When it comes to sneaker terminology, few labels can compete with the omnipresence of “Panda.” In a simpler time, the word plainly referenced a cuddly, bamboo-eating bear, but its mere mention today instills a sense of doom to the old guard of the sneaker world and a feeling of joy to younger sneakerheads, as its modern utilization references sneaker colorways that balance black and white. Across the past few years, trends have embraced the presentation’s versatility with the
Nike Dunk High Premium “Ueno Panda” (2008)
The oldest of the list, the “Ueno Panda” Dunk was created to commemorate a special giant panda named Ling Ling. The late panda was given to Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo in 1992 by China and by 2008 he was Japan’s oldest panda. The shoe itself utilizes faux pony hair throughout its upper’s construction, aside from including leather at the Swooshes. White hair is featured at the base, toe box and heel counter while black covers the mudguard, laces, tongue, eyestays and Swooshes. A special tongue tag nodding to Ueno wraps up the upper while a black and white sole unit completes the colorway. Less than 400 pairs were assembled, with each arriving in a cage rather than a traditional shoe box.
Jeremy Scott x adidas JS Wings “Panda Bear” (2011)
Jeremy Scott’s eccentric adidas collaborations were stirring up heated discussions about design gimmicks well before shoes like MSCHF’s Big Red Boot. On Scott’s “Panda Bear” JS Wings silhouette, a plush upper is topped by the head and arms of a teddy bear-like panda sporting an adidas Originals headband. Its unique presentation toggles between black and white as it goes from animal to shoe. Backing the look, a black sole unit features white stitching.
DEAL x PUMA Disc Blaze “Panda Fur” (2016)
Endemic to China, giant pandas are celebrated as one of the country’s most beloved animals. When Chinese boutique DEAL had the opportunity to team up with PUMA, it opted to reference the native animal with a “Panda Fur” take on the Disc Blaze. Its upper begins with a furry toe box and mudguard in white, matching the collar, pull tab and a majority of the sole. From there, a furry black base teams up with a suede Formstrip, leather overlay and signature Disc system to round things out.
BAIT x Kung Fu Panda x Diadora S8000 (2016)
In 2008, Jack Black and the Dreamworks team captivated audiences worldwide with the launch of Kung Fu Panda. In honor of the Copa América Centenario, a commemorative soccer tournament taking place within the United States for the first time in 2016, the studio tapped BAIT and Diadora for a six part series of sneakers. Leading the range, Po and co. are nodded to with a premium version of the S8000 crafted in Italy. Pony hair and supple leather star in black and white finishes that offer a strong contrast. Kung Fu Panda notes appear at the sockliner and thematic shoe box to complete this 300-unit release.
Jeff Staple x Nike SB Dunk Low “Panda Pigeon” (2019)
Back in 2005, Jeff Staple made his mark on the sneaker game with the chaotic launch of the now-legendary Nike SB Dunk Low “Pigeon,” a shoe whose motif has been revisited several times since — including a “Panda”-themed pair in 2019. This playful combination of creatures came from a rejected “Black Pigeon” sample, nodded to with its “SAMPLE” tag at the interior that has been adjusted to read “STAPLE” instead. Saluting Staple’s Chinese heritage, the sneaker utilizes a balanced color palette of black and white with the typical pigeon embroidery at the heel, joined by bamboo graphics at the sockliner that match the special wooden shoe box select customers received.
Nike Dunk Low “Panda” (2021)
Love it or hate it, Nike’s Dunk Low “Panda” has played a key role in the past three years of footwear. Revered by the masses for its versatility and constant restocks, the colorway can be spotted throughout cities — worn with anything from basketball shorts to leather jackets. The shoe has introduced a new generation of sneakerheads with each launch facing high demand, making it difficult for the typical consumer to purchase a pair and prompting many to explore the world of hype. At the end of the day, it’s a simple black and white pair of Dunks, however, in the eyes of sneaker enthusiasts it’s anything from the perfect basic shoe to a despicable creation capable of incinerating one’s eyes with a mere glance.
Nike Air Force 1 Mid ‘07 Premium “Culture Day” (2022)
Following up on the success of the aforementioned Dunk Lows, Nike took the newfound momentum in stride — leaning on the “Panda” theme even more with its “Culture Day” presentation of the Air Force 1 Mid. Celebrating three regions of Japan — Ueno, Shibuya and Harajuku — this unique colorway features a special graphic at the sockliner and translucent outsole that nods to the three locations while also displaying a panda front and center. A fluffy white base sees itself wrapped in suede black overlays to mimic the animal’s appearance.
Air Jordan 1 High ‘85 “Black/White” (2023)
To sneaker veterans, referring to this original pair of Air Jordan 1 Highs as the “Panda” colorway is a sin punishable by death. Back in 1985, a time when there was no such thing as a “Panda” palette, they launched as one of the AJ1’s first presentations. However, it’s important to note — and impossible to ignore — that its specifications do fit snugly alongside modern “Panda” pairs. Having hit shelves several times in remakes since ‘85, it’s one of the silhouette’s most approachable appearances. White leather coats the base of the sneaker while black chimes in at the leather overlays, Swooshes and rubber outsole.
PEACEMINUSONE x Nike Kwondo 1 “Panda” (2023)
For more than ten years, renowned South Korean rapper G-Dragon has been recognized as a trendsetting icon. In 2016, he launched PEACEMINUSONE and has infused his distinct style into it with releases such as his Nike Kwondo 1 silhouette. In its second presentation, the shoe’s leather upper boasts a tuxedo-like finish and is enhanced by black and white “Panda” color-blocking. PEACEMINUSONE branding on the left shoe’s signature lace shroud and Nike notes on the right bring a final bit of flair to the pair.