Behind the HYPE: How the Nike SB Dunk Gave Birth to Modern Streetwear

We look at how this performance shoe bridged together skateboarding and sneaker culture.

By
Footwear 
43,514 Hypes 29 Comments

Streetwear‘s origin story dates back to both California’s surf-skate scene and New York’s hip-hop movement of the ’70s and ’80s. More than just a leisurely sport and music genre, these subcultures influenced people’s everyday lives, from the music they listened to and the art they created, to their hangout spots and how they dressed.

During the ’80s and ’90s, these two worlds proliferated and permeated throughout mainstream popular culture, but rarely mingled together. Then, in 2002, with the release of a single product, they collided to help birth streetwear as we know it today.

This moment can be largely attributed to the launch of Nike‘s skateboarding-centric SB Dunk and the fandom that surrounded its subsequent drops.

Having initially launched as a basketball sneaker in 1985, alongside the Air Jordan 1 and Terminator, the Dunk and its two cohorts had crossover appeal with young skaters like Tony Hawk, Mark Gonzales and Lance Mountain. These budding icons gravitated to these three models for their support, cushioning and traction, as well as their alignment with high-tech performance and superstar athletes.

In the ’90s, the Dunk’s outdated tech soon fell out of general production and into obscurity, however it remained a cult favorite among collectors and skaters. So in 2002, when Nike revived its failing skateboarding division as Nike SB, the team behind this relaunch chose to reimagine the Dunk as its flagship sneaker. 

With an upgraded design, limited distribution network, key collaborators and thoughtful storytelling, the SB Dunk appealed to skaters and sneakerheads alike, and soon pairs began flying off the shelves of skate shops around the globe. As these two worlds bonded together over these kicks in both release lines and underground internet forms, a new culture emerged that combined elements of both.

Modern streetwear formed out of this community and into the now billion dollar industry it is today.

Learn more about this story in our latest episode of Behind the HYPE above.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Jean Paul Gaultier Announces Retirement From Fashion
Fashion

Jean Paul Gaultier Announces Retirement From Fashion

Ending his 50-year career on the runway.

Jean Paul Gaultier x Supreme: A Perfect Union
Fashion 

Jean Paul Gaultier x Supreme: A Perfect Union

The French designer and New York skate brand have more in common than you think.

WHO DECIDES WAR's FW20 Collection Explores Themes of Sacrifice & Religion
Fashion

WHO DECIDES WAR's FW20 Collection Explores Themes of Sacrifice & Religion

Featuring bold graphics, textures and cuts.


The 1975 Fantasizes About Love on "Me & You Together Song"
Music

The 1975 Fantasizes About Love on "Me & You Together Song"

From off of the band’s upcoming album ‘Notes on a Conditional Form.’

Rod Wave Drops Music Video for "Thug Motivation"
Music

Rod Wave Drops Music Video for "Thug Motivation"

Watch the latest visuals from the “Heart on Ice” artist.

s.k. manor hill Unveils Cozy, Relaxed Layers for FW20
Fashion

s.k. manor hill Unveils Cozy, Relaxed Layers for FW20

Introducing a new sustainable fabric.

More ▾
 
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Help us serve you better

We appreciate your support in allowing HYPEBEAST ads, where we can share contents from the latest fashion, to those culturally relevant. In adding HYPEBEAST to your ad blocker's whitelist, ads on our sites will show while you continue to browse.