The Nike Dunk isn’t new to skateboarding. In fact, it’s been prevalent in the sport since the 1980s, when skaters picked up the original Dunks from clearance bins due to their supportive construction and flat soles. The design gradually became a staple in skating communities across the world, and Nike took notice. In 2000, VP of Special Projects Sandy Bodecker started Nike SB, and one of his first projects was to gear the Dunk to be better for skating. The result was the Nike SB Dunk Low.
After almost two decades, Nike SB Dunk Lows are known for more than just being performance skate shoes. They are alternative assets, collectibles, art, and fashion statements. Their hype has a global reach and no matter how many colorways are released, they still command the utmost demand.
A shoe so adored might be mysterious to the average newcomer in the sneaker game, but we can help. To assist you in your search for that next pair of SB Dunk Lows, we put together a comprehensive guide with all of the information you need to make an informed decision. However you intend to use them, whether it’s to skate or to invest, we’ve got you covered.
When Did the Nike SB Dunk Low First Release?
Originally released in 2002, the Nike SB Dunk Low offered a design to better satisfy skateboarders’ needs. The original Dunk tongues from Nike were thin and made of nylon, making it very easy for them to get crooked and uncomfortable when skating. To fix this, the SB Dunk Low featured a padded tongue that was attached to the inner sole with elastic straps, keeping things in place.
To dampen the impact of hard landings, the designers added more cushioning to the SB Dunk Low’s insole with a Zoom Air cushioning unit in the heel and spongy Poron foam in the forefoot. Also, the fabrication of the insole was more absorbent than normal Dunks by utilizing terry cloth on the sock liner to keep moisture from sweat to a minimum.
The Nike SB Dunk Low debuted with four signature colorways dedicated to the original Nike SB riders: Gino Iannucci, Reese Forbes, Danny Supa, and Richard Mulder. Each colorway was a nod to the skater’s main influences growing up skating. Following that, Nike SB collaborated with Supreme, ZooYork, and Chocolate for a run of exclusive SB Dunk colorways that are still among some of the most coveted releases on StockX.
Key Colorway: Staple NYC Pigeon
Today, many know the Nike SB Dunk Low as a collector’s shoe. But it wasn’t until the Nike SB Dunk Low Staple NYC Pigeon that the silhouette gained that reputation.
In March of 2005, Nike SB revealed that they were releasing a series of extremely limited SB Dunk Lows exclusive to only four cities in the world – London, Paris, Japan, and New York. Jeff Staple, the founder of Staple Design and REED Space, was selected to represent New York and design an SB Dunk Low that embodied the spirit of NYC. Inspired by the grittiness of NY’s most well-known taloned tenant, Staple created the Nike SB Dunk Low Staple NYC Pigeon.
Only 150 pairs of Pigeon Dunks were produced, and out of that stock, a select 30 were numbered and set to release at Staple’s REED Space in NYC’s Lower East Side. News of the shoe’s exclusivity broke, and SB fans instinctively mobbed the streets outside of Staple’s small storefront in hopes of claiming a pair of Pigeon Dunks. The riots were short-lived due to the NYPD shutting the release down, but the story has become a monument in sneaker history, as it was the first time that any sneaker pandemonium was exposed to a global audience.
Riffing off the original, blockbuster release of the first Pigeon Dunk, Staple has teamed up with Nike a few more times to release a variety of new versions of the colorway. This includes the Purple Pigeon (2006), Black Pigeon (2017), and Panda Pigeon (2019), as well as a number of other Pigeon Dunk releases, and Pigeon-inspired colorways of sneakers with Nike and other brands.
Why Are SB Dunk Lows So Popular?
Nike SB Dunk Lows have become one of the most popular sneakers on the market for a number of reasons. For starters, their out-of-the-box colorways are second to none on the market, attracting fans with their vast range of references and preferences. Secondly, most SB Dunk Lows are exclusively released in skate shops, making them extremely hard to purchase if you don’t live near any skate shops with Nike SB accounts. Also, Nike SB Dunk Lows are frequently involved in major collaborations that introduce the silhouette to new audiences – like the Nike SB Dunk Low Travis Scott.
There are other reasons why the Nike SB Dunk Low is so prevalent in current culture, but these main three reasons are all you need to know to get the gist of their importance.
How Much Do Nike SB Dunk Lows Cost?
At the retail level, Nike SB Dunk Lows typically cost $100. This low sticker price appears very affordable compared to other silhouettes in Nike’s catalog, but the true market price is much higher. On StockX, Nike SB Dunk Lows are valued at $460 on average with a whopping 315% premium, making the model one of the best sneaker investments on the market.
While it is true that the average SB Dunk Low is a savvy investment, our data shows that collaborative models are where there is the most opportunity to maximize your money. On average, collaborative Nike SB Dunk Lows resell for more than two times the resale of non-collaborative models, a sign that collaborations draw more demand than general release colorways.
Looking further into collaborative SB Dunk Lows, we discovered that some types of collaborations are more valuable than others.
How to Invest in SB Dunk Lows
The chart above shows the median 90-day sales premiums of four different types of SB Dunk Low split up by their type of collaborator – clothing brands, pop culture (brands and figures outside of clothing), skate shops, and pro skaters. As you can see, brand collaborations are by far the most valuable Nike SB Dunk Lows on the market, boasting a median premium of 926% – more than 9x sticker price. The spring release of the Nike SB Dunk Low Supreme Pack helped boost its category to the moon, with each model reselling for 8-10x its retail price. But even without the monumental performance of the Supreme SBs, brand collaborations would still have the highest median premium at 820%.
Pop culture collaborations were the second most valuable. The fact that this category did not rank #1 was a bit surprising considering the historic success of last year’s Chunky Dunky and Grateful Dead Dunks. The collab genre still performed exceptionally well with a median premium of 740% (over 7x retail), but nevertheless, it still fell short to clothing brand collaborations.
Ironically, the least valuable collaboration type ended up being pro rider signature models. This category included a number of well-received releases, like the What The Paul and the Ishod Wair series. As a group, the pro rider models still had a sky-high median sales premium of over 300%, which would be a massive number in any other context. It speaks to the strength of the overall silhouette that even the weakest sector of collaborative SB Dunk Lows still are valued at more than triple their retail price.
While the SB Dunk Low was created for skateboarders, it now welcomes a diverse range of fans that acknowledge the design for its many uses. If you are looking for an affordable pair to skate or just wear on the street, general release SB Dunk Low colorways tend to sell at the best value. If you are looking to multiply your money with an SB Dunk Low investment, our data suggests that you will have the best opportunity with a clothing brand collaboration. If you can’t get your hands on one of those, other types of collabs with skate shops or figures in pop culture will also give you a healthy return on your investment.
With this information, we hope you put it to good use in making your next, well-researched purchase. Happy shopping.