was done on instinct, and it was always evolving. There was no specific strategy in place around ‘Box Color Eras’ – it was really the community and beyond who started and propelled the concept. That was the beauty of Nike SB back then, we really ‘JUST DID IT.’

James Arizumi (former Nike SB Senior Footwear Designer)
  • Orange Box Era– From March to December 2002, the minimalistic ‘Orange Box Era’ is definitive of all the Nike SB box eras, not only because it was the beginning of the SB division, but some of the sought-after sneakers were released during this time. With several collaborations with legendary skateboarders, this era saw the likes of SB Dunk Low Pro x Supreme ‘White Cement’ to SB Dunk Low Pro “Supa.” This was the era that kickstarted the popularity of the brand.
  • Silver Box Era – With Sandy Bodecker at the helm, Nike SB made a bold move in changing up its box colours, with hopes to distinguish itself from the other top brands in the skateboard market. Starting from January 2003, the brand got its own collectible ‘silver’ box, which only helped to propel the rising popularity of the SB Dunk shoe. Some popular releases during this period include the SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Heineken,’ and Supreme x SB Dunk Low High Pro ‘White/College Orange.’
  • Pink Box Era – For many sneakerheads, this era helped solidify Nike SB as a truly edgy brand, as the sneakers released during this. time was quite daring and different in terms of colourway and material. Spanning from September 2004 to December 2005, some collectors consider this era to be the peak of Nike SB releases, with Nike even signing legendary skater Paul Rodriguez with his own signature line of shoes called the ‘P-Rod.’
  • Black Box Era – From February 2006 to September 2007, the ‘Black Box Era’ was yet another period of change, where Nike began to incorporate patent leather, metallic leather and even faux fur into their sneaker designs. While Nike continued to sign more skaters onto its team, these years were also the turning point in which many skaters noticed the Dunks were no longer being made for strictly skating.

Image via

  • Gold Box – Going from October 2007 to March 2009, the ‘Gold Box Era’ had very few collaborations, some argue that this period failed to make much of an impression on many consumers. In fact, the one sneaker that did catch a lot of people’s eyes had mixed reviews in terms of design, as it appeared to simply be a mash-up of 31 different elements from other SB releases (SB Dunk Low Pro ‘What the Dunk’).
  • Blue Box Era – Going on for close to three years (April 2009 to June 2012), many consumers felt as if the ‘Blue Box Era’ was the moment in which Nike SB’s popularity began to die down. Even still, there were still some great releases like the Supreme x Nike SB Bruin Low ‘World Famous’ and a few great collaborations, like the one with Stefan Janoski.
  • Taped Box Era – Spanning from July 2012 to November 2013, the ‘Taped Box’ era is considered one of the darker periods of the Nike SB division. Coming off decreasing demand from the ‘Blue Box’ era, Nike SB began to open up their distribution to retailers beyond skate stores. This left a huge push in production, which inevitably left many of the shoes coming out during this period to feel lesser in quality. Some of the popular silhouettes during this period were the Nike SB Dunk Low Pro x Supreme 10th Anniversary and Zoom Stefan Janoski “Digi-Floral,” Concepts x Nike SB Dunk High Premium “When Pigs Fly.”
  • Teal/Black Box Era – Since December 2013-2019, the teal colourway of this box was inspired by the famous jewelry company Tiffany & Co. The box comes in a clean half teal, half-black tone, with a solid white/teal Nike logo at the top. While the years before were marked and remembered as being one of the brand’s lower points, the Teal/Black Box Era was defined for the period of Nike SB’s resurgence. Some major releases under this box were Black Sheep x SB Dunk High Pro ‘Black Hornet’ and Nike SB Dunk High Diamond Supply Co. ‘Tiffany’

A Spike in Demand

Since its rise and momentary fall, the Nike Dunk Lows are back again, worth more than ever before As its history carries on and modern celebrities bring it back to the forefront of culture, sneakerheads are scrambling to get their hands on a pair.

With the Dunk Low’s 20th anniversary coming up in two years (2022), it doesn’t look like the Dunk Lows will be seeing any significant drop in value anytime soon. In fact, with the way things have been looking, as some silhouettes continue to skyrocket into the thousands, sneakerheads and resellers would be smart to keep their eye on this brand.

From the rich history to the story behind each release, the Nike SB has evolved quite a lot over the years. Since 2018, several of the OG Nike Dunk Lows are finding their way on the front pages of many popular resell platforms. From the Stüssy x Nike SB Dunk Low Pro ‘Cherry’ going up in resale value by several hundreds of dollars in a matter of a year, to shoes like the riot-causing Jeff Staple x Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Pigeon’ having a resale value of $13,000 USD, the increasing value of the Nike SB brand is evidence that this brand will never die.


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